The 2011 FIA European Touring Car Cup at the Salzburgring in Austria became a straight fight between Italian touring car legend Fabrizio Giovanardi and Spanish rookie Pepe Oriola, with 28 years separating the pair.
Giovanardi scored a victory and a second place in two rain-soaked races to take the title, beating Oriola to the crown by one point, which came courtesy of his pole position on Saturday.
Giovanardi gave the Denmark-based Hartmann Racing Honda team their third straight victory in the cup, following those won by James Thompson in the previous two years.
In Race 1 (which began behind the safety car due to the treacherous conditions) Giovanardi kept hold of the lead throughout, despite constant pressure from 17-year-old Spaniard Oriola in his SUNRED SEAT Leon TDI. His victory was impressive considering that his windscreen wipers gave up the ghost during the race and he also suffered from gearbox problems on his Honda Accord.
Swede Tomas Engstrom finished the first race close behind the pair in his privately-run Honda Accord. Mehdi Bennani finished in fourth, just ahead of fellow BMW driver Ibrahim Okyay. Giovanardi's teammate Wolfgang Treml was sixth, with Jens-Guido Weimann and Peter Rikli rounding out the top eight.
Rikli and Weimann began Race 2 on the front row courtesy of the reverse grid, but it wouldn't take long for the leading trio of Oriola, Giovanardi and Engstrom to move to the front.
Weimann stalled his car at the start, which allowed Treml to move into second and then take the lead from Rikli later on the opening lap. On lap two Oriola took the lead from Treml while Giovanardi moved into third past Engstrom. The Italian then took second from Treml on the following lap.
Oriola was able to stay away from Giovanardi, taking the checkered flag by 2.376s. Giovanardi's second place was enough for him to take the crown though, ending up with one more point than Oriola due to the three bonus points for pole position compared to the two scored by Oriola for second in qualifying.
“It's nice to come back to touring cars with a victory,” said Giovanardi. “I was fancying it and I thank Hans Hartmann for giving me this opportunity. I said myself: this can be a good car and a good team for claiming a good result. And the result came. It was not easy though, as Oriola made my life very hard, especially in the first race.
“In the second race I focused on following him, as I knew that finishing immediately behind would be enough for the title. Then he looked in troubles and I tried to catch up, also because EngstrÃ¶m was on my tail, but after overtaking a slow car Oriola pulled out again and I decided to avoid risks and settle in second.”
Oriola said: “Unfortunately the title fight was decided by qualifying points. Yesterday's qualifying was a bit crazy with all those weather changes. Who knows, maybe in a different situation I could have won that point that made the difference. Anyway, the second place behind Giovanardi was a great result for me and the team. I did my best to follow him in the first race and pushed at the maximum in the second one. I am also very proud to be the driver who gave the SEAT TDi its last victory.”
Engstrom finished just behind Giovanardi in third to complete a double podium finish, with Treml some way back in fourth. Rikli came home in fifth with Andreas Kast and Christian Fischer in sixth and seventh.
Michel Nykjaer suffered a disastrous weekend thanks to engine problems with the Chevrolet Cruze that he was using for the event, failing to finish both races.
Serbian Aleksander Tosic claimed the Super Production title in his Honda Civic after he finished the two races in 11th and 8th overall, some way ahead of his only rival and WTCC racer Fabio Fabiani. Tosic was behind the wheel of the same car that Vojislav Lekic used to win the title last year.
“Our target was to claim a second consecutive European Cup for the ASK Vitro Racing,” said Tosic. “And I'm very happy we managed to do it. The car was very good and we had no problems whatsoever during the whole weekend. It's just a shame that we did not find a strong opposition. It was not even the case to show the real potential of our car as I just had to cruise to the end, trying to stay out of trouble and not to cause any problems for the faster drivers.”
In Super 1600 Thomas Muhlenz became the first driver to win an FIA title behind the wheel of an LPG-powered car in his Ford Fiesta ST. The German enjoyed two comfortable victories in 9th and 10th overall.
