Niccolò Schirò, Emanuele Maria Tabacchi, James Weiland
and Agata Smolka
all triumphed on the first day of the Ferrari Challenge Europe
in Sakhir. It was a clean sweep for Rossocorsa whose drivers celebrated from the top of the podium in all categories.
The opening race of the 2019 season of the Prancing Horse one-make competition began at sunset and starred Niccolò Schirò in his series debut. After taking the lead, the Rossocorsa driver easily held off his rivals for a well-deserved win ahead of Sam Smeeth (Baron Motorsport) and Louis Prette (Formula Racing). After setting off from pole, the Briton had a tricky start from which he made an excellent recovery. Meanwhile, Prette fought back convincingly to win a spot on the podium after a qualifying session that had ended in fifth place. The Formula Racing driver first duelled with Emanuele Maria Tabacchi (Rossocorsa), then with Alessandro Bonacini (Kessel Racing) and finally with another rookie, Thomas Neubauer (Charles Pozzi - Courage). The podium battle was very heated with lots of thrills and excitement, even if the positions stayed the same with Schirò winning ahead of Smeeth and Prette.
Emanuele Maria Tabacchi won the Pirelli AM category at the end of a race marked by thrilling duels with Prette and Bonacini. Fifth place overall confirmed the competitiveness of the Rossocorsa driver, one of the fastest even during free practice sessions. Behind the Italian came Jack Brown (Ferrari GB - Graypaul Nottingham) ahead of Christian Overgaard (Forza Racing), who fought a steady race, decided in the end by the British driver with a pass executed on the tenth lap. At the foot of the podium the trio of John Dhillon (Ferrari GB - Graypaul Nottingham), Kent Chen (Formula Racing) and Ali Kamyab (Ferrari GB - HR Owen, debuting in the series) were involved in a close fought battle, with never more than a second between them.
The night race was affected by the safety car, which came out twice before the red flag brought proceedings to an end. The winner was James Weiland (Rossocorsa), ahead of Tani Hanna (Formula Racing) and Christian Kinch (Gohm Motorsport). At the start, Weiland defended his pole position from the Lebanese driver's attacks while Agata Smolka took third place overall, later ceded to Eric Cheung (Formula Racing). A violent contact between Corinna Gostner (Ineco - MP Racing) and Peter Christensen (Formula Racing) brought the safety car out for the first time to allow the debris to be cleared from the track. At the restart on lap 5, an accident between Fons Scheltema (Kessel Racing) and Murat Cuhadaroglu (Kessel Racing) brought the safety car back out, before the red flag called a halt to the race with two minutes left on the clock. Weiland triumphed ahead of Hanna and Kinch. Cheung, Thomas Gostner (Ineco - MP Racing) and Ernst Kirchmayr (Baron Motorsport) completed the top six.
Agata Smolka (Rossocorsa) won the Shell AM category and finished seventh overall. With this result, the Pole became the third woman to win a Ferrari Challenge race, something that had only previously been achieved by Fabienne Wohlwend and Manuela Gostner. Agata Smolka crossed the line in front of Belgium’s Laurent De Meeus (Ferrari GB - HR Owen) and France’s Herve Mouly (Modena Motors - Sebàstien Loeb Racing). The Danish Per Nielsen (Forza Racing) and ‘Gideon’ (Formula Racing) finished behind them. The second round takes place on Sunday (at 5.20 pm and 7 pm local time, 3.20 pm and 5 pm CET).