Carlotta Fedeli clinched a win and a second place finish at her racing return after giving birth to her second child; the RC Motorsport driver now leads the TCR Italy DSG championship standings.
Italian touring car ace Carlotta Fedeli made a spectacular return to competitions by claiming a victory and a second place in the first round of the TCR Italy DSG season at Imola.
Fedeli, 31, was crowned champion in the Italian Touring Cup (Coppa Italia Turismo) in 2021, before taking a year hiatus in 2022, when she gave birth to her second child.
In 2019, Fedeli battled for the title in the TCR DSG Endurance championship, where she claimed three podiums. In 2020, she raced a Volkswagen Golf GTI in the DSG class of TCR Italy, before moving to the Coppa Italia Turismo, in the RC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS DSG.
Since the start of her racing career in 2007, the driver from Rome has always battled at the top-end of some of the most popular national touring car championships and has also made a one-off appearance in the 2016 TCR International Series.
At the 2023 season opener at Autodromo Nazionale Enzo and Dino Ferrari in Imola, the huge 43-car field of TCR Italy was splitted for the first time in two separate grids, with the DSG class contesting its own races.
Carlotta Fedeli was up to pace straight from the first practice session, when she slotted into fourth place; she then proved that she will be fighting for a win in FP2, with a 1:56.627 that put her yellow RC Motorsport's Audi TCR DSG in second place.
In qualifying, Turkish driver Ali Vedat Dalokay (Bitci Racing Team Audi RS3 LMS) secured pole position for the first race, ahead of Fedeli - who clinched a front row start at her return to the series. Paolo Palanti and Mauro Trentin lined up on the second row.
At the start, Dalokay held the lead but was under intense pressure from Fedeli throughout the first lap - and she would eventually complete a pass for first place before crossing the line for the second lap. Behind them, Palanti was also close to the leading duo, but he had to defend from his teammate Barberi in the following laps.
The fight for third allowed Fedeli and Dalokay to break away, with Fedeli showing great pace and opening a small safe gap.
A 5 second penalty for the incorrect positioning on the grid complicated the race of pole-sitter Dalokay, who had to push as hard as he could in order to extend his gap to the third and fourth placed cars.
The driver of the #81 Bitci Racing Audi managed to close in on Fedeli and the two traded fastest laps after fastest lap - ultimately opening an over 10 second margin to the pursuers.
Fedeli, though, always remained in control and, in the second half of the race, had the upper hand with better pace on the long run.
She crossed the finish line after 17 laps with a 2 second gap to Dalokay - who retained second place after the penalty was applied. Paolo Palanti was a distant third, while Mauro Trentin managed to hold off Luigi Gallo after a spectacular three-car battle in the closing stages.
"Once I took the lead, I immediately started pushing to keep Dalokay behind me", Fedeli commented after her remarkable victory in race 1. "I was later informed that he had been given a five-second penalty and only in the last two laps did I loosen the pace a bit, but still remained always in front until the finish”.
It was Carlotta's first win in the series - and the best possible start to the season, as she also bagged the fastest lap of the race.
On Sunday afternoon, on much warmed track conditions, Race 2 featured a reverse grid based on the top eight of Saturday's qualifying: Cioffi therefore shared the front row of the grid with Barberi and Carlotta Fedeli lined up in seventh position for the second race of the weekend, one place ahead of Dalokay.
From fifth on the grid, Mauro Trentin had a blistering start and took the lead - also helped by a slow getaway by the drivers on the front row. Dalokay also soon moved up to fourth, while Fedeli was stuck behind the VW Golf TCR DSG of Cioffi. She eventually got by after the first lap, but then had a few seconds to close before catching back the front-running group.
A big battle for the lead - involving Trentin, Loia, Galli, Barberi and Dalokay - allowed Fedeli to get closer; she gained a position on her RC Motorsport's teammate Gallo as well as Dalokay, once the latter dropped two wheels on the gravel at Rivazza 2.
Loia slowed down for a technical issue and Fedeli attacked and passed Palanti, moving into second place with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Dalokay fought back and managed to claim back second; the Turkish driver attempted a move on Trentin for the race lead on the penultimate lap of the race at Variante Alta and the latter went deep, ultimately losing first and second place - as Carlotta Fedeli seized the opportunity to gain a position.
On a tightly fought last lap, Fedeli took the chequered flag 6 tenths of a second behind Vedat Ali Dalokay and claimed another very important podium finish after a brilliant charge from seventh on the grid.
With 75 points collected over the first round, Carlotta Fedeli is now tied on top of the drivers' championship standings.
Misano will host the second round of the TCR Italy season, on 6-7 May.