Lisa Clark crowned Ferrari Challenge NA Shell-Am champion in Mugello
Lisa Clark's season in Ferrari Challenge North America came to a close with a podium finish at Mugello that sealed her Shell-Am class championship title, following four wins and eight podiums.
Lisa Clark's season in Ferrari Challenge North America came to a close with a podium finish at Mugello that sealed the deal for her Shell-Am class championship title.
The US American driver was the protagonist of a remarkable campaign in the North American series, while at the same time collecting valuable experience in the European series at selected rounds.
With victories at Homestead Miami, Montreal and Road America, Clark had to finish ahead of her class rival Bruce Cleveland at Mugello's first race to clinch the title - and did so with a podium finish that wrapped up a highly competitive season for the Ferrari Beverly Hills driver.
Her season started in dominant fashion at Homestead, where Lisa secured two pole positions, two fastest laps and two victories. After a second place at COTA, she returned to the top step of the podium in the support race of the Canadian F1 Grand Prix, where she won with double pole position in rather tricky weather conditions. A third place in Sonoma was followed by another impressive weekend at Road America, where Lisa was second in race 1 and took her fourth win of the year in race 2.
Clark therefore entered the final round of the championship at Mugello, Italy, with a 17 point margin over the closest competitor. Having also competed in Europe in the last couple of years, Clark made her Italian GT Sprint debut at Mugello in preparation for the Ferrari World Finals, that would be held at the Tuscan iconic venue four weeks later.
Heavy rain, though, welcomed the drivers of the Ferrari one make series at the end of October, for Ferrari's customer racing biggest event of the year.
Testing went well and Clark was consistently in the front-running positions, making good progress with the car. Conditions remained challenging in the official practice, as well as in qualifying, but a 2:25.804 lap meant that Lisa would line up in P3 among the Shell-Am class, P23 overall, ahead of the first race of the weekend.
Cleveland scored pole position for race 1, followed by Steve Check and Lisa Clark. In very damp conditions, the first race got underway on Thursday morning and, in cold temperatures, the first corners turned out to be extremely challenging: several cars spun and were collected in the middle of the pack, and the safety car was deployed on the first lap.
Clark had to take evasive action as a competitor spun in front of her and, at the end of the first lap, she was down to sixth place in class and 25th overall. The race was back to green with 20 minutes to go and Lisa had a brilliant restart; she put pressure on Goodwin and got past the Shell-Am competitor, as well as Nunberg, who had dropped to sixth. Up to P4, Lisa had three seconds to close to catch Roger Monteforte, as the two closed in on the overall top-20 as well.
With 10 minutes to go, Lisa had cut the gap to the car in front, with also second-placed Lance Cawley not too far ahead. As the wet tyres degradation on a drying track started to play a bigger part, Clark caught Monteforte and Cawley - as Cleveland remained unchallenged in the class lead almost 10 seconds up the road. The second, third, and fourth drivers in Shell-Am ran closely within a second to each other for the remainder of the race, and a yellow flag for a stricken car in the gravel of turn one on the penultimate lap meant that positions remained unchanged.
While Bruce Cleveland crossed the finish line as the provisional winner, he later received a 25 second penalty for dangerous driving - which promoted Lance Cawley to the top spot and Lisa Clark to third. With this result, Clark was mathematically crowned Ferrari Challenge North America Shell-Am champion with one race to spare.
“It was tough as we went from a wet to a dry track, so I concentrated on maintaining fourth place which eventually became third, a position that allowed me to win the title", Lisa commented after the race.
Thanks to her second-best lap in qualifying, Clark lined up in second place among the Shell-Am entries on Friday for the final race of the North American season. When the lights went out, cars ahead checked up and Lisa was almost forced to come to a halt to avoid hitting the cars in front; while she lost two positions, she managed to recover to P3 in class on the first lap, behind Cleveland and Nunberg.
While she lost third to Monteforte later in the race, a Safety Car was deployed on lap 8 when Tony Davis went off at the final corner as it started to drizzle once again. The light rain intensified and a full shower hit the track, as a few drivers opted to pit for wet weather tyres during the neutralization - including class leader Cleveland.
Lisa Clark was therefore up to second place with 6 mins to go - albeit on slick tyres. The green flag was out with 5 minutes to go, and cars that stayed out on slicks were struggling for grip. Nevertheless, Lisa comfortably kept second at the restart, with a very convincing drive.
Lisa held on to P2 in class and 15th overall with a very strong run in the rain - but an unfortunate drive through for track limits dropped her to P5 in Shell-Am.
Although she was denied another podium in the closing stages, Clark completed the season with 136 points, with very strong performances at most of the race meetings. The speed shown in the first two races was also a promising sign for the upcoming World Finals on Sunday.
Clark qualified P14 in the Shell-Am final, as North American and European fields combined for the race that would assign the world title.
Lisa had a good start but had then to take evasive action at turn 1, as a contact between Isozaki and Frascaro forced her to the outside line; the driver of the #327 Ferrari still managed to gain one position, completing the first lap in P13. Marinus Richter led Joel Schumacher - as five European entries led the pack.
Richter managed to open a gap, as Marazzi battled with Schumacher and eventually moved up into second. Clark closed in on Lindroth - in a three car group that also included 'Baby Kei' and Dana Goodwin right behind. A contact for Yoneda on lap 4 allowed Clark to gain a position - before the safety car neutralized the action one lap later.
At the restart Lindroth found a way past Check - and Clark attempted to follow through, but the fellow North American competitor defended well. This battle helped Yoneda to close back in and Lisa would drop to P13 on lap 9.
A second safety car was deployed for the beached #169 Ferrari of Yansheng Liang with 5 minutes to go and the race resumed for one final lap: Kamstrup served a drive through penalty and Lisa Clark, up to 12th, was glued to the back of Yoneda's car. She would cross the finish line in P12 after a close battle with the Japanese driver, but was then promoted to P11 after a track limits penalty for Nunberg.
Marinus Richter took victory in the Shell-Am World Final, ahead of Marazzi and Scudieri. Lisa Clark, just outside the top ten, was fourth among the North American entries.
After a successful season, Clark will be aiming to carry momentum into next year, in a program still to be confirmed.