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Ferrari Challenge 2023 - Red Bull Ring

11th - 14th May 2023

Event report and photos by Štěpán Koutník

The third round of Ferrari Challenge in 2023 took place at Red Bull Ring. The traditional venue for this series included both categories - Trofeo Pirelli and Coppa Shell. Heathy grid of 20 cars for the professional category and 32 cars for amateur category would provide for exciting action in two separate races for each category. All of the cars are identical Ferrari 488 Challenge.The rest of the weekend was filled with Ferrari owners running on track in their own cars.

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On Friday there were three sessions for each category - 90 minute practice in the morning and two 60 minute practices in the afternoon. In the morning the track was wet after heavy rain on the previous day, but the track quickly dried out during the first practice of Trofeo Pirelli. The first day of the racing weekend saw minor issues for some cars and running was interrupted only to pull cars out of gravel traps.

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Q1 Trofeo Pirelli

The first qualifying for Trofeo Pirelli race was the first session on Saturday. The session was interrupted by a red flag for car #10 of Kim Erikssen who spun on the exit of turn 1 into the barriers on the right which required change of front bumper on this car. This corner proved to be tricky with multiple drivers having their moments, one of those being #9 of Danilo del Favero in the closing minutes of the session. After the red flag car #88 of Amin Arefpour spun into the gravel at the exit of turn 7 which brought a lot of gravel onto the racing line, but the session was not stopped again. Cold but dry conditions were well mastered by current points leader Eliseo Donno in #19 who was on overall pole with time 1:29.549. In second place, 0.606 s behind the leader, finished Bence Valint in #86 and third was former F1 driver Adrian Sutil in #5. In the P-AM class pole went to #85 of Hanno Laskowski which was fifth on the overall grid.

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Q1 Coppa Shell

Coppa Shell qualifying is divided into 2 segments each 20 minutes long. Right on the first timed lap the first corner proved to be tricky for #183 of Christian Herdt-Wipper who spun there without hitting anything. The first part of Q1 for S class pole was won with time 1:31.241 by #136 of Alexander Nussbaumer after battling the whole qualifying with Axel Sartingen, who was just 0.119 s behind. Apart from a few spins nothing major happened in the second part of Q1 for S-AM category drivers. It was won by #124 of Kirk Baerwaldt with a time of 1:32.163.

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Race 1 Trofeo Pirelli

Eliseo Donno capitalized on his pole position and cleared of into the lead. Right behind him Adrian Sutil was spun by Hanno Laskowski in turn 1. Even though he was stuck in the middle of the track and the whole field was approaching him, luckily nobody hit him. First 15 minutes of the race there was entertaining battle for P4 overall and P1 in P-AM class between Hanno Laskowski and Franz Engstler. Engstler managed to overtake Laskowski, but went wide and lost a place to Max Mugelli, who was following him in the first half of the race. This also allowed recovering Sutil to close up to this battling group. In the meantime Philipp Prette was hit from behind by Szymon Ladniak, which sent him into a spin, but Ladniak returned the position immediately. Adrian Sutil overtook Engstler into turn 1 and went on to hunt Max Mugelli. He made a surprise move on Mugelli into turn 3, but ran wide. Mugelli came back at him into turn 4 and overtook him back. The battle was decided in turns 6 and 7 after a small touch unsettled Mugelli and allowed Sutil to come through.Sutil then caught and passed Laskowski and went on to finish in P4. The race was won overall by Eliseo Donno, who managed to lead the race from lap 1 to the finish, covering 20 laps total. P-AM class was won by #85 of Hanno Laskowski, who finished in fifth position overall.

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Race 1 Coppa Shell

Between the two Saturday races the rain came down and Coppa Shell drivers tasted the first wet running of the weekend. Because of this the race started behind the safety car. After two laps the safety car came into the pits and race started. Drivers were cautious because there was reduced visibility mainly on the 3 long straights. Alexander Nussbaumer (#136), Axel Sartingen (#178) and Ernst Kirchmayr (#109) managed to gap the rest of the field without changing positions, but there were battles in behind. Most of the entertainment was provided by Fons Scheltema (#177), Manuela Gostner (#193) and Christian Kinch (#128) who exchanged positions multiple times. In the meantime Kirchmayr overtook Sartingen for P2 and went on to catch Nussbaumer. After two laps he managed to overtake Nussbaumer into turn 4 with 12 minutes to go. Kinch overtook Manuela Gostner into penultimate corner and Scheltema followed him 2 corners later into T1. Scheltema was pushing and managed to get alongside Kinch into T1, but went wide and almost spun on the exit of T1. Thomas Gostner was spun into gravel in T7 by John Dhillon but managed to continue without needing outside assistance. After this Scheltema managed to get a good exit out of T3 and overtake Kinch before reaching T4. At the end of the 30 minute race the winner was #109 of Ernst Kirchmayr ahead of Nussbaumer and Sartingen. The S-AM category was won by #105 of Motohiko Isozaki in P9 overall.

