Just two rounds remain before the end of the 2023 Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe season, which prior to the August break saw the fifth round go into the archives at the Estoril track, after previous rounds at the circuits of Valencia, Misano, Spielberg and Le Mans. The final verdicts are yet to be delivered in each of the classes, with all eyes firmly on the Finali Mondiali at Mugello and the coveted World Championship titles.
Excellent debut. Now in its 31st season, the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe, the longest-running single-marque series on the Old Continent, made its maiden visit to the Estoril Circuit, near Lisbon. The iconic track, which for years also hosted Formula 1, has always exercised a fascination over drivers with its distinctive narrow, fast and highly technical motorcycle-style track, similar to Misano.
Another highly anticipated track, known for its charm, history and coat of arms, is the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, where the Ferrari Challenge accompanied the Centenary edition of the 24 Hours, with seventy 488 Challenge Evos - the largest number of Ferraris ever fielded in a single race - drawing applause from the spectators on the other side of the Alps. For the final post-summer phase, two more events await on the renowned Spa-Francorchamps and Mugello tracks.
Open challenges. In the top class of the Trofeo Pirelli, the Lusitanian races have incredibly managed to reignite the battle for the overall title. The two races were characterised by the battle between the young contenders and it promises an electrifying end to the championship. English driver Thomas Fleming (HR Owen - FF Corse) proved to be the winner of the two races at Estoril, also taking pole position and the fastest lap in Race-2, thus closing to within 23 points of leader Eliseo Donno (Radicci Automobili). The driver from Salento, after winning four of the opening six races, missed out on the big Spielberg target and is now forced to fend off the assaults from his rivals.
The other closely-matched class is the Coppa Shell Am, which sees Singaporean driver Kirk Baerwaldt (Kessel Racing) in the lead thanks to the consistency that has compensated for his single win of the season at Misano. There are many in close pursuit of the leader, starting with Motohiko Isozaki (Cornes Motors Shiba), who pulled off a result at Spielberg, some eight points behind, and Henrik Kamstrup (Formula Racing), seventeen points adrift, who took his first ever Ferrari Challenge win in the final race at Estoril. But there is no shortage of pretenders to the title further back, such as Martinus Richter (MERTEL Motorsport) who, before his absence in Portugal, had won three out of the last four races, including the legendary round at the Le Mans circuit.
Game over? The road to the title seems more downhill for Franz Engstler (Charles Pozzi GT Racing) in the Trofeo Pirelli Am and for Axel Sartingen (Lueg Sportivo - Herter Racing) in the Coppa Shell. The former is 35 points clear of Hanno Laskowski (Emil Frey Sportivo), thanks to seven wins and a second place in nine races; the latter holds a 59-point margin over Fons Scheltema (Kessel Racing), now in his nineteenth season in Ferrari Challenge.
Forthcoming challenges. After the summer break, the championship will return with the round at Spa-Francorchamps, from 15 to 17 September, before focusing on this year’s Finali Mondiali at Mugello from 24 to 30 October, where the world championship titles will be awarded.