TCR Italy returned to the track for its fourth round of the year at the iconic Mugello Circuit, where young Italian touring car talent Francesca Raffaele managed to finish in the top 10 for her first time this year despite a difficult qualifying.
Francesca Raffaele, one of the youngest and most promising Touring Car racers, made her debut in the Italian-based TCR championship back in 2020 and immediately showed great speed. Unfortunately, she had to miss last year's season after recovering from an injury - but she's now back on track stronger than ever.
During the first races of the 2022 season, Raffaele has been as competitive as unlucky: while in Imola she was able to fight for points in the top 10, in Misano she was taken out during both races while fighting in the front-running positions. In Mugello, fourth round of the Italian TCR championship, her weekend was off to encouraging results in FP1: she was 10th fastest, among a 32-driver field. Unfortunately, during the qualifying sessions, Raffaele didn't quite get the perfect lap in and placed her #20 Hyundai in 20th position.
"I was hoping to do way better, as we tested here in Mugello to prepare and it went really well", she told us. "Even though I was very satisfied with FP1, during FP2 and Qualifying I didn't manage to get the lap I wanted. It was more about myself rather than the car: actually, my Hyundai was perfect." Raffaele explained.
Lights went out at Autodromo del Mugello with poleman Niels Langeveld (Target Competition) maintaining his lead: as the rest of the pack followed, Carlo Tamburini (MM Motorsport) was investigated for a jump start - a clutch issue resulted in his car moving a few seconds earlier. Francesca had a great getaway and managed to immediately gain one position, then she battled with Ruben Volt (ALM Motorsport) for 18th place.
While Tamburini was handed a drive through penalty, Langeveld kept increasing his lead, as he was separated from Salvatore Tavano (Scuderia del Girasole) by almost 8 seconds. Denis Babuin and Kevin Ceccon started to fight for 4th position and often forced themselves off the track with a few hits that led to a penalty for the #31 Hyundai driver. Matteo Poloni (BF Motorsport) had to retire and was later joined by Ruben Gil Fernandez (Auto Club RC2 Valles) and Dusan Kouril (K2 Engine) who had an engine failure. Francesca moved up to 14th and, with an incredible race pace, she defended from Volt.
When the race leader had to retire with a tyre failure, Tavano could see another victory at reach - and the championship title even closer. Meanwhile, the "Honda nightmare" saw Mattias Vathel first, then Carlo Tamburini, and by the end of the race Ruben Volt, all having to stop their cars with issues. Damiano Reduzzi had to pit and with all the drama, Francesca found herself in 10th position.
With a thrilling battle between Brusa, Ceccon and Babuin for the second step of the podium, Francesca managed to take the checkered flag in 8th position, collecting her best result of the season and once again proving her speed and tenacity to belong to the top positions of a competitive series like TCR Italy. Salvatore Tavano took the win, followed by Cesare Brusa and Michele Imberti.
The hottest Sunday morning that Tuscany had ever experienced saw the lights going green with Francesca Raffaele starting from P19. Carlo Tamburini claimed pole position and was off to a great start, maintaining his lead - while Francesca immediately overtook Iannotta and Pussier that were in front of her.
While fighting in the pack, with five other cars, she lost some places but was able to regain them on the following lap. Some drivers explored the gravel traps, while others fought for positions until the Safety Car was deployed following the crash of F. Savoia (Greta Racing Lucania), who hit the barrier at the exit of the last turn before the main straight.
The race resumed with about 10 minutes to go, with a thrilling battle between the Hyundais of Langeveld, Reduzzi and Ceccon - as well as Tavano's Cupra, protagonist of an amazing overtaking attempt at Casanova-Savelli, one of the most challenging sections of the Tuscan racetrack.
After a thrilling battle with Ruben Volt, Francesca ended her race in 12th position, on the third step of the podium of the Under 25 category. Winner of the race was Niels Langeveld, followed by Denis Babuin and Salvatore Tavano.
"Starting from the back I knew I had to do all the races in recovery mode - and that would not be easy. Instead, it all went very well, I did the best results of the season so far, so I am very happy about that." Francesca said.
During this weekend, Francesca proved again her strength and her fierce nature: we can't wait to see her back on track on the first weekend of September, for the penultimate race of the season in Imola.