Ferrari Challenge Europe – Victories for Schirò, Tabacchi, Weiland and Smolka
Niccolò Schirò, Emanuele Maria Tabacchi, James Weiland and Agata Smolka all triumphed on the first day of the Ferrari Challenge Europe in Sakhir. It was a clean sweep for Rossocorsa whose drivers celebrated from the top of the podium in all categories.
Trofeo Pirelli. The opening race of the 2019 season of the Prancing Horse one-make competition began at sunset and starred Niccolò Schirò in his series debut. After taking the lead, the Rossocorsa driver easily held off his rivals for a well-deserved win ahead of Sam Smeeth (Baron Motorsport) and Louis Prette (Formula Racing). After setting off from pole, the Briton had a tricky start from which he made an excellent recovery. Meanwhile, Prette fought back convincingly to win a spot on the podium after a qualifying session that had ended in fifth place. The Formula Racing driver first duelled with Emanuele Maria Tabacchi (Rossocorsa), then with Alessandro Bonacini (Kessel Racing) and finally with another rookie, Thomas Neubauer (Charles Pozzi – Courage). The podium battle was very heated with lots of thrills and excitement, even if the positions stayed the same with Schirò winning ahead of Smeeth and Prette.
Pirelli AM. Emanuele Maria Tabacchi won the Pirelli AM category at the end of a race marked by thrilling duels with Prette and Bonacini. Fifth place overall confirmed the competitiveness of the Rossocorsa driver, one of the fastest even during free practice sessions. Behind the Italian came Jack Brown (Ferrari GB – Graypaul Nottingham) ahead of Christian Overgaard (Forza Racing), who fought a steady race, decided in the end by the British driver with a pass executed on the tenth lap. At the foot of the podium the trio of John Dhillon (Ferrari GB – Graypaul Nottingham), Kent Chen (Formula Racing) and Ali Kamyab (Ferrari GB – HR Owen, debuting in the series) were involved in a close fought battle, with never more than a second between them.
Coppa Shell. The night race was affected by the safety car, which came out twice before the red flag brought proceedings to an end. The winner was James Weiland (Rossocorsa), ahead of Tani Hanna (Formula Racing) and Christian Kinch (Gohm Motorsport). At the start, Weiland defended his pole position from the Lebanese driver’s attacks while Agata Smolka took third place overall, later ceded to Eric Cheung (Formula Racing). A violent contact between Corinna Gostner (Ineco – MP Racing) and Peter Christensen (Formula Racing) brought the safety car out for the first time to allow the debris to be cleared from the track. At the restart on lap 5, an accident between Fons Scheltema (Kessel Racing) and Murat Cuhadaroglu (Kessel Racing) brought the safety car back out, before the red flag called a halt to the race with two minutes left on the clock. Weiland triumphed ahead of Hanna and Kinch. Cheung, Thomas Gostner (Ineco – MP Racing) and Ernst Kirchmayr (Baron Motorsport) completed the top six.
Shell AM. Agata Smolka (Rossocorsa) won the Shell AM category and finished seventh overall. With this result, the Pole became the third woman to win a Ferrari Challenge race, something that had only previously been achieved by Fabienne Wohlwend and Manuela Gostner. Agata Smolka crossed the line in front of Belgium’s Laurent De Meeus (Ferrari GB – HR Owen) and France’s Herve Mouly (Modena Motors – Sebàstien Loeb Racing). The Danish Per Nielsen (Forza Racing) and ‘Gideon’ (Formula Racing) finished behind them. The second round takes place on Sunday (at 5.20 pm and 7 pm local time, 3.20 pm and 5 pm CET).
Weiland and Smolka mount the top step –
The Coppa Shell race, held under the floodlights, started with James Weiland (Rossocorsa) in pole position and Tani Hanna (Formula Racing) at his side. Next came Agata Smolka (Rossocorsa) and Corinna Gostner (Ineco – MP Racing), who overtook Eric Cheung (Formula Racing) author of a cautious start.
First safety car. The Canadian regained fourth with an excellent pass, although many drivers behind him tried to take advantage of the scrap to grab a podium position. This confused situation led to the contact between Corinna Gostner and Peter Christensen (Formula Racing) that put an end to their races and forced the race officials to bring on the safety car because of the debris scattered along the track. The race restarted on lap 5, but an accident at the first turn between Kessel Racing teammates Fons Scheltema and Murat Cuhadaroglu brought the safety car out again.
Red flag. The position of the two cars and the impossibility of removing them in time to complete the race under the green flag led the race officials to wave the red flag. With three-quarters of the race run, the decision awarded victory to the US driver James Weiland (Rossocorsa), with Tani Hanna (Formula Racing) second and Christian Kinch (Gohm Motorsport) third. In the AM category, after many podium finishes, Agata Smolka clinched a well-deserved first victory in the Ferrari Challenge, becoming the third woman to win in the series after Fabienne Wohlwend and Manuela Gostner. Laurent De Meeus (HR Owen) and Herve Mouly (Modena Motors – Sebàstien Loeb Racing) finished behind the Polish driver.