International Superstars: Vallelunga
RS5s whomped up the rear-wheel-driven opposition at Rome venue and rookies post 1-2 win in Race1 as elated Thomas Schoeffler notches up MTM Motorsport first podium finish. Gianni Morbidelli’s effort crushed by controversial Race1 penalty
Just like it happened at rain-soaked Spa in the previous Superstars meeting, today at Rome’s Piero Taruffi circuit Audi drivers made the most of a 4WD-tilted venue, laying out since Saturday’s free practices sound foundations for their seventh and eight wins of the season. Audi Sport Italia-built RS5s starred again, this time out those with KMS Motorsport and MTM Motorsport liveries, which operate one car apiece. Johan Kristoffersson sweeped pole, wins and fastest laps climbing back on top of the points standings with a 10-point edge on Vitantonio Liuzzi, who Friday had arrived at Vallelunga as leader. At the end of Race 1 the Swede cheered as fellow rookie driver Thomas Schoeffler posted his best finish as runner-up, and in Race 2 the German added a fourth to cap his best racing weekend. Unfortunately Audi Sport Italia’s Gianni Morbidelli effort again went unfulfilled as the Pesaro-based driver saw his hopes of staying in contention for the title fight seriously jeopardized by the outcome of Rome’s meeting, with only the points attached to Race 2 fifth place marked in his box score, although he retains the same 4th spot in the standings as before Vallelunga but with just four rounds to go.
The 23-year old from Arvika had started Sunday’s first International Superstars Series race at Vallelunga from pole position, the best RS5 driver in a remarkable Audi 1-2-3. At the start KMS Motorsport car was nonetheless leapfrogged by former F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, who scythed through putting therefore the car with the ‘wrong’ shade of silver at the front. Kristoffersson, fresh from sealing two hard-fought domestic tin-tops crowns, didn’t budge and went on the inside of Team CAAL AMG Mercedes C63 at the Esses claiming back a spot that he basically made his own throughout the weekend–but during free practice 1 when Audi Sport Italia’s Gianni Morbidelli had topped an Audi 1-2-3. As the Swedish RS5 quickly opened up a gap on Liuzzi, who could not match the leading Audi pace, the AMG Mercedes front-man had his hand full with the youngest driver in the field: MTM Motorsport’s Thomas Schoeffler, who didn’t let Liuzzi break away from him and fellow Audi driver Morbidelli. On Lap 5, as Kristoffersson had already built a 5-second cushion on the pursuers, the German teen-ager successfully went on the inside of the AMG Mercedes at the hairpin grabbing P2, a spot he wouldn’t have been challenged for until the end. P3 wasn’t meant to be conquered as smoothly thereafter: Liuzzi used the full course and beyond to keep at bay Morbidelli, but to no avail as he went sideways in the section leading to the hairpin and Audi Sport Italia’s RS5 bumped his rear fender before diving inside and making it an Audi 1-2-3. But P3 had not Morbidelli’s name on it: race control put the 4-round winner under investigation before handing him a harsh drive-through penalty that dropped the Camozzi-liveried Audi out of Top10. Morbidelli pushed hard trying to reclaim P8 to start race 2 from pole on the reversed grid, but a problem to his front right shock after hitting hard a kerb forced him to pit in with two laps to go. P3 was contested to the very end as former Superstars champ Thomas Biagi’s M3 nipped Liuzzi and finished in front of the AMG Mercedes. Meanwhile Kristoffersson and Schoeffler sealed an all-rookie 1-2 and the Swede third 2012 outright win.
Lining up on row 4 on the reversed grid ahead of the afternoon race both Audi rookies were preparing to make their way up through the grid. However despite both Kristoffersson and Schoeffler getting a clean getaway from the rolling start, both drivers had rather to avoid being caught in opening lap melees than looking ahead.
None the less by the end of the first lap KMS Motorsport’s RS5 was all over the back of Max Mugelli’s M3, whilst the Tuscan’s team mate Giovanni Berton was leading ahead of then-Series leader Liuzzi. Another BMW, this one in the hands of Biagi, was Schoeffler’s target as well as the relevant P6. Morbidelli, who had had a remarkable start was already sneaking into the Top10 by Lap2.
At this stage the limelight belonged to Kristoffersson, who didn’t miss the chance to grab another fastest lap as he was zeroing on Liuzzi’s runner-up spot. Liuzzi was able to fend off the Swede charge for three more laps, until he made his successful move at Roma corner and set sights on the leading BMW. Outside the Top3 the plot was as entertaining: Schoeffler wasn’t fazed by either Biagi or Giancarlo Fisichella’s CV and moved past both to clinch P4. Morbidelli followed suit a few moments later in a quick but one-sided duel among F1 graduates. The leading spot was claimed for good by Kristoffersson’s RS5 on Lap8 with a clean overtaking at the Esses. New-comer Berton then drove home in P2. P3 was another story, as Mugelli fought tooth and nail to edge Liuzzi’s Mercedes: he kept under pressure the former Red Bull Junior until his tyres performance dropped, on Lap11. Liuzzi then slipped to a meager seventh place that meant an undisputed first place in the series for Kristoffersson. But his fellow Audi drivers hadn’t called it a day yet as Schoeffler wasn’t happy without his second consecutive podium finish. On the final lap he had a very last try to make an overtaking manoeuvre at the hairpin but possibly Mugelli wasn’t close enough and in doing so the Singen-based rookie left the door open to Morbidelli. The Italian rolled the dice even briefly going past the MTM Motorsport RS5. The Audis even swiped each other but without any serious damage, which urged the drivers to settle their race positions as held on the previous lap at 4th and 5th.
INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTARS SERIES
Sunday October 7, 2012.
Round 13 – Vallelunga, Italy :
1. JOHAN KRISTOFFERSSON (AUDI RS5) 16 laps, average speed 142.149 kph
2. THOMAS SCHOEFFLER (AUDI RS5) + 2.281s
3. Thomas Biagi (BMW) + 10.266s
4. Tonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) + 11.849s
5. Camilo Zurcher (AMG Mercedes) +15.599s
18. GIANNI MORBIDELLI (AUDI RS5) - 2 laps
INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTARS SERIES
Sunday October 7, 2012.
Round 14 – Vallelunga, Italy :
1. JOHAN KRISTOFFERSSON (AUDI RS5) 16 laps, average speed 141.721 kph
2. Giovanni Berton (BMW) +3.655s
3. Max Mugelli (BMW) + 7.034s
4. THOMAS SCHOEFFLER (AUDI RS5) +7.918s
5. GIANNI MORBIDELLI (AUDI RS5) +8.252s
INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTARS SERIES 2012
Drivers’ points standings after 14 rounds:
1. KRISTOFFERSSON 174 points;
2. Liuzzi 164 pts.;
3. Biagi 156 pts.;
4. MORBIDELLI 119 pts.;
5. Larini 84 pts.;
6. Sini – Gabellini 75 pts.;
8. SCHOEFFLER 67 pts.;
9. Pigoli 59 pts.;
10. Herbert 36 pts.