The spring sun of the Romagna Riviera welcomed round two of the 31st season of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe. Some fifty drivers and Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo cars lined up at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” for the Trofeo Pirelli and the Coppa Shell, ready to repeat or make up for their performance in the first round at Valencia.
Joy and pain for Donno. The paddock, too, was lit up by the happy atmosphere surrounding the race, animated not only by Prancing Horse customer and fan events but also by the fans of the Challenge drivers. The Italian drivers were on home turf, and Eliseo Donno (Radicci Automobili) had summoned his supporters the week before via social media. They responded in large numbers and with a banner flying in the stands. Unfortunately, despite two pole positions and two fastest race laps, the young driver from Puglia saw victory slip from his grasp in Race-1 due to a five-second penalty for exceeding the track limits and in the second for going off into the gravel a few minutes before the end.
Made in Italy. Someone who didn’t lose his smile and enthusiasm regardless of the results – pleasing at Misano, with a fifth and eighth place in the Trofeo Pirelli Am – was Giammarco Marzialetti (Radicci Automobili – Best Lap), who, with his team and fans celebrated his participation in the Challenge with a tribute to Italian agriculture and food excellence.
Danish fans. However, the home drivers were not the only ones with their own fan following. On Friday and Saturday, a large group of supporters with number 10 shirts on their shoulders appeared in the paddock. What were they referring to? Neither Messi nor Maradona, but Kim Eriksen (Formula Racing), who took to the track with that number on his car door. The Dane could only finish tenth in Trofeo Pirelli Am-Race-1 before leaving the Romagna track without taking part in Sunday’s event.
Good debuts. Misano was a round of debuts, with many drivers making their first appearance in the Challenge and others returning. Bence Valint (Rossocorsa – Ferrari Budapest) won’t forget the Romagna weekend. After his seventh place in Trofeo Pirelli-Race-1, he won the second outing with a bit of luck, including disqualifications and off-track exits of drivers ahead of him, but also courtesy of a lot of determination and obvious talent. For young Rocco Mazzola (Radicci Automobili) from Potenza, the 2022 Italian GT Cup champion in the Pro Am class of the Sprint series, his first time in the Challenge saw a fifth and a second place in the Trofeo Pirelli, with two extraordinary comebacks of 14 and 18 grid positions. After some appearances in 2022, Adrian Sutil (Gohm – Baron Motorsport) made an excellent return. The former Formula 1 driver came fifth and third in the Trofeo Pirelli. Finally, Martinus Richter (MERTEL Motorsport) enjoyed the best possible return to the Challenge in the Coppa Shell Am, winning Race-2.
Around the World. Kirk Baerwaldt (Kessel Racing) is one of the most surprising newcomers to the European one-make series. At Misano, he claimed a victory, fifth place and pole position in the Coppa Shell Am, following two third places at Valencia. Originally from Singapore, Kirk won the 2021 North America – Coppa Shell Am series; he has now landed successfully in Europe. Let’s see how far he can go.
Team Cup. The championship is not only between drivers but also between teams. After two rounds, Switzerland’s Kessel Racing tops the standings ahead of Charles Pozzi GT Racing, which can count in particular on the “heavy” points of Franz Engstler. Radicci Automobili lies third, six points ahead of Emil Frey’s new team and seven over Lueg Sportivo Herter Racing, for whom Axel Sartingen’s repeat wins have been invaluable.