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SUPERSTARS: Audi RS 5 Faced Strong Headwinds in Superstars Meeting at Mugello

In the run up to the Tuscany races the Superstars Series Committee had overhauled the spec sheets for the three RS5 entries, as after dominating the previous four rounds all Audis had to move their minimum weight up 100 kilos and morevoer an air restrictor had to be fitted to their V8 engines. None the less, although all the Audi Sport Italia-built cars had struggled on Saturday to show the pace they had showcased at Imola and Donington Park it was neither their poor top speed (due to the air restrictor) nor the clumsy handling (courtesy of the new… diet) that spoiled the Audi drivers’ Sunday, but rather shunts for both Gianni Morbidelli and Thomas Schoeffler respectively in race 1 and race 2.
Luckily for the Audi campaign the lone RS5 driver who managed to escape nearly unscathed from the Mugello rounds was Johan Kristofferson: in an eventful weekend a fourth and a seventh place were enough to grant the rookie not only to keep the lead in the standings, but also to extend his margin over polesitter Thomas Biagi by a point.

Race 1 got off to a dramatic start as local hero Sandro Bettini turned into a public enemy as he triggered a five-car melee at Turn 1. Morbidelli, who had been squeezed out of a few positions on the main straight found himself with nowhere to go but into Bettini’s M3. As his Camozzi RS5 was also rammed by rookie Andrea Boffo’s Jaguar, the damage sustained to the car was massive enough to force the Pesaro-born driver to skip also the afternoon round. Whilst the Turn 1 mishap made Morbidelli drop in the International Series points standings from fourth to sixth — both Mugello winners Andrea Larini and Francesco Sini moved past him — it nearly killed off Morbidelli’s hope of a title fight for the sideshow, the Italian Superstars crown, which unlike the International Standings is made up of only 10 rounds, with only four to go.

Race 1 was stuck behind the safety car in the four initial laps while the cars were removed from the track. When the green flags were waved Andrea Larini and Johnny Herbert staged an entertaing battle to claim their first season win and finishing in the order. Meanwhile Kristoffersson –who had qualified on P7 in the KMS RS5– staged a race-long battle with Stefano Gabellini’s BMW. While battling each other the duo managed to leapfrog former F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, whose AMG Mercedes wound up fifth, a spot behind the Audi, which missed a Top3 finish by only 0.794s.

There wasn’t a dearth of close battle for MTM Motorsport-run Audi, as well. Thomas Schoeffler, starting from P15, wound up spending most of his morning at the quick and demanding Italian circuit glued to the fender of Mauro Cesari’s Maserati. The pair was at the rear end of a fiery 7-car pack that had been bunched up by the 4-lap caution spell. The 18-year German finished 11th, failing to add to his box score by just seven tenths of a second, pretty much in the mold of fellow rookie Kristoffersson.

The afternoon race missed — besides Morbidelli’s company — the thrill of Race 1 as the top spot from the reversed grid was early on occupied by Indonesia’s Ananda Mikola, who had then to relinquish the lead to eventual winner Sini and after the half-race mark let go the charging BMW pair of Stefano Gabellini and Biagi. The Audis struggled early on to contain the charge from the beefier and/or swiftier rivals. Kristoffersson tried to stave off the Maseratis’ assault but to no avail, and then found himself in the middle of a wild bunch of six cars, most of the time trying to contain Paolo Meloni’s moves in the long straight and passing him by in the sweeping corners. The rookie Swede nipped the BMW driver for P7.

The other Audi entry, the MTM Motorsport RS5, again tried hard to sneak back in the Top10. Whilst the things had tourned sour early for Morbidelli, Schoeffler had to wait until nearly the end for bad news. Besides battling oversteer, the young German found himself stuck behind Nico Caldarola’s AMG Mercedes, and it was not enough for Schoeffler to improve his fastest lap over and over, as the power edge of Caldarola’s car made it an ordeal to move past the former rally driver. Then on lap 12 the Italian seemed to think that blocking wasn’t enough and he braked at the esses. The RS5 nudged the C63 rear fender, and an engine sensor most likely failed in the contact, forcing Schoeffler to pit early. A blunt discussion between the battling duo ensued, but the Stewards did not deem the contact worth of further provision and the afternoon came to a close with bitter feelings and no points for the German rookie.

Mugello, June 3 – Round 7
1. Andrea Larini (AMG Mercedes) 11 laps 28’40.453 avg speed 120.725 kph
2. Johnny Herbert (Maserati) + 0.421
3. Stefano Gabellini (BMW) + 7.138
5. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) +12.268

Mugello, June 3 – Round 8
1. Francesco Sini (Chevrolet) 14 laps 28’04.029 avg speed 156.974 kph
2. Stefano Gabellini (BMW) + 0.731s
3. Thomas Biagi (BMW) + 4.753s
4. Ananda Mikola (AMG Mercedes) +9.587s
5. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) + 10.273s
6. Mauro Cesari (AMG Mercedes) + 10.717s

Drivers points standings after 8 rounds:
1. JOHAN KRISTOFFERSSON 101 points; 2. Thomas Biagi 84 pts.; 3. Vitantonio Liuzzi 82 pts.; 4. Andrea Larini 70 pts.; 5. Francesco Sini 66 pts.; 6. GIANNI MORBIDELLI 64 pts.; ../.. 11. THOMAS SCHÖFFLER 24 pts.

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