RSC Anderlecht driver Davide Rigon has put pressure on the top two in the championship standings after a great weekends racing at Adria in the Superleague Formula by Sonangol.
Heading into the weekends race, it was Yelmer Buurman of AC Milan who topped the table with Brit Craig Dolby in the Tottenham Hotspur car just two points behind. The Italian Rigon lay in third 34 points behind second placed Dolby.
Rigon on home soil took the advantage over his rivals by claiming pole position with an in form John Martin in the Beijing Guoan car alongside in second. Alvaro Parente in the Porto car took third alongside the impressive Olympiacos debutant, Ben Hanley who was in for the injured Chris Van Der Drift. Hanley wasn't the only new face on the grid as the Liverpool team had drafted in Frederic Vervisch to replace James Walker, Olympique Lyonnais had Spaniard Celso Miguez behind the wheel and British driver Hywel Lloyd was piloting the PSV Eindhoven car. The biggest shock of the qualifying session was seeing Buurman and Dolby only achieve eighth and ninth place on the grid respectively, just behind Vervisch in seventh.
From the rolling start it was Davide Rigon who lead the field away and set about building a lead over the chasing pack ahead of the pit stop window. Further back, Championship rivals Buurman and Dolby had both passed new boy Vervisch and Dolby attacked Buurman down the inside of turn three on the first lap to get ahead. But the tyres on the Tottenham car were wearing quickly and the Dutchman in the AC Milan car was all over him behind.
As the pit window opened Rigon was three seconds ahead of Martin when they came into take their stops. A superb stop by the Alan Docking Racing team who run the Beijing car saw the Aussie take the lead from Rigon as they exited the pit lane. However, Martin couldn't pull off the victory as he did at Brands Hatch and pressure from the Anderlecht driver behind forced him into an error at turn two and Rigon ceased the advantage to pass up the inside. From here on in the Italian was untroubled in front of his home fans as he pulled away from Martin who was now dropping into the clutches of debutant Ben Hanley in the red and white Olympiacos car in third.
Meanwhile, the Battle between Dolby and Buurman had taken an unexpected turn. Buurman had pitted as soon as the window had opened and Dolby was to head in a lap later. Has the Englishman headed back out he rejoined alongside Buurman and Alvaro Parente in the FC Porto car. All three headed into turn one and it was Parente who had the advantage to take Dolby up the inside. Buurman tried to use this opportune moment to follow the Porto car through the narrowing gap causing contact between the two. Buurman had broken his front wing whilst he hit Dolby's left rear tyre causing a puncture. Both were left limping back to the pits to repair the damage and despite both climbing a few places afterwards, 11th place for Buurman and 13th for Dolby left them both disappointed with Rigon dominating.
It was indeed Davide Rigon who took the flag in first to close in on the championship lead whilst just over three and a half seconds behind, Martin had held off the attack from Ben Hanley for second place. It was a fantastic podium finish for Hanley on his debut.
Fourth place was taken by Max Wissel for FC Basel who had picked up a place during the pit stops and set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:06.580. Julien Jousse finished fifth for AS Roma ahead of Parente whilst The Liverpool car of Vervisch finished a creditable seventh. Tristan Gommendy (Galatasaray) had experienced a problem which allowed Robert Doornbos driving for Corinthians to snatch eighth from him at the line. Flamengo driver Duncan Tappy rounded out the top ten.
Debutant Celso Miguez was to take pole in the fully reversed grid for race two thanks to retirement a few laps from the end and fellow Spaniard Marcos Martinez was set to line up alongside him who struggled home in 14th place.
Newbie Ben Hanley spoke to the media after the first race saying, “A podium's good, but it was a great result for the team more than anything. They've worked really hard and had a new car here which they only got last week and had to prepare it. The most important thing for Olympiacos is scoring points and I think we got quite a few in that race. If we stay on the track in the second we'll hopefully make the Super Final. It was good fun. They're big, heavy cars which are difficult to drive when you've not raced for a year. I've been doing some testing, which has helped, but it was a good result. The track's a bit busy, like a go-kart track, so it's tough, but I'm happy with the result.”
It was Marcos Martinez who took the advantage from the off in race two by beating Miguez into turn one to take the lead. Dolby had held is third place from the start and was then gifted second place after Miguez suffered gearbox problems which would end his race early.
Martinez was flying and had a seven second lead by the time the pit stop window had opened after 15 minutes and was able to rejoin the pack after his stopped with only a slightly narrowed advantage leaving him to take the chequered flag ahead of Dolby in second who couldn't close in on the leader. Duncan Tappy took the final podium slot keeping his record of taking at least one podium place in each round he's competed in intact.
Yelmer Buurman kept the championship points close by taking fourth place after battling it out with Robert Doornbos and Frederic Vervisch. The Liverpool driver settled with fifth place ahead of Doornbos with just a second splitting the three. Max Wissel took seventh ahead of a good drive from the back of the grid from Rigon in eighth who led home his fellow podium winners from race one, Martin ninth and Hanley tenth. Alvaro Parente had battled through the field to challenge Tappy for third place after the pit stops only to be slapped with a stop/go penalty after his team didn't change his tyres during the compulsory stops which dropped him down to 11th place.
So with these results Davide Rigon was to line up on pole for the super final race three with John Martin alongside him in a repeat of the race one front row. Third spot was claimed by Max Wissel and Marcos Martinez fourth ahead of the two rookie drivers, Ben Hanley and Frederic Vervisch in fifth and sixth respectively.
German Max Wissel was on new tyres for the final five lap sprint and he got a great start passing Martin for second place and kept the pressure on Rigon throughout. The impressive Hanley was also on new rubber and it showed. He had passed Martinez at the start and had also passed John Martin to put Wissel under pressure himself in the closing stages. However Rigon was to take the win and the â‚¬100,000 cheque that went with it. Wissel held off Hanley for second place with Martin finishing fourth. Martinez and Vervisch were to complete the shootout in fifth and sixth place.
Despite not taking part in the final shootout, Craig Dolby's second place in race two was enough to retake the championship lead by just three points from Yelmer Buurman. But the big winner from the weekend was Davide Rigon. His super final win had took his race winnings to â‚¬525,000 making him the highest earning driver and his all round performance had put him within 9 points of Buurman.
“This weekend has been fantastic for us and I'd like to say thank you very much to the team.” Rigon said. “The Super Final was really difficult as the others were on new tyres and I wasn't. Max (Wissel) was very quick but my car was great. If the car continues to work like this and I don't make any mistakes then we really have a chance to win the championship.”
Max Wissel told the waiting press, “I expected to win the Super Final on new tyres but I only really had one lap to overtake Davide and he did a great job to defend from me. â‚¬75,000 is not bad though! We'll still do our best to close the gap to the leaders (in the championship). We have a brilliant team, a fantastic car and hopefully we'll have more weekends like this.”
Impressive rookie Ben Hanley said “We couldn't ask for much more from this weekend other than perhaps a win! We took a gamble in race 2 by running our qualifying set-up but we got through it to make the Super Final. This is a good result for Olympiacos and we've scored good points. Realistically I didn't expect things to go this well, but I definitely wanted to make an impression.”
Superleague Formula heads to the Portuguese circuit of Portimao on the weekend of September 18-19 where the now three way championship battle will resume.