Nerea Martí seals Spanish Endurance Championship title at debut
With a third place in Barcelona, Nerea Martí and her teammate José Manuel de los Milagros could secure the Spanish Endurance Championship (CER) title for BMW España Motorsport. Martí claimed podium finishes in every round, in her first ever season in touring cars.
It was an eventful season for young Spanish talent Nerea Martí, 20, who raced in her second W Series season taking two podiums and a pole position and, at the same time, making her touring car racing debut as a BMW Spain Motorsport's works driver.
After learning the BMW M2 CS Racing platform in the GT Winter Series, Martí teamed up once again with compatriot José Manuel de los Milagros for the GT-CER, the Spanish Endurance Championship, in a 6-event calendar that raced on the most iconic racing venues in Spain and Portugal.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the home of the Spanish GP, hosted this final event of the season and Nerea Martí had one goal in mind: securing the championship title. The BMW duo was in fact coming off a double race victory at the previous round at Navarra, where de los Milagros and Martí re-claimed the top of the overall championship standings.
“We arrived in Barcelona with a lot of enthusiasm" - said Nerea ahead of the season finale. "Right now we are leading the general classification and we will fight to take the title.”
At Barcelona, the race format was slightly different from the previous rounds, as qualifying and a single two-hour race were both contested on Sunday.
In the combined Q1 and Q2, de los Milagros and Martí slotted into second place in the D1 class and 12th overall, as the #81 crew kept their eyes on the big prize.
Sanabria Crespo secured overall pole position in the #135 Renault RS01, ahead of Cor Euser (#717 Mac Car) and Philippe Gruau in the #112 Vortex V8. The 27-car field got underway with Cor Euser snatching the lead at Turn 1, ahead of Recuenco Alcaniz in the #105 Porsche 991 Cup and Sanabria Crespo.
José de los Milagros had a brilliant start and moved into the class lead - and eighth overall - just before the safety car was deployed for an incident involving Jimenez Cano. Once on the main straight, the #114 and the #111 Porsches of Ybarra and Van Nostrum collided and retired as the pack slowed down behind the pace car.
De los Milagros took evasive action and moved up into sixth place overall, retaining the class lead over the Monlau Cupra TCR of Gené Casanovas.
Positions remained unchanged at the green flag, almost 20 minutes into the race. The second-placed D1 entry of Gené made up a few places in the overall classification as well, but de los Milagros remained in control.
A second safety car neutralized the race once again less than 10 minutes later, when the #107 PCR Sport Porsche driven by Mayola came to a halt at pit exit.
It was a shorter caution this time, and the drivers accelerated away on lap 12. Gené gained more ground and closed in on de los Milagros in the D1 class. The two battled wheel to wheel and the BMW driver held on until lap 15, when Gené eventually took the class lead and sixth overall.
Cor Euser meanwhile navigated the traffic of the touring car classes as the Dutchman extended his overall lead over the #105 and #115 Porsches - who were battling for position.
The pit window opened and the round of driver swaps started. Gené pitted and handed over to his father Jordi Gené on lap 23, returning the D1 class lead to José Manuel de los Milagros.
Martí's teammate extended the stint by a few minutes and would pit on lap 27, handing over to Nerea for the final 57 minutes of the racing season. The Valencian rejoined in third place, as the BMW Spain Motorsport duo lost a place to the #10 Veloso Motorsport Audi RS3 TCR entry during the pit stops - with the latter not changing tyres.
Martí gained a few seconds on the Audi of Pereira da Silva; she advanced into second when Jordi Gené pitted for fuel. Cor Euser had steadily held position through the pit stop stages and continued to lead overall, as more GT cars refuelled. Martí went longer and moved into D1 class lead and third overall; she would pit with 20 minutes to go for fuel, slotting back into third place.
The #127 Ligier driven by Gleichberg was off in the gravel at Turn 10 with less than 2 minutes to go, but positions had already settled: Cor Euser took a masterclass victory in the overall classification, ahead of the Sainero siblings Ana and Antonio in the #125 Porsche 991 Cup and the #105 Porsche 991 Cup of Recuenco Alcaniz.
Jordi Gené crossed the finish line to win in the D1 class, preceding Pereira da Silva and Nerea Martí.
It was enough though for the drivers of the #81 BMW M2 CS Racing to claim their 8th podium finish of the season which sealed the CER title. With six race wins, a second and a third place over 10 races, Martí scored podiums in every round and rounded out her first season in touring cars with her first title.
“Our goal was to take the title and we have achieved it, so I am very happy", Nerea Martí said. "I want to thank the entire structure and team of BMW Spain Motorsport and my colleague José Manuel de los Milagros for everything I have learned from him."
"It has been a very special year and I hope it will be the beginning of a long journey" - Nerea concluded, as she looks ahead to her 2023 plans.