The penultimate round of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe ran on the Belgian circuit at Spa-Francorchamps in an action-packed weekend that also featured the final round of the UK branch of the Prancing Horse one-make series, plus the unveiling of the 2024 European, British and Japanese championship calendars and the exclusive Club Competizioni GT programme.
German champions. Axel Sartingen (Lueg Sportivo – Herter Racing) and Franz Engstler (Charles Pozzi GT Racing) just needed mathematical confirmation of the 2023 Coppa Shell and Trofeo Pirelli Am titles, respectively. After a dominant season in which five victories, four pole positions and three fastest race laps stood out, Sartingen sealed the deal in Belgium with third place in Race-1. Thus, the driver succeeded his compatriot Franz Engstler in the series’ roll of honour. In Belgium, the latter clinched the Trofeo Pirelli Am, which he celebrated at Spa with his fourth double-win of the season. It was thus Engstler’s second consecutive title in the Prancing Horse one-make series.
Manuela’s return. After her prestigious victory at Le Mans in June, the unlucky round at Estoril, which she had started with ambitions of victory, effectively knocked Manuela Gostner (CDP – MP Racing) out of the title race. However, the Italian driver didn’t lose heart and, after testing the track at Spa at the start of the month, returned to the Ardennes aiming to win points to put her second in the standings. She achieved her goal on the back of fifth place in Race-1 and, especially, a superb victory in Race-2, secured with a flawless performance after a skilful overtaking of the leader Sartingen. The South Tyrolean now lies second in the standings, 11 points clear of Alexander Nussbaumer (Gohm – Scuderia GT) and 13 ahead of Fons Scheltema (Kessel Racing).
Bittersweet debut. The promising Eliseo Donno (Radicci Automobili) made his debut at Spa. The talented driver from Salento also appeared to get the upper hand over the problematic and iconic Belgian circuit, with excellent times in free practice, pole position and victory with the fastest lap in Race-1. However, Sunday was decidedly trickier for the Trofeo Pirelli leader, with a mixed qualifying and a fourth-place finish in Race-2, which ended with a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits. The intense contest with Thomas Fleming (HR Owen FF Corse), winner of Race-2, will thus continue at Mugello during the Finali Mondiali in late October, when the two young drivers will start with 19 points between them in the standings.
Stars and stripes over Europe. The experienced Enzo Potolicchio (Ferrari of Central Florida) joined the ranks of American drivers at the Spa Francorchamps circuit, competing alongside Lisa Clark (Rossocorsa Pellin Racing), also a frequent visitor to the continental series, and Kirk Baerwaldt (Kessel Racing), a Singaporean driver who also competes in the Ferrari Challenge North America. The Venezuelan-born, US-licensed, two-time North American series champion and 2021 Finali Mondiali runner-up featured among the Belgian event’s leading contenders. On Saturday he settled for fourth place, while on Sunday, he climbed the third step of the podium at the end of a very determined performance.
Charity livery. MERTEL Motorsport was involved in a charity initiative at Spa-Francorchamps, racing its Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo number 89 in a special livery: a “Charity Art Car” with Dutch driver Leon Rijnbeek on the track.
Under the motto #grip4inclusion, the German team’s Charity Art Car was created in a dynamic painting session with “Lebenshilfe Nuremberg Land”, an organisation that helps people with disabilities produce many creative projects. The Nuremberg Association has successfully used the Action Painting technique as therapy. From this experience came the idea for the car photographed on the Spa track. The goal? The initiative that the MERTEL Motorsport team took part in enabled the Charity Art Car to spread the campaign’s values internationally. Rijnbeek helped promote this valuable project in the two Trofeo Pirelli Am races, finishing in tenth and fifteenth place.