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Manuela Gostner claims first win of the season in Ferrari Challenge

Manuela Gostner secured her first win of the season in the Ferrari Challenge Europe - her first with the new 296 car - complementing her pole position, fastest lap and podium finish in race 1 to round out a superb weekend at Jerez.

Manuela Gostner, 2024 Ferrari Challenge Europe, Jerez
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

Manuela Gostner took her first race victory of the season in Ferrari Challenge Europe, rounding out a superb weekend at Jerez which saw the Italian securing a pole position, a fastest lap, a podium in race 1 and her first win in the 296 car in race 2.

Gostner was among the protagonists of the 2024 season of the European Ferrari one-make series, with three victories to her name - including one at the legendary Circuit De La Sarthe at Le Mans in a 70-car field - and several podiums that cemented her runner-up place in the championship standings.

In 2024, Manuela stepped up to the new 296 car, and she immediately proved great speed in the Shell Cup: at the Mugello season opener, she was on course to score a first podium when she was hit by another car and retired. With a third place in race 2, she collected her first podium of the season - and followed up with another third place finish at Balaton Park's first race. Gostner aimed to keep momentum and started from the front row in race 2, but was unlucky in race 2, when a puncture on the final lap denied her another podium.

Ferrari Challenge then headed to Jerez for the third round of the season, on a circuit that proved to be freidnly ground for Manuela Gostner: the driver of the #193 Ferrari operated by Ineco - Reparto Corse RAM was straight up to pace, with a top three in the pre-event test that set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

In the official practice, Manuela set a 1:45.762 and was eighth fastest, but made impressive improvements coming into qualifying: in the Spanish heat, she was the only driver to clock a time under the 1:43 mark, as her 1:42.867 placed her three tenths clear of the closest rival and on pole position for Saturday's first race.

From the top spot, Gostner took the inside line when the race went green and defended against the fast Henry Hassid. Despite the Frenchman's pressure, she held onto the top spot, with John Dhillon also in the mix. Manuela managed to open a small gap, but Hassid responded with the new fastest lap and resumed his charge. The two drivers pulled away from the rest of the pack, turning the race into a thrilling two-car battle for the win.

Manuela responded with a new fastest lap, but Hassid kept up the pressure: by lap 5, the two were separated by only two-tenths of a second, trading fast sectors in a thrilling duel. Manuela left no gaps and continued to drive flawlessly. However, on lap 11, Hassid found a way past her after a better exit from the final corner gave him a run into turn 1. Once ahead, the Kessel Racing driver opened a small gap, but Manuela started gaining again by lap 15.

Eventually, Manuela settled into second, four seconds behind Hassid, who crossed the finish line to take the win after a tightly contested first race of the weekend. Manuela finished second, just four-tenths ahead of Dhillon.

"Another success is in the books, crossing the checkered flag in P2 and marking the fastest lap during Race 1", Gostner commented.

"It was an amazing day here in Jerez, with a fun race fought until the very end despite the hot weather conditions and a boiling track, making it very tricky for the car and adding to the challenge. I’m feeling very positive for Race 2 tomorrow."

In the second qualifying session on Sunday morning, Manuela qualified fourth in a more tricky session but clearly had the pace for the long runs and would be again in contention for a front-running position. Henry Hassid secured pole, sharing the front row with John Dhillon, while Manuela Gostner lined up fourth alongside Motohiko Isozaki.

At the start, Manuela had a great launch and tried to go around the outside of turn 1 but had to back off as the leading duo made contact. Isozaki drove around everyone and took the lead, followed by Gostner, Hassid, and Valint.

The safety car neutralized the race at the end of the first lap when Corinna Gostner spun and made contact with the barriers. At the restart, Isozaki accelerated away early, but Manuela wasn't caught out and followed closely, with Hassid back in the mix. Manuela had to take defensive action from the French racer, who was then handed a drive-through penalty for overspeeding at the start.

Isozaki set the fastest lap and attempted to pull away, but once both Hassid and Dhillon pitted to serve their drive-through penalties, Manuela could focus ahead and gained a few tenths on the Cornes Motors Shiba driver. By lap 11, she confidently moved into the lead at the final corner, completing a remarkable overtake.

Once ahead, Manuela unleashed her pace, opening a 5-second gap in barely two laps. Valint got ahead of Isozaki with 4 minutes left on the clock, followed by Christophe Hurni. Gostner continued to extend her lead, her pace unmatched by anyone except Hassid, who recovered from his drive-through penalty to finish P5.

Manuela Gostner's lead was never under threat, and she crossed the finish line to secure her first win of the season.

"I knew this victory was on the horizon", siad Gostner. "My excitement at the end of Race 2 was undeniable."

"Starting from P4, I climbed my way to the top of the podium. I took advantage of a chaotic moment between two competitors and executed one of my best overtakes later in the race. What an exciting and fun race it was!"

"I’m incredibly happy with today’s result and grateful for the full support and preparation of my amazing team," she concluded.

Her strong weekend at Jerez allowed the Italian racer to close in significantly in the championship standings, as she now sits third, 25 points behind Henry Hassid in the Shell Cup category.

Ferrari Challenge will head to Autodromo do Algarve, Portimao, Portugal, for its fourth round of the season, on 4-7 July.



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