The Italian-Norwegian Nova Race duo makes comeback from fifth place on the first lap to first on the 67th... then beating the pressure at clutch time
It would have been quite misleading yesterday afternoon making a bet on the third race of the Italian GT Endurance Championship looking at the first lap standings. Those predicting the Vallelunga final outcome would almost certainly be proved wrong. As it is, the Ginetta of Luca Magnoni and Aleksander Schjerpen was only fifth in GT4 class, However, the Varese, Italy based driver and entrepreneur who had taken the start knew all too well that a 3 Hours is not decided at the green light. Magnoni made his adjustments quickly and on the fifth lap he climbed back to fourth in class, overtaking the Porsche Cayman of Giuseppe Ghezzi (at the time at the wheel), Riccardo Chiesa and Fabio Babini. As the race was twenty minute old he was already entering the podium-area bypassing the other Cayman, whose line-up was made of Nicola Neri, Riccardo Pera and Paolo Gnemmi. At the first pit-stop he delivered the British sportscar to Schjerpen in third place, and the Norwegian proved to be as hot on track as the Rome summer afternoon, lining up a series of excellent laps that allowed him to catch up and move to second place behind the M4's trio of Giuseppe Fascicolo, Francesco Guerra and Andrea Fontana. As the podium zone seemed now firmly acquired for the Nova Race drivers, suddenly hope of something better loomed as a brake problem forced the leading German car to slow the pace. At the 67th lap the BMW even had to make an unexpected pit stop and Schjerpen brought back the G55 Ginetta in front of everyone.
However, the final hour was still a question mark. The last change of drivers overlapped a brief safety car period, and this sent Magnoni and Babini back on track bunched up, with the best Porsche driver just a handful of seconds away. With one of the best Italian sportscars drivers in pursue, Magnoni's first place lasted until lap 75th, when the Faenza, Italy-based driver took the lead. Yet, this was not the end of the story: three laps later Babini also had to make an unexpected pit-stop and Magnoni was back in front of the GT4 pack. The Lombard had to reach the bottom of his bag of tricks to withstand the pressure of a half hour that most likely seemed ten times longer to him and his team. Despite the fact that the Cayman behind him managed to reduce the gap, the margin on Babini was enough to celebrate the second Nova Race victory after the one in Monza. Babini's second place propelled his team mates Ghezzi and Chiesa to the top spot in the championship. But with just one race to go, Magnoni and Schjerpen are back in contention for the Endurance title, just two points behind the GT4 leaders.
LUCA MAGNONI: "Our second season win somehow offset the bad break we suffered in the past race at Misano Adriatico, when we had to retire after a few minutes due to a mechanical problem. Thanks to this awesome Vallelunga afternoon, we will be able go to the last race at Mugello having our say for the Italian Endurance GT4 title."
ALEKSANDER SCHJERPEN: "I am very pleased with how the car behaved during my stint here, I had a good pace and this allowed me to put in a good race. It goes without saying that I am very happy with our second victory in Italy and for this I thank the team and my team mate who did a great job today ".