The third round of the Mini Challenge Italia went underway at the historic Autodromo Imola, where Erika Lavazza – at her debut in the series – managed to score points and kept improving her performance.
The summer break is finally over and, with every championship resuming, Mini Challenge Italia was also back on track during the latest ACI Racing Weekend in Imola. Erika Lavazza was back at the wheel of her vibrant orange MINI to keep pursuing her ambitions in the Academy championship, where she currently sits in fifth position.
In a gloomy Imola the weekend began with free practice sessions, where Erika had the opportunity to learn the track, as she had never raced at the Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari before: Lavazza just graduated from karting to car racing and she's discovering a new track every race weekend. "I enjoyed Imola as a track: it's very technical and challenging but still great to drive." Erika said.
Saturday was the day for qualifying sessions: Erika qualified 15th (6th in her class) in both sessions: Q1 determines the grid for the first race, while Q2 for Sunday's one – but the young Italian driver kept improved her lap times by over one second.
The green flag waved in a pretty gloomy Imola on Saturday afternoon, after the pace car took the way of the pits: the start was drama-free, as the whole pack– led by Paolo Silvestrini, – made its way through the first chicane. Erika managed to start pretty well and immediately tried to put pressure on her rivals.
While Luvisi and Roveda battled, Erika managed to stay right behind them, waiting for a mistake from the pair to overtake: and that was exactly what happened, as Luvisi went wide during the last lap, allowing Lavazza through. She finished the first race of the weekend in fourth, as Adam Sacha had previously made contact with the barriers and gifted his position to his pursuers.
"In the first race I managed to keep up with the others' pace, as I was constantly chasing them. I also tried some overtake attempts so for me it's a win." – Erika told us.
As soon as lights went out on early Sunday morning, the pack battle away: championship contender Ugo Bagnasco – at the wheel of a Mini Challenge EVO – had to start from the back of the grid after making contact with the wall during the Qualifying session, and he would keep Erika busy during the first lap. Bagnasco was on a mission to overtake Lavazza in order to catch up with the rest of his class.
Mini Challenge Italia, in fact, features three classes in its championship: the EVO, brand-new for this season, with its new generation cars; the PRO – where the most experienced drivers compete – and the ACADEMY, Erika's class, which allows young drivers with no experience to race in a less powerful car. Clearly, the Mini Challenge EVO is the fastest one, so Bagnasco found it easier to charge up the field.
Unluckily, Erika struggled a bit more during the second race: it was hotter than the day before and her car seemed to be more difficult to drive, with a lot of understeer.
She still managed to finish her race in fifth position in her class. "In race two I had some difficulties, as the car suffered understeering: for example, at the Piratella and Rivazza corners I couldn't always keep the right line." Erika told us.
If we look at the bigger picture, Erika is doing a great job, as she's at her very first season and already showing a lot of potential.
"Surely a better weekend compared to the Mugello one, we had a better pace, the more I went out on track, the more I improved: this is very important and I'm stoked about it."