The penultimate event of TCR Italy at Vallelunga saw Franco Girolami and Aurélien Comte taking one race win apiece and climbing to first and second in the standings, demoting Niels Langeveld to third. After finishing second in Race 1, Girolami returned to victory in the second race, six months after the season opener at Imola. This put the Argentine back on top of the standings, 14 points ahead of Comte the Race 1 winner. Langeveld, who had taken the points lead at the end of the previous event at Mugello, was deprived of a possible victory in Race 1 by a puncture and slipped to third, 29 points behind Girolami. The battle for the title will be decided in the final event at Imola in two weeks, with the drivers obliged to drop two scores. So far, Girolami must drop 13 points, Comte 36, while Langeveld will not drop, having three DNFs.
Race 1 – The Honda Civic cars of Langeveld and Ruben Volt shared the front row, with Marco Butti’s Hyundai and Comte’s CUPRA behind them. The top four retained their positions at the start, but during the first lap Comte dropped two places behind Girolami and Felice Jelmini. Then, Jelmini overtook Girolami, but Comte retook the fourth position passing Girolami first and Jelmini afterwards. Girolami too moved up into P5 as he passed Jelmini in lap 2. In lap 4, Butti’s pace faded, he lost the third place to Comte, dropped further and eventually retired with electronic issues.
The top positions seemed settled, with Langeveld leading from Volt, Comte and Girolami, while Jelmini defended P5 from Rubén Fernández. Suddenly, halfway through the race, Langeveld pitted with a flat front left and Volt inherited the lead, but Comte was closing on him. Volt’s car began to smoke and in lap 14, the Honda stopped with a turbo failure; the same happened to Jelmini’s Audi that was running in fourth place and retired with fuel feeding problems.
This reshuffled the positions, with Comte in the lead, Girolami a distant second and Fernández third further back, which is the way they finished; behind them Denis Babuin won the battle for P4 beating Michele Imberti, Levente Losonczy and Junesung Park. After the race Fernández was excluded for a technical infringement of the differential and Babuin inherited third.
In a separate race for DSG cars, Eric Brigliadori made a winning return to the series as he set pole position and led from the lights to the flag in his RC Motorsport Audi RS 3 LMS, beating newcomer Pietro Alessi’s PMA Motorsport CUPRA by 1.1 seconds.
Race 2 – Paolo Rocca was on pole on the top-eight reversed grid, with Rubén Fernández in P2. Rocca had a slow getaway, Fernández took the lead from Girolami and Butti who passed Jelmini after starting from P6. Rocca went wide at the Cimini bend and dropped several places, while Volt overtook Comte and Jelmini, moving up into P4. The leading trio of Fernández, Girolami and Butti ran bumper-to-bumper, with Volt trying to close the gap. Behind them Jelmini and Comte were chased by Langeveld. In lap 6, Langeveld passed Jelmini and Comte in one move, climbing to P5. Fernández struggled to keep Girolami behind; Butti and Volt followed while Langeveld was getting closer. In lap 9, Girolami took the lead and then Fernández was passed by Butti, Volt and Langeveld altogether before going off at the Curvone and rejoining in eighth place. Langeveld passed Volt for third and began chasing Butti. In lap 13, Langeveld made a move on Butti but went wide and dropped behind Volt. Further back, both Comte and Imberti passed Jelmini for P5 and P6. Girolami, went to take his second wind of the season, while Butti successfully defended the second place from Volt and Langeveld who kept on fighting until the chequered flag where the Dutchman beat the Estonian by 0.144 seconds. Butti was later penalised by 5 seconds for a contact with Langeveld and dropped to fourth behind the reigning champion and Volt.
After starting from P8, Brigliadori encored in the DSG’s second race, as he stole the lead from Ali Vedat Dalokay (Bitci Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS) halfway through the race. The Turkish driver survived a collision with Alessi at the hairpin to finish second and secure the DSG title.
Vallelunga – Race 1
Vallelunga – Race 2
Picture: ACI Sport