Wohlwend & Gatting claim podiums in Ferrari Challenge Europe opener
It was a great start of the season for top-racers Fabienne Wohlwend and Michelle Gatting, who battled for podiums in the Ferrari Challenge Europe season opener at Imola, as the championship kicked-off this weekend.
Like all the other motorsport events currently taking place around the world, the opening races took place behind closed doors, but the Ferrai Challenge Europe 2020 season was finally a go.
As usual, the series is split in two categories, with two world-class drivers such as Fabienne Wohlwend - who was the first ever woman to win a race in the Ferrari Challenge in 2017 and the winner of the World Finals in 2018 - and Michelle Gatting entering the Trofeo Pirelli class. All drivers compete in the updated 488 Challenge Evo and the series will go on to compete in Barcelona, Portimao, Mugello, Spa-Francorchamps, Misano and finally in Abu Dhabi.
Saturday's qualifying was a close battle between Wohlwend and Emanuele Maria Tabacchi. In the final minutes, the lady from Liechtenstein took pole by just 92 thousands of a second ahead of Tabacchi. Gatting, racing for her ELMS team Iron Lynx, was third fastest in her series debut. Thomas Neubauer, who dominated the free practices, failed his qualifying attempt and started from the back of the field.
"What a way to start the season! I couldn’t wish for a better start. Imola is my absolute favourite circuit I have such great memories of 2017, winning a race in the Ferrari Challenge as a first female. Now, being able to do another pole position here means a lot!"
At the start, Wohlwend lost two positions and Tabacchi moved into the lead and pulled away. Tabacchi controlled the race from the beginning and crossed the finish line round 13 seconds ahead of second place. Wohlwend pushed hard and was part of a hard but fair battle with Gatting for second. Fabienne passed Gatting on lap 13 with a stunning move at Tamburello and tried to catch up with the leader but, right before the last corner of the race, she slowed down and lost position after position before reaching the chequered flag in 6th place overall. That meant she took the last podium place in the Trofeo Pirelli Pro class, as Neubauer had took the way of the pits. Danish racer Michelle Gatting crossed the line to claim a second place in her first appearance in the Ferrari Challenge.
"I lost two positions after an incident at the start - did a mega comeback and then on my last lap my fuel pump broke so I rolled over start finish as 3rd."
The second qualifying marked a new Imola circuit lap record for a Ferrari Challenge car. Tabacchi scored his first pole position with a lap time of 1:42.862, ahead of Neubauer and Wohlwend. Gatting started from P4, with just few tenths of a second separating the top four.
Again, Tabacchi led after the start and gained a gap of 11 seconds at the finish line to his closest opponent. Wohlwand struggled off the line and was passed by Neubauer, but she took back the position on lap 9 to claim her second podium this weekend. Gatting finished the race in 4th position.
"Today's race didn't quite end as I was hoping for, but fought right until the flag of destination was given." - commented Gatting. "I was in P4 for a long time and had 15 seconds up to P3 if not more. With 12 minutes left, I pushed the car to the very maximum and picked up the third placed car lap after lap. Since Imola is a high-speed track, it is extremely difficult to overtake, especially in these cars, I just had to finish right behind third. With a huge amount of TV time, if not the most, and with some commentators who were very excited about my driving for my first time driving in the Ferrari Challenge and for my first time on the Imola track, I can feel satisfied with the weekend." - she concluded.
W-Series driver Wohlwend will be back for the full Ferrari Challenge Europe season, which will hit the track again in two weeks time in Barcelona.