A last-gasp effort from Luigi Ferrara saw the the Mercedes driver grab pole position for Sunday’s first of two Superstars International Series races at Donington Park following a tight qualifying session.
After a difficult pair of practice session earlier in the day that concluded with his Roma Racing team being forced to change an engine prior to qualifying, Ferrara returned to the track in fine form during the reduced 25-minute session and found himself in the centre of a superb duel for pole position that saw the top spot change places no fewer than 10 times.
The early running was set by Colin Turkington in his Scuderia Giudici BMW M3, the BTCC star setting provisional pole position at the circuit he took victory at earlier in the British Touring Car Championship’s visit in April, before the rest of the session became a fight between Ferrara, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Thomas Biagi Audi’s Gianni Morbidelli and BMW ‘s Giovanni Berton.
Liuzzi was the first to knock Turkington off the top spot with the first sub-1m34s lap of the weekend, but his Italian rivals soon queued up to take pole away from the Romeo Ferraris Mercedes driver, setting up a thrilling conclusion.
Ferrara then moved to the front, but he was then bumped down the timing screens by last year’s Donington pole sitter Morbidelli who – despite carrying 140kg of extra weight in his Audi Sport Italia RS 5 than when he achieved the feat last year – defied his Audi’s weight penalty by grabbing the advantage heading into the final 10 minutes.
Liuzzi returned the favour before improving even further to a 1m33.915s, but Ferrara then shocked his fellow Mercedes C63 AMG competitor with his final lap of the session after the chequered flag had been waved.
The time of 1m33.899s, just 0.016s quicker than his Italian rival, snatched pole position for Ferrara in a strong showing of redemption for the Roma Racing squad, after a water pump problem and an engine failure ruined their qualifying preparation.
Liuzzi had to settle for second place on the all-Mercedes front row, while late efforts from Berton and Morbidelli challenged, but ultimately weren’t enough to affect the lead pair.
Berton lined his BMW up in third spot with a final run that left him just 0.284s from the pole time, Morbidelli leaping ahead of the second Romeo Ferraris Mercedes of Liuzzi’s team-mate Biagi, the points leader only able to qualify fifth on the grid for the first of the double-header of races on Sunday behind his title rivals Morbidelli and Liuzzi.
Turkington slipped back during the late rush of rapid tours from those around him, finishing sixth but still a respectable 0.749s off Ferrara’s time on his debut weekend in the more powerful V8 series.
Max Mugelli‘s BMW M3 and Dominico Schiattarella‘s Chevrolet Lumina made up a top eight separated by just under a second, Andrea Bacci and Mauro Trentin rounding out the top 10, the latter suffering an off at Coppice in the last few seconds of the session.