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    Al-Faisal & Rees take maiden wins at spa


    Spa-Francorchamps 16 settembre 2023

    The deciding round of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli UK takes place at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps as another scintillating season draws to a close. The Belgian circuit has been heralded as one of the most entertaining venues in motorsport for over 100 years, serving as the perfect place to crown two new champions of 2023. 

    Stretching over 7km in length, the high-speed, tree-lined circuit is the longest of the series and requires maximum concentration from flag to flag, as some of the quickest corners in world motorsport are separated by intricate, twisty sections of tarmac. With the championship wide open in both classes, the victors will be revealed in the final race. 

    Qualifying 1. The atmosphere around the rolling hills of Spa was nothing short of electric as the drivers took to the track for the fifth and final round, treated to perfect conditions under sunny skies and 27C. It was championship leader, Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst) of Trofeo Pirelli who took an emphatic pole with a 2:26:384. In Coppa Shell, Robert Rees (Dick Lovett Swindon) was “on top of the world” after earning his first pole of the season with a 2:28:814, putting him in a great position for Race 1. 

    Trofeo Pirelli. The Prancing Horses were released into the forest as Faisal Al-Faisal (HR Owen) made an early lunge into La Source, getting the better of pole-sitter Morrow to snatch the lead out of the first hairpin. H.Sikkens (HR Owen) went wheel-to-wheel with Carl Cavers (Graypaul Nottingham) in a frenetic bid for third on the exit, but ended up on the gravel after his cold tyres failed him to let John Dhillon (Graypaul Nottingham) up into 4th. Al-Faisal led the 170+ mph climb into one of the world’s toughest corners as a whole pack of Ferrari 488 Challenge Evos pinned the throttle through Eau Rouge, as Morrow and Cavers fought for 2nd behind. 

    Morrow picked up some minor rear damage in the first few exchanges, as Cavers continued to harass him for track position and title honours. Meanwhile, Al-Faisal began to build up a comfortable gap after showing some exceptional pace in the practice sessions, but just 6 minutes into the race, his efforts proved to be in vain after a collision in Coppa Shell produced a Safety Car. 

    This minor halt to proceedings proved insignificant to the leader, as Al-Faisal pulled away quickest after the restart with renewed tenacity to tackle the final 18 minutes. Morrow and Cavers continued duelling for 2nd, with just 0.2 seconds between them. As tyres began to wear following several spirited laps from the Northern Irishman, Morrow briefly came alongside Al-Faisal through Les Combes, before the leader darted back in front at Blanchimont with a 135-mph twitch of the rear. Al-Faisal’s perseverance eventually paid off to take his first victory of the season, claiming fastest lap in the process. Morrow finished 2nd, with Cavers in 3rd, with only 11 points between the pair going into the final race of the season to decide the Championship title.  

    Coppa Shell. After qualifying 6th in class, Paul Simmerson (Graypaul Birmgingham) needed to make up some ground if he was to maintain his title lead. Pole-sitter Rees held his nerve into La Source as a heavy bunching of cars enveloped him. Multiple cars made light contact as the pack exited towards Eau Rouge, leaving Chris Smith (Graypaul Birmingham) with some rear tyre damage, though he managed to get the better of Paul Rogers (JCT600) for 2nd

    On the third lap, Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) set his sights on 4th, as he pulled alongside Stuart Marston (Maranello Sales, Egham) down the pit straight. Simultaneously, Marston was attempting a move of his own on Rogers into the hairpin, but failed to brake in time before colliding into the back of Rogers to unfortunately send both of them out of the race. One man’s misfortune was another’s opportunity, as Hogarth climbed two positions to join the podium. The Safety Car period removed Rees’ advantage at the front of the field. 

    Having refined his race craft over the last few meetings, Rees maintained his position upon the restart. To Rees’ benefit, a battle for 2nd immediately broke out between the rookie, Smith, and Coppa Shell veteran Hogarth, which allowed Rees to regain his buffer and take his first win. The story of 2nd was far from over, as Hogarth tried every trick in the book to distract Smith from the task at hand, but was forced to settle for third to allow Smith’s third podium in as many races.  Whilst the pair had been fighting nose to tail, Coppa Shell points leader, Simmerson, tumbled down the order after being forced to serve a drive through penalty for exceeding track limits, thereby promoting Hogarth back into the title lead at the end of the race with 1 more race to go in the season.