“It was a perfect weekend for me after two years without racing,” he said. “Pole position, two race victories and the European title; I could not ask for more. It was also a reward for us after we had bet on the LPG technology, as we have proved that this kind of cars can compete on equal footing with the normal petrol-powered cars.”
Race 1 result – 14 laps:
|1||S2000||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Hartmann||Honda Accord Euro R||25:45.475|
|2||S2000||Pepe Oriola||Sunred||SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI||0.830|
|3||S2000||Tomas Engstrom||Seco Tools||Honda Accord Euro R||2.157|
|4||S2000||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam||BMW 320si||29.532|
|5||S2000||Ibrahim Okyay||Borusan Otomotiv||BMW 320si||30.365|
|6||S2000||Wolfgang Treml||Hartmann||Honda Accord Euro R||40.281|
|7||S2000||Jens-Guido Weimann||Thate||BMW 320si||56.405|
|8||S2000||Peter Rikli||Rikli||Honda Civic FD||56.664|
|9||S2000||Andreas Kast||K&K||Audi A4||1:23.202|
|10||S1600||Thomas Muhlenz||Roscher||Ford Fiesta ST (LPG)||+ 1 lap|
|11||SP||Aleksander Tosic||ASK||Honda Civic Type-R||+ 1 lap|
|12||S1600||Ulrike Krafft||ATM||Ford Fiesta 1.6 16V||+ 1 lap|
|13||S1600||Erwin Lukas||GENA||Ford Fiesta ST||+ 1 lap|
|14||S1600||Klaus Bingler||ATM||Ford Fiesta ST||+ 1 lap|
|15||SP||Fabio Fabiani||F Motorsport||BMW 320i E46||+ 2 laps|
|Ret||S1600||Igor Skuz||ATM||Ford Fiesta 1.6 16V||6 laps|
|Ret||S2000||Christian Fischer||Rikli||Honda Accord Euro R||3 laps|
|Ret||S2000||Michel Nykjaer||Chevrolet Sweden||Chevrolet Cruze LT||1 lap|
Race 2 result – 12 laps:
|1||S2000||Pepe Oriola||Sunred||SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI||20:15.295|
|2||S2000||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Hartmann||Honda Accord Euro R||2.376|
|3||S2000||Tomas Engstrom||Seco Tools||Honda Accord Euro R||3.347|
|4||S2000||Wolfgang Treml||Hartmann||Honda Accord Euro R||35.778|
|5||S2000||Peter Rikli||Rikli||Honda Civic FD||46.104|
|6||S2000||Andreas Kast||K&K||Audi A4||1:01.072|
|7||S2000||Christian Fischer||Rikli||Honda Accord Euro R||1:01.757|
|8||SP||Aleksander Tosic||ASK||Honda Civic Type-R||+ 1 lap|
|9||S1600||Thomas Muhlenz||Roscher||Ford Fiesta ST (LPG)||+ 1 lap|
|10||S1600||Ulrike Krafft||ATM||Ford Fiesta 1.6 16V||+ 1 lap|
|11||S1600||Igor Skuz||ATM||Ford Fiesta 1.6 16V||+ 1 lap|
|12||S1600||Erwin Lukas||GENA||Ford Fiesta ST||+ 1 lap|
|13||S1600||Klaus Bingler||ATM||Ford Fiesta ST||+ 1 lap|
|14||SP||Fabio Fabiani||F Motorsport||BMW 320i E46||+ 2 laps|
|15||S2000||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam||BMW 320si||+ 3 laps|
|Ret||S2000||Michel Nykjaer||Chevrolet Sweden||Chevrolet Cruze LT||7 laps|
|Ret||S2000||Jens-Guido Weimann||Thate||BMW 320si||1 lap|
|Ret||S2000||Ibrahim Okyay||Borusan Otomotiv||BMW 320si||0 laps|
1. Giovanardi, 21 points
2. Oriola, 20
3. Engstrom, 13
4. Treml, 8
5. Bennani, 6
6. Rikli, 5
1. Tosic, 23
2. Fabiani, 16
1. Muhlenz, 23
2. Krafft, 18
3. Lukas, 11
4. Bingler, 9
5. Skuz, 7