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Q2 Trofeo Pirelli

The first wet running since Friday's morning test for Trofeo Pirelli drivers was Sunday qualifying. The session was interrupted by a red flag to recover one car who spun into gravel in T7.

Pole position was inherited by #86 of Belce Valint with 1:40.092 with Adrian Sutil (#5) in P2 and Saturday's winner Eliseo Dono (#19) in P3.

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Q2 Coppa Shell

As was the case for Trofeo Pirelli session, the track was very wet. Part 1 of the qualifying for S-AM drivers was won by #124 of Kirk Baerwaldt with time 1:41.906. Turn 7 proved to be tricky in these conditions as Corinna Gostner managed to spin in her #173 Ferrari after touching the curbs on the approach to the corner. Recovery of this car caused a red flag with 13 minutes to go and when the session resumed, Ernst Kirchmayr came out on top in his #109 Ferrari 488 with 1:41.112. He was followed by #182 of Willem van der Worm and Saturday's pole sitter Alexander Nussbaumer's #136.

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Race 2 Trofeo Pirelli

Increasing rain during noon forced organizers to shorten paid running for Ferrari clients, after a Ferrari 812 Superfast crashed heavily in the new chicane area because of aquaplaning. This rain meant the field had to prepare for a much harder race than on Saturday. Eliseo Donno in his #19 Ferrari 488 Challenge made up for bad qualifying right at the start, and before the field reached T3, he was in the lead. Safety car was called right after the first lap to recover #37 of Mohamed Hamdy who spun on his own into the gravel in turn 4. After a quick recovery the race resumed with Donno in P1 with a small gap to Valint in P2, Fleming's #73 in P3 and Sutil in P4. Franz Engstler in his #1 was in the lead of P-AM class and P5 overall. Sutil was battling Fleming for P3 and finally managed to overtake him around the outside in turns 6 and 7. There was a fight for P5 in overall category and a nice 3 car battle for P2 in P-AM category in the middle of the field which included great passes and ended with Philippe Prette's #4 spinning on his own in the final corner. Meanwhile Franz Engstler escaped from the rest of the P-AM field with the overall leading group, but he received a 10 second penalty for overtaking outside the race track at the start. With a gap of 8 seconds at that point Engstler needed to increase his lead to keep the first place in the final order. With 5 minutes to go Fleming in his #73 started pushing Sutil but even though they were side by side a few times in T3 and T4, he was unable to overtake Sutil. The finishing order overall was #16 of Eliseo Donno, #86 of Bence Valint in P2 and #5 of Adrian Sutil in P3. The P-AM class was won by #1 of Franz Engstler who managed to increase the gap to David Gostner's #50 to 12 seconds, so the order stayed the same even with the penalty.

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Race 2 Coppa Shell

Final race of the weekend had the heaviest rainfall of the whole weekend. This caused organizers to use safety car start again and after two laps the race has started. Visibility was poor but drivers cautiously raced through the conditions. There were many battles across the field, many of which were invisible on the stream because of the extreme amount of spray kicked up by the racing cars. Thomas Gostner spun in T3 and compromised Axel Sartingen on the exit, who was overtaken by Roger Grouwels into turn 4. Corinna Gostner spun on the entry to T7 in a similar fashion to her spin in qualifying which caused the safety car to neutralize the race. The safety car caught the leader, but the leader was able to lap the last car. This allowed him to get a very large gap on the rest of the field on the restart. The backmarker backed up the whole field, because nobody was allowed to overtake him before the start-finish line. Alexander Nussbaumer was attacking #182 of van der Worm the whole race, before he managed to overtake him right at the restart, when #182 was compromised behind the backmarker. Cars went at least three-wide on the finish straight and on the approach to turn 1 there was a contact, which caused car #124 of S-AM class polesitter Kirk Baerwaldt to crash into the left hand side barriers. This immediately caused another safety car and because the recovery took too long, the race was not restarted again. The race finished with #109 Ernst Kirchmayr repeating his win from Saturday, #136 of Nussbaumer in second and #182 of Willem van der Worm in third. S-AM class was won by #111 of Martinus Richter.

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Next race for Ferrari Challenge will be a support race for the centenary edition of 24 hours of Le Mans. Eliseo Donno continues to lead the championship after the weekend at Red Bull Ring in Trofeo Pirelli, Franz Engstler leads the points standings in P-AM class. In Coppa Shell overall Alex Sartingen leads the standings and the S-AM class is headed by Kirk Baerwaldt.

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