On the day when Eliseo Donno (Radicci Automobili) stretched his lead in the Trofeo Pirelli standings with his fifth victory of the year, and Roger Grouwels (Kroymans – Race Art) took his first Coppa Shell win of the season, the 31st edition of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe celebrated its first champions in its sixth and penultimate round at Spa-Francorchamps. Axel Sartingen (Lueg Sportivo – Herter Racing) only needed third place to seal the Coppa Shell title, while Franz Engstler (Charles Pozzi GT Racing) claimed another triumph to win the Trofeo Pirelli Am. Victory went to Motohiko Isozaki (Cornes Motors Shiba) in the tight contest for the Coppa Shell Am.
Trofeo Pirelli. A determined performance by Eliseo Donno turned the pole position gained in qualifying with a time of 2’21”346 into a fifth win of the season. The Italian successfully held off the comeback attempts of his closest pursuer in the race and overall standings, Thomas Fleming (HR Owen - FF Corse), who finished runner-up and now trails the leader by 28 points. After an excellent start and a Safety Car phase to clear the track following an exit at the back of the pack from which everyone escaped unharmed, the driver from Salento kept his lead on his debut at the Ardennes circuit, also taking the bonus point for the fastest lap of 2’24”274. Former Formula 1 driver Adrian Sutil (Gohm – Baron Motorsport) joined the two young contenders on the podium, ahead of Bence Valint (Rossocorsa – Ferrari Budapest) and Szymon Ładniak (Gohm – Scuderia GT).
The Trofeo Pirelli Am provided the first 2023 Ferrari Challenge Europe champion, as Franz Engstler completed his title run with another perfect day. After taking pole in the morning with a time of 2’23”715, the German overcame Hendrik Viol (Scuderia Praha), second, and Claus Zibrandtsen (Formula Racing), third, to claim his eighth win of the season, with the best lap time of 2’26”919. Enzo Potolicchio (Ferrari of Central Florida) finished just off the podium after a positive performance with several laps in the lead.
Coppa Shell. Starting from pole thanks to a time of 2’25”394 in qualifying, Roger Grouwels played safe as he kept the lead in a race complicated by light rain early on and the entry of two Safety Cars after collisions from which the drivers emerged unhurt. The Dutchman was first under the chequered flag, earning the extra point for the best lap time of 2’29”392. Ernst Kirchmayr (Baron Motorsport) finished runner-up, ahead of Axel Sartingen, whose third place, when added to five previous wins, four pole positions and four fastest laps, sealed the 2023 title.
Motohiko Isozaki scored his second victory of the season in the Coppa Shell Am. With the points also gained from pole position and the fastest lap in the race, he moved into the overall lead ahead of Kirk Baerwaldt (Kessel Racing), who was forced out of the running in the early stages. Others who exited prematurely were Henrik Kamstrup (Formula Racing) and Matthias Moser (Gohm – Baron Motorsport) following a collision that cost Josep Schumacher (Eberlein Automobile) a 25-second penalty. Giuseppe Ramelli (Rossocorsa – Pellin Racing) in second place, and Tommy Lindroth (Gohm - Baron Motorsport) in third completed the day’s podium.
Schedule. Tomorrow, Sunday, 17 September, day two of racing at Spa-Francorchamps will see the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo cars take to the track at 9 a.m. for Trofeo Pirelli qualifying, with Race-2 at 2 p.m. The second Coppa Shell time trials are at 10.40 a.m., with the start of the second Belgian race at 5.20 p.m.