Mikel Azcona was crowned King of the weekend in the FIA eTouring Car World Cup at Vallelunga, as tyre dramas in very hot temperatures, like in WTCR, significantly affected the overall outcome.
The opening track action of the day was the first Semi Final in Pool Fast, pitting Azcona, Spengler and Michelisz against each other.
Azcona emerged in the early lead, despite the best efforts of Romeo Ferraris’ Spengler to force the Hyundai driver out wide and off line through the fast first two corners.
On lap two a large piece of debris fell off Azcona’s Veloster N, but it appeared not to affect the Spaniard and he held on to the lead.
As the heat developed, Azcona began to break free of the chasing duo, whilst Michelisz closed in on Spengler. However, on the fourth of five laps, Michelisz misjudged the chicane and went straight through the gravel, losing him time which he ultimately wouldn’t regain, as Azcona won the heat ahead of Spengler and Michelisz, who picked up a last lap puncture.
Semi Final 2 saw Adrien Tambay face off against Luca Filippi and Jordi Gené, with Tambay, on the inside line, once again assuming the lead.
CUPRA’s Tambay quickly scampered into a lead, as Filippi became occupied with keeping Gené behind.
However, as the heat progressed, Filippi broke free of Gené and was able to close back in on leader Tambay, although the Romeo Ferraris driver ran out of both time and power up to be able to do anything about passing Tambay, and ultimately the heat finished in the order the drivers started.
Pool Fast Semi Final 1 result
|1||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||6:59.270||1:22.030||1|
|2||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||2.008||1:22.495||2|
|3||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||35.534||1:22.643||3|
Pool Fast Semi Final 2 result
|1||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||6:59.790||1:22.755||1|
|2||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||0.880||1:22.753||2|
|3||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||4.892||1:22.724||3|
Over in Pool Furious, like in Pool Fast, it was Saturday’s pace-setters who continued to be on form, with Romeo Ferraris’ Maxime Martin winning his Semi Final heat.
At the start, Martin held the inside line, and that gave him the early lead, whilst behind him Nicky Catsburg forced his way into second past Mattias Ekström at Turn 5, with slight contact between the pair.
Then Catsburg had to defend from Ekström in the early laps, before the pair closed in on Martin towards the end of the five-lap sprint.
However, Martin had kept enough of his power-up in reserve to be able to hold Catsburg off for the win, with the Dutchman himself coming under final corner pressure from Ekström, although he prevailed to hold on to second.
Referring to the contact with Catsburg on the opening lap, Ekström was critical, saying that “when others start using some tricks it’s not so easy to give them a fair fight”.
The final Semi Final had Tom Blomqvist start on the inside, Jean-Karl Vernay in the middle and Giovanni Venturini on the outside.
Blomqvist and Vernay tussled for the lead away from the gates, with Venturini a clear third in his Romeo Ferraris Giulia.
The heat was the least eventful of the morning, with the early order deciding the finishing positions, as Blomqvist took victory in front of Vernay and Venturini – the latter picking up a puncture at the very end of the race.
Pool Furious Semi Final 1 result
|1||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||7:00.255||1:22.981||1|
|2||88||Nicky CATSBURG||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||0.682||1:22.725||3|
|3||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||1.083||1:22.755||2|
Pool Furious Semi Final 2 result
|1||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||7:00.707||1:23.049||1|
|2||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||0.640||1:23.028||2|
|3||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||3.281||1:23.170||3|
The drama heated up even further for the first of the Super Finals, which took place amidst searing 36-degree air temperatures outside the cars.
From second on the grid, Spengler was especially bullish after the lights went out, immediately moving over on pole-sitter Azcona to rub doors with the Hyundai driver, although he had to settle into second.
Michelisz held station in third through the first corners, but Filippi tried to go around the outside of Tambay for fourth at Turn 4 and ended up sliding through the dust, dropping to sixth.
Spengler suffered from a high-speed off on the third lap as a result of a tyre failure, taking the Romeo Ferraris driver out of the race and promoting Michelisz to second.
However, it was short-lived for the Hungarian, who suffered from a puncture on the penultimate lap, dropping him to last and promoting Tambay and Gené in turn to the final podium places.
Then, on the final lap, Filippi suffered his own delaminated tyre, meaning the Italian could only limp to the finish, ahead of Michelisz in fifth.
Azcona, meanwhile, had a comfortable Super Final win, giving him the perfect score – something only Martin, who shares Spengler’s now damaged car, could have prevented in the later Super Final.
In the end, that challenge never came to pass, as Spengler’s car couldn’t be repaired in time for the second Super Final. Romeo Ferraris also took the decision to withdraw Venturini’s car from the final on-track session, after the delamination suffered by Filippi at the end of the first Super Final.
That left a spaced-out grid for the Pool Furious Super Final, with Catsburg leading through the first corners, whilst Ekström had to hold off an early attack from Blomqvist, who then almost lost third to Vernay at Turn 4.
Catsburg should have won the Super Final with ease, but the Hyundai driver picked up a left-rear delamination just three corners from the finish, instead handing victory to Ekström ahead of CUPRA team-mate Blomqvist, with Catsburg relegated to limping home in fourth behind Vernay, who had to take avoiding action through the gravel to avoid hitting his ailing team-mate.
Pool Fast – Super Final result
|1||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||6||8:28.419||1:22.116||1|
|2||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||6||7.190||1:22.851||4|
|3||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||6||7.776||1:23.149||6|
|4||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||6||3:38.882||1:23.664||5|
|5||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||6||5:29.677||1:22.642||3|
|R||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||2||DNF||1:22.659||2|
Pool Furious – Super Final result
|1||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||6||8:24.431||1:22.439||3|
|2||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||6||0.381||1:22.723||4|
|3||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||6||1.718||1:22.862||5|
|4||88||Nicky CATSBURG||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||6||9.295||1:22.175||2|
|NS||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||–||DNF||N/A||1|
|NS||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||–||DNF||N/A||6|
As in WTCR, tyre dramas dominated proceedings on Sunday, with Azcona emerging unscathed to claim ‘King of the Weekend’ with an event score of 100 points, ahead of Ekström (79) and Blomqvist and Tambay (72).
In the overall championship, Tambay holds on to the lead with 435 points, from Ekström (421), Azcona (368), Martin (360) and Blomqvist (334).