The Super Nova International team had a mixed weekend as the Auto GP World Series arrived at the former Formula One venue of Imola in Italy. They saw Michela Cerruti become the first female racer to win an Auto GP race, but also saw Markus Pommer lose significant ground in the championship race.
German driver Pommer took his third consecutive pole position ahead of race one, with Cerruti seventh and third driver for the second Auto GP weekend in a row Francesco Dracone tenth. It was the first time Dracone had made it through to the second part of qualifying.
“It was really a perfect qualifying, the car was brilliant and the team was perfect,” said Pommer after qualifying. “I’m looking forward to the race and being able to make a good start to get into the lead.”
Unfortunately for the German, his car developed a fault on the opening lap of the race that result in a loss of power that ended his race. He crawled back to the pits but was forced to retire.
“I had a good start, and I was quicker leading into the first corner but I had a failure with the RPM sensor and that was it,” said a dejected Pommer after race one, where Championship leader Kimiya Sato took full advantage by taking the win. “My pace has been good in free practice and qualifying so was for sure disappointing to not finish the race. I will start from the back for Race Two, but if I work hard and the strategy is good I hope we can make a good result.”
The retirement on Saturday meant Pommer was forced to start race two from the back of the grid, but the German was able to take fifth at the chequered flag. Unfortunately with Sato in fourth, he ended the weekend 36 points adrift in the championship. Sato will miss the next event in Austria due to his GP2 Series commitments with Campos Racing, so Pommer still has some hope.
“My pace was good and I’m still second in the Championship,” said Pommer. “I was not the only driver with an early pit strategy so the best result I could do was fifth.”
After qualifying fifth for Saturdays opening round, team-mate Cerruti was in contention for a podium in race one, but suffered a loss of power and dropped to fifth.
“My race was good,” said Cerruti after the Saturday race. “I made a bad start with wheel spin and an early gear change, but the car set up was good and I had fast pace so I was able to recover well. My pit stop was perfect but I then had a power drop and with the cold tyres I could not maintain my position. As long as the problem is solved for tomorrow I am confident I can aim for the podium.”
On Sunday, Cerruti stormed to her maiden series win, and the first win for a female driver in Auto GP history. It was also the first win by a female in a high-power open-wheel car in the modern era of European Motorsport. She inherited the lead on the third lap after Giuseppe Cipriani spun his Ibiza Racing Team machine into the gravel trap, and held on to the flag.
“I knew I had good pace,” said Cerruti. “We were expecting that I would be quick today. Again the car was really good, the pit stop was perfect. I really want to thank my team and my engineer for this good strategy because everything was really perfect.”
Dracone started tenth on Saturday and made a good start to run sixth early in the race, and ultimately finished in the same position, holding of Christof von Grunigen’s Zele Racing machine.
“It was a very good race,” said a pleased Dracone on Saturday. “I’m extremely happy with the team and the car. It is a pleasure to be here racing in Imola and I’m looking forward to Race Two.”
Having made a good start again for race two, Dracone slipped down the order during the race and ultimately finished down in tenth. This was not helped by a clash with Vittorio Ghirelli’s Eurotech Engineering machine just after his pit stop that caused some rear wing and tyre damage.
Super Nova International Team Manager John Sears was happy to have seen Cerruti take the victory, and praised Dracone’s efforts, but was disappointed after Pommer’s Saturday retirement.
“What a fantastic first victory for Michela, not only in Auto GP but also in single seaters,” said Sears. “She has worked very hard with the team to achieve this and we have known all season she had the pace. “It was a frustrating weekend for Markus as we knew he had the best pace out there and could have closed the gap in the Championship, but he did a good job today coming from the back. “The first half of Francesco’s race was good, but the unfortunate incident after his pit stop destroyed his race.”