Ferrari Challenge: Top-5 for Corinna Gostner at Estoril
Carrying momentum after a fourth place in class at Le Mans in Ferrari Challenge Europe, Corinna Gostner was back in the top five at Estoril - in a race weekend that, on the other hand, left her sister Manuela with two unfortunate DNFs.
The fifth round of the 2023 Ferrari Challenge Shell Cup brought mixed results for the Gostner family: championship contender Manuela endured an extremely unfortunate weekend and scored no points across the Portuguese weekend, while her sister Corinna carried momentum after a fourth place finish in Le Mans and added another top-five to her resumé with a strong second race at Estoril.
Two-time race winner this year, Manuela Gostner had claimed a remarkable win at La Sarthe, re-launching her championship ambitions. With fifth place in qualifying at Estoril on Saturday morning, Manuela was eyeing another strong result to close in on points leader Axel Sartingen. The extremely consistent German driver lined up in pole position, sharing the front row with Manuela and Corinna's father Thomas Gostner, who joined the Shell Cup this weekend. Corinna took the start from P11 among the Shell Cup entries.
At lights out, Manuela had a brilliant start and took the inside line to attack Christian Herdt Wipper at turn1; the #193 Ferrari 488 Challenge was left no room and Manuela had to take to the grass and the kerb, before inevitably making contact with the car ahead. Herdt Wipper spun and Gostner, while she could initially restart, was collected in the middle of the pack and retired.
The safety car was deployed and neutralized the race for five laps. At the restart, Corinna Gostner - who had made up many positions after the start incident - dropped down the order and eventually pitted with gearbox issues, also retiring from the race.
It was a dreadful start of the weekend for the Gostner sisters, who were both out of the race after a handful of laps.
Another incident took out Stefano Marazzi and Peter Christensen, but a quick response by the track marshals allowed the race to resume and Axel Sartingen survived an action-packed race 1 to claim victory in the Shell Cup, ahead of Thomas Gostner and Fons Scheltema. Fifth overall, Joel Schumacher took his first win in Shell-Am, preceding Scudieri and Isozaki.
Manuela Gostner was deemed at fault for the accident at the start and received a grid penalty for Sunday's second race: she would have to start from the back of the grid. The team also had to switch to a different chassis - so qualifying 2 was particularly crucial for the runner up in the championship standings in order to assess the new car ahead of race 2.
Despite being out on used tyres, Manuela's pace was brilliant and she set the third fastest time, less than 3 tenths adrift pole sitter Axel Sartingen, who was unstoppable at the former home of the Portuguese GP. With a 1:42.326, Corinna Gostner was P10 on the grid.
Determined to limit damages in the points standings, Manuela had a cautious start but made up several positions by avoiding a turn 1 crash that took out Eric Cheung, and a second accident that sent John Dhillon into the barriers. When the safety car was deployed Manuela Gostner was already up to eighth place overall - just behind her sister Corinna, who also had a flawless start.
Sartingen led Herdt Wipper at the restart, with Scheltema and Christensen just behind. Corinna Gostner held seventh place, but there was more bad luck for her sister Manuela, who had a gearbox issue and dropped all the way down the order.
Despite the mechanical failure, Manuela stayed out and tried to get to the finish in order to score a few points, potentially taking advantage of a retirement ahead.
Meanwhile, Sartingen had to endure the pressure of Herdt Wipper and Scheltema, as the top three pulled away. Thomas Gostner had a contact with Peter Christensen - who had also received a drive through penalty for track limits - and Corinna Gostner seized the opportunity to move up to fifth place, in a very consistent race for the Italian racer.
Axel Sartingen extended his championship lead with a second win in race 2, as positions remained unchanged through the final laps; despite a time penalty for track limits, Corinna Gostner bounced back from a difficult race 1 and was seventh overall and fifth in the Shell Cup on Sunday.
With an almost undrivable car, Manuela Gostner eventually pitted from P17 and retired on the final lap. Her tough luck cost her second place in the championship standings, as she now will have to make up for a 13 point gap to Fons Scheltema in second.
A very solid performance in race 2 gained 6 points to Corinna Gostner, at her second top five of the season; she now sits 12th in the drivers' championship standings, ahead of the final two rounds of the 2023 season.
Ferrari Challenge Europe will in fact return to the track at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, after the summer break, on 15-17 September.