Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Europe (Round 4)
Heading into the fourth weekend of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo European Series, Michimi and Cozzolino were sitting in 4th in the championship and were just 4 points behind the two rivals ahead. With only a single day of testing earlier in the year, the two would have to learn the circuit in the little amount of track time that was available. Unfortunately an engine issue during the two practice sessions, meant VSR would have to head into the two Friday qualifying sessions without knowing where they stood in comparison with the others.
Cozzolino would take the honor of qualifying for Race 1, and would place them starting from P7 overall. Michimi then took over the car for the Race 2 qualifying session where he was able to put the car in P6 overall.
Race 1 saw sunny skies with Cozzolino behind the wheel of the car for the start. He would have an excellent run in the opening laps and had moved into 5th position, when the safety car came out in lap 4. It took four laps to remove the damaged #19 Gallardo and the pit window had opened when the safety car peeled off. The three lead cars opted to remain on track, while Cozzolino and Mavlanov came into the pits when the green was thrown. Unfortunately, drivers who had opted to pit, lost a lot of time stuck behind the safety car as it made its way down the pit lane slowing to a crawl. After the pit stops cycled through, Michimi came back out in 9th place. He would quickly make his way past three cars in the Pro-Am class and then was in pursuit of the Antonelli car in front of him, when another safety car was drawn. When the race went back to green, there would be only 3 laps remaining. Michimi was quick to make his moves, as he surprised Zampieri on the restart and gained the position as they headed into La Source. Then by the end of the lap, Michimi was able to make a brave dive up the inside of Spengler at the Bus Stop to move into 4th position. Meanwhile, the three lead cars had pulled away while Michimi was working to gain those positions, but the VSR driver was undeterred and on a mission. He was providing all the excitement in the final laps as he put down a blistering lap time with all watching to see if he would catch the leaders. On the final lap of the race, Michimi had caught up to Barri in third position and was all over the back of his car. A mistake mid lap by a pressured Barri gave Michimi an opportunity to attempt an outside pass, but he had to withdraw when forced offline by the Bonaldi driver. Michimi seized the moment in the final corner of the final lap when Barri was slightly tentative on the brakes. Michimi was again able to out-brake in the braking zone at the Bus Stop to take the position for an exciting finish and to claim the final podium spot by just 0.257 seconds. Michimi would finish the race in P3 and the duo would later be promoted to P2 when the race winner was given a penalty for overtaking the safety car.
Unfortunately a very foggy and rainy day was in store for Race 2 when the cars took to the track on Saturday. Michimi had qualified the car on row three for the race, but it would be Cozzolino who would be behind the wheel for the start. Cozzolino took the start on a rain soaked track under caution along with the rest of the field behind the safety car, as the circuit was deemed too dangerous to race on. This would be the first experience for both Cozzolino and Michimi in the wet at Spa as well as with the Huracán Super Trofeo car. After three laps behind the safety car, the race director decided to go green. Despite difficult conditions of thick spray and no visibility, Cozzolino managed to only lose two positions and then to keep the car in 8th position for the first few laps. Unfortunately, he would become an innocent bystander in an incident on the third green flag lap, when Spengler lost control of his car and smashed into the back of the #16 car, causing Cozzolino to have a spin and some damage to the left rear wheel. When the car was handed over to Michimi, he came out of the pitstop in 9th and would be able to maintain position to take the checkered flag in 9th position overall.
Shinya: “Well, a really mixed weekend. Practice and Qualifying were pretty frustrating because it was really difficult to find a clear lap, as well as the issues that we had in practice really made it difficult to find the ultimate speed for Qualifying. Race 1 was extremely good though. I had decided when the safety car came in that I was going to make it to the podium no matter what, and was able to make an exciting race out of it. Race 2 had to be run in damage control mode. Neither of us had experience in the conditions, and rather than risk throwing the race away with a potential DNF, we decided just to finish as best as we could and take the points that we could.”
The final race of the European tour will be held at the historic Nurburgring Circuit in Germany.