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Antonella Bassani wins in Estoril, takes championship lead

With a stellar weekend in Estoril, Antonella Bassani secured her fourth victory in four rounds and moved into the lead of the Porsche Cup Brazil championship, also achieving a brilliant recovery to second place in race 2 despite starting from eighth on the reverse grid.

Antonella Bassani, Porsche Cup Brasil, Estoril 2024
Photo credits: Luca Bassani / Porsche Cup Brasil

With a stellar weekend in Portugal, Antonella Bassani took another victory in the Porsche Cup Brazil and moved in the lead of the championship, also thanks to a brilliant recovery in race 2 where she collected a second place in the top-8 reverse grid.

Having won her first race at Interlagos in the previous round, the 18-year-old reigning champion was committed to continue her winning streak, which has seen the young Mobil 1-sponsored racer on the top step of the podium in every single round to date.

Her spectacular performance in Estoril's first race on Saturday extended this trend and, capitalizing on her rival's mistakes, allowed Antonella to claim the lead in the standings.

The Porsche Cup Brazil returned for its second weekend at Portugal's Estoril circuit, following the first race in the Endurance Challenge last week. This time, the drivers had prior knowledge of the track and were back to the usual Sprint format.

Antonella Bassani shone in practice sessions, leading one pre-event test and securing third in the official practice, signaling her intent to contend again for victories despite a previous weekend plagued by technical issues.

Qualifying on Saturday saw heavy rain and multiple red flags, challenging drivers in extremely difficult conditions. Bassani excelled under pressure, qualifying in a solid P5 in Q1, having previously run in as high as third before the final run, thus advancing to the top ten session without unnecessary risks.

During the top ten session, Bassani climbed to fourth after her first timed lap. Nevertheless, as conditions and visibility worsened, she couldn't improve her time in the final minute, resulting in a sixth-place starting position. Sadak Leite secured pole position and would share the front row with Miguel Mariotti.

Antonella Bassani, Porsche Cup Brasil, Estoril 2024
Photo credits: Luca Bassani / Porsche Cup Brasil

The rain eased just before the first race began, allowing cars to start on a mostly dry line – but still the conditions remained very tricky. And a dramatic start ensued, as pole-sitter Sadak Leite slid on a damp part of the track and crashed hard into the inside wall at turn 1, immediately bringing out the safety car.

Célio Brasil inherited the lead by avoiding the first corner chaos, ahead of Mariotti, Chaves, Campos, and Bassani, who was up to sixth position before the race was neutralized.

Following a swift clean-up, the race resumed two laps later. Brasil hesitated at the restart, and Bassani capitalized perfectly, surging to second place by turn 2. She then engaged in a thrilling side-by-side duel with Brasil, ultimately taking the lead with a spectacular pass around the outside.

Just as Bassani tried to build a gap, the safety car was deployed again when Mohr lost control and crashed heavily into the back of Christian Mohr at turn one. Second-placed Célio Brasil hit trouble and pitted, dropping towards the end of the pack following a puncture.

Bassani, having gained five positions in seven corners, led the restart with 6 and a half minutes remaining: she defended well against Gerson Campos, who was the only driver able to match her pace in the opening stages.

Campos, however, couldn't keep up with Antonella for long and she then extended her lead, opening a four-second gap and setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 11 with a time of 1:45.002, over a second faster than her rivals.

Crossing the finish line 5.6 seconds ahead, Bassani was unchallenged and preceded Gerson Campos and Caio Chaves across the line – although Campos was handed a 20 second penalty for a jump start, promoting Chaves to second.

With yet another flawless drive, Bassani therefore claimed her fourth win of the season in just as many weekends, taking the top spot in the championship standings.

“I'm very happy, I was very fast in dry practice at Estoril. In qualifying it was all about the details, but I certainly lacked a little, putting in the lap, understanding a little more about the car on the wet track", she summed up. "But I knew I had potential, so I trusted myself a lot. I knew I had to get ahead of Miguel Mariotti, who was six points ahead."

"I just have to thank my team for the excellent car they provided me", Antonella continued. "I have a flying car, no wonder we won on every track. And tomorrow we hope to win another one. Now we can be calmer. I'm going to be more conservative, avoid the attacks, as I've been doing and try to focus on the victory, but it won't be a victory that I would need like today.”

This win was particularly meaningful for Antonella, as Estoril was the site of Ayrton Senna's first victory in F1, adding sentimental value to her triumph.

Antonella Bassani, Porsche Cup Brasil, Estoril 2024
Photo credits: Luca Bassani / Porsche Cup Brasil

With the top eight finishers from Race 1 reversed for the Race 2 grid, Bassani started from the eighth grid slot. After two formation laps, the lights went out for one final race at Estoril: in a spectacular start, six cars went wheel to wheel into turn 1, with Claudio Simao leading Lucas Locatelli and Leonardo Hermann.

Bassani had a strong launch but was boxed in at the first corner, holding eighth place. Several cars made contact, and an accident between Luiz Souza and Cristian Mohr brought out the safety car at the end of lap one. Antonella had managed to climb to seventh just before the neutralization.

At the restart with 16 minutes to go, she resumed her mission, making stunning moves and climbing to fifth by lap four. The new championship leader set a blistering 1:44.062, the fastest lap of the race, then caught Gerson Campos. As she battled Campos, Hermann and Caio Castro – first and second overall respectively – made contact, causing Castro to spin across the track. Bassani promptly avoided the chaos, gaining third place before the safety car was deployed again.

In the final 5 and a half minutes, a chaotic restart led to a major accident involving Locatelli and Posser. Bassani hesitated and lost two positions but quickly regained them with a stellar double pass before the race was neutralized again.

Two extra laps were added, and Bassani had a better restart, sticking close to Célio Brasil's car. Despite a valiant effort, she ran out of time to overtake and settled for third. Leonardo Hermann initially took the chequered flag in first, but a post-race disqualification for causing a collision promoted Célio Brasil to the win and Bassani to second place in Race 2.

Having gained seven positions from the start, Antonella secured another podium, wrapping up the Portuguese round in the championship lead.

“Another very positive result for the championship", she commented. "The race was once again marked by safety car interventions and it was important to know how to restart and keep the equipment intact."

"Happy with second place, which puts us with a little more advantage at the top of the table and makes us head to Interlagos with a little more comfort in the fight for the championship.”

The Porsche Cup Brazil now heads back to home soil, as Interlagos will host the fifth round on 24-25 August.

Antonella Bassani, Porsche Cup Brasil, Estoril 2024
Photo credits: Luca Bassani / Porsche Cup Brasil



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