Challenging second TCR Italy round for the two Italian ladies
Coming from an impressive series debut, Francesca Raffaele met a challenging Imola weekend that will be nonetheless useful to build her experience in professional motorsport.
Imola hosted the second round of the Italian TCR Championship, featuring on the grid both Carlotta Fedeli and one of most impressive surprises of the season opener - young Italian driver Francesca Raffaele - among the field of 23 cars.
Felice Jelmini started from pole in Race 1, followed by Jacopo Guidetti in second and Damiano Reduzzi in third, while Raffaele and Fedeli scored respectively P20 and P22 in the qualifying sessions.
The initial minutes of Race 1 were contested under the Safety Car for the wet track and, at the real start, the fight for second between Reduzzi and Guidetti was on fire. Meanwhile, both Fedeli and Raffaele gained one position to advance from their starting places.
Among the main protagonists of the first race was Igor Stefanovsky, at his debut in the Italian TCR series after being forced to sit out the season opener due the pandemic-related travel restrictions. The driver from Macedonia fought against Salvatore Tavano for P4 and joined third-placed racer Jacopo Guidetti while the two frontrunners built a comfortable gap ahead.
Igor Stefanovsky passed Tavano on lap 3 and immediately went into attack mode on Guidetti, ultimately making the winning overtake on the following lap. But he then received a track limit warning, while Carlotta Fedeli moved up more more position as she overtook Fabio Antonello for P20.
On lap 6, Tavano and Guidetti were protagonists of a contact that forced the MM Motorsport driver to drop some positions.
In the final corners of lap 6, Igor Stefanovsky ended his great run in the gravel trap, with the Safety Car making its return to the track.
Another driver that enjoyed a very solid race was Raffaele's teammate, Eric Brigliadori, who after a comeback through the field found himself in third position during the Safety Car phase. The action resumed on lap 9 with few minutes to go and, as the leading position were unchanged, Francesca Raffaele stopped in gravel in the final lap as she was running in P18, causing the final Safety Car that allowed Felice Jelmini to take victory in Race 1. Damiano Reduzzi was second and Eric Brigliadori complete the podium.
Carlotta Fedeli recovered some more positions from her starting P22 and finished P18.
Challenging weather conditions moved over the Imola track also for Sunday's race, where the two ladies were forced to endure another tough challenge. But the battle for victory was once again really competitive from start to finish.
Staring from reverse grid pole, Marco Pellegrini was author of a great getaway, followed by Igor Stefanovsky, Salvatore Tavano and Reduzzi, while there was close side-by-side action between Felice Jelmini and Jacopo Guidetti.
Few laps later, Reduzzi and Guidetti overtook Stefanovky after the Macedonian's driver went wide at the Rivazza corner.
The battle between the pair continued on lap 6, when Guidetti went in the gravel at Tosa, allowing Reduzzi, Stefanovsky and Pellegrini - with a 5 seconds time penalty for a lining up in the wrong grid spot - to move past him.
Carlotta Fedeli's race came to a premature end on lap 8 when the lady from Rome ent into gravel at Rivazza, triggering the Safety Car. Damiano Reduzzi had a good restart and passed Stefanovsky for P3 at turn 1, while Pellegrini attacked the leader Tavano with an aggressive move that resulted in both drivers going off track and promoted Reduzzi to second place.
Reduzzi and Pellegrini were also engaged in a final battle at Piratella, when Reduzzi made contact with the polesitter - dropping him to second - and finished ninth due the previously mentioned penalty.
Damiano Reduzzi won at the wheel of the Trico team Hyundai; Tavano was second and Igor Stefanovsky completed the podium. Francesca Raffaele crossed the finish line in P17, ending a tough weekend that undoubtedly will add valuable experience to her young resumé, as she entered only her second weekend in the pro motorsport scene.