Despite a challenging weekend result-wise, Manuela Gostner showed promising speed in both dry and wet conditions at a tricky Red Bull Ring; the Italian came home with a eighth place - and plans to bounce back at La Sarthe.
Italian racer Manuela Gostner experienced a challenging weekend in Ferrari Challenge Europe at the Red Bull Ring. Manuela showed encouraging speed in both wet and dry conditions and should feel unlucky to only come away with a best finish of eighth from the two races.
The highlight of her weekend was a fifth place qualifying effort in dry conditions for race one and she will be hoping to take this speed forward into the remaining races of the year, including at the next round held at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe in support of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With three podium finishes from the first four races of season, including a victory in race two at Valencia, Manuela was looking to take that momentum forward to the Red Bull Ring. The race weekend begun on Friday with a pair of test sessions, before a final free practice ahead of qualifying. Held in dry conditions, Manuela finished the opening session in ninth in Coppa Shell, before a tenth place result in the second test with less than one second covering the first 14 drivers. Setting her fastest lap time of the day in free practice, Gostner ended the day inside the top-5 in the Coppa Shell class.
Qualifying for the first race of the weekend took place on Saturday morning, with similar cold and dry conditions to that of free practice. Manuela continued to improve her lap times throughout the session, clocking a best time of 1:31.888, three tenths faster than her best lap from Friday. This lap put Gostner fifth fastest, just two thousandths of a session behind fourth place Ernst Kirchmayr.
Manuela lined up fourth on the grid for the first race following a penalty for a competitor ahead, with the race starting behind the safety car after heavy rain fell prior to the start. Conditions were difficult and Gostner fell back to sixth at the end of lap three as she gained familiarity with the new track conditions following dry testing.
As the race progressed, Manuela enjoyed a close battle with both Christian Kinch and Fons Scheltema, with both of her rivals finding a way through by the end of lap ten. In the closing stages, Manuela did a good job to maintain her position and finish the first race in eighth position in the Coppa Shell class, gaining valuable experience in tough conditions.
Race two qualifying was held in similarly cold and wet conditions, with two red flags disrupting the rhythm of the session. Nonetheless, Manuela made great progress throughout qualifying to set the 11th fastest time in Coppa Shell, with the top-12 drivers covered by just 1.2 seconds. Gostner’s best qualifying time was also over one second faster than her best lap from race one, encouraging signs with similar conditions for both sessions and the second race to come.
Manuela lined up ninth for the start of race two following penalties for drivers ahead of her, with the race once again starting under the safety car due to wet track conditions. Gostner did an excellent job to hold her position in the opening stages, repelling the challenge from John Dhillon. Improving her pace lap by lap, Manuela moved into eighth following a spin from Thomas Gostner on lap six and begun to chase down the drivers ahead.
Her progress was halted by a safety car on lap 10, with a second safety car being deployed immediately at the restart. This meant that no further racing laps could be completed with Gostner crossing the line in eighth. Unfortunately, Manuela’s car was later found not in compliance with the technical regulations meaning she was disqualified from the results.
Despite the results not falling her way, Manuela dealt with the difficult conditions well and gained valuable wet weather experience. Gostner’s start to the season has still been extremely positive and she leaves the Red Bull Ring fourth in the Coppa Shell standings, just two points behind second place driver Fons Scheltema.
Manuela will look forward to bouncing back when Ferrari Challenge Europe resumes with an iconic trip to Le Mans in support of the legendary 24 hour race in June.