23 dicembre 2016
The Ferrari Challenge Europe 2016 provided some brilliant performances. The dominant figures and their opponents in the three categories were identified quite early on in the season. No fewer than 60 drivers from over 20 countries took part in at least one round behind the wheel of the 458 Challenge EVO.
Grossmann vs Baron. People say that winning is difficult, but it is even harder to repeat the feat. So the victory of Germany’s Bjorn Grossmann’s in the Trofeo Pirelli Europe 2016 means a lot given the 126 Octane driver’s win last year. Grossmann fought a long battle with Austria’s Philipp Baron (Rossocorsa) but emerged victorious, sealing the title with one round to spare. The first race of the season at Monza went to reigning world champion Matteo “Babalus” Santoponte, but he did not continue with the Scuderia Autoropa car. Baron won the second race but Grossmann soon made up for the disappointment at Brianza with a double at Mugello.
Puglisi on the Circuit de la Sarthe. Next time out the Challenge was the support act for the world’s most important race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And the Circuit de la Sarthe saw a triumph for the Rossocorsa team. They took pole with the amazing novice Alberto Cola, but most importantly won the race with Marcello Puglisi. The Italian drove superbly on a damp track, taking advantage of other people’s mistakes to win a race that is worth a season. However, Grossmann, second at Le Mans, came thundering back in the first Challenge race ever held in Russia. Bjorn did the double to pull away in the standings, helped also by his new teammate, Switzerland’s Fabio Leimer, GP2 champion in 2013, who finished behind him to take points off Baron. Aleksey Basov signalled his presence at Sochi where the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2015 and world champion in the GTE-Am class, came third in Race-1 for the Motor Service team. In Hockenheim Grossmann had twice the motivation to win given that he was racing at home and competing under the watchful and expert eye of Scuderia Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel. However, Bjorn had to settle for second in Race-1 as Leimer called the shots. The natural order was restored in Race-2 as Grossmann inched even closer to the title.
Game over. The last round before the Finali Mondiali at Daytona saw the Ferrari one-make caravan travel to Jerez de la Frontera. Grossmann wrapped up the title in the beautiful Andalusian countryside with victory in Race-1, after which he could settle for third place in Race-2, won by local favourite, GP3 driver, Alex Palou, with the 458 Challenge EVO of StileF Squadra Corse. There were also a couple of podiums for Alessandro Vezzoni, defending champion in the Trofeo Pirelli Am, on his debut in the main category. The Italian driver came third at Le Mans and repeated the feat at Jerez de la Frontera and Daytona