Cheste, 20 May 2017 – Fabio Leimer, Martin Nelson and Johnny Laursen were the first winners of the Ferrari Challenge Europe at the wheel of the 488 Challenge, the first turbo car created for the world’s most famous single-make championship. The three triumphed in Valencia respectively in the Trofeo Pirelli, Pirelli Am and Coppa Shell.
Trofeo Pirelli. The Octane 126 team dominated from the early stages the 488 Challenge’s first race in Europe. Everyone was expecting another win for reigning champion Bjorn Grossmann, but the laurels went instead to the Swiss team’s other driver, Fabio Leimer. The 2013 Gp2 champion took command after battling with Grossmann for half the first lap, immediately setting a good pace. Behind the Octane 126 drivers Austria’s Philipp Baron pulled away quickly leaving Alessandro Vezzoni (Rossocorsa-Pellin Racing) and Sam Smeeth (Stratstone Ferrari) in his wake. Still not content the Rossocorsa driver caught up with Grossmann and overtook him at the halfway mark. Leimer won by a margin of less than three seconds over Baron and almost six on Grossmann. Smeeth, in his Trofeo Pirelli debut, was a good fourth. Unlucky Andrea Gagliardini (CDP) was stopped by a trivial technical problem while he was mounting a comeback and had just recorded the fastest lap.
Pirelli Am. In the Pirelli Am class the battle raged right from the start. The highly experienced Martin Nelson (Scuderia Autoropa) and rookie Chris Froggatt (HR Owen) fought it out wheel to wheel from the first to the third lap when the Briton made a tiny mistake and the Swede established an unassailable lead. Third step of the podium went to Jens Liebhauser (Gohm Motorsport) who withstood the attacks of Tommaso Rocca (Rossocorsa) in the final stages. Holger Harmsen (Lueg Sportivo) won the 458 Pirelli class reserved for drivers of the old 458 Challenge EVO cars.
Coppa Shell. Johnny Laursen dominated the Coppa Shell race with the 488 Challenge of Formula Racing. The 2015 European Le Mans Series champion enjoyed a perfect start and quickly built up a lead, leaving Eric Cheung and Rick Lovat to battle it out for second place. At midrace Cheung (Formula Racing) put in a murderous burst of acceleration to pull ahead of his Kessel Racing rival but overshot and failed to keep his car on track, so then had to recover. Cheung took advantage of the lapping of Tina Kok (Formula Racing) to make one final attempt, but Lovat held him off to cross the chequered flag in second also winning the Gentlemen’s Cup. Worth a mention is also Manuela Gostner (Ineco-MP Racing) who pulled off a great comeback. She had been involved in an incident at the start with her father Thomas and Peter Goerke (Kessel Racing). However, Manuela did not lose heart and recovered from the back before overtaking Tina Kok and then Deborah Mayer (Kessel Racing), to win the Ladies Cup on the debut of the 488 Challenge. It is the same again on Sunday with the Trofeo Pirelli at 12:50 pm and Race-2 of the Coppa Shell at 3:35 pm.