New Zealander takes second successive victory to boost points advantage in dramatic race
Leipert Motorsport’s Brendon Leitch extended his advantage at the top of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe points standings thanks to a sensational last-lap victory in the opening race of the weekend in Valencia.
Having started second on the grid, Leitch led the early going only to fall behind the #61 Oregon Team car of Marzio Moretti and Sebastian Balthasar after the mandatory pit-stop window. The positions then appeared to be set in stone, but Balthasar got baulked by backmarkers with just four corners remaining, handing Leitch a second successive victory.
BDR Competition’s Amaury Bonduel topped the morning qualifying session which was curtailed following a heavy crash for the #60 VSR entry of Piergiacomo Randazzo at turn one. The session was not restarted, meaning many of the leading Pro-Am crews started towards the back of the grid. Up front, Bonduel maintained his lead on the opening lap, as Leitch went toe-to-toe with the Oregon Team car of Marzio Moretti. The #61 machine initially had the upper hand, but Leitch soon found a way back ahead into second place. Bonduel, meanwhile, began to struggle with his car and came under pressure from Leitch who swept down the inside of turn four to take the lead, shortly before the safety car was deployed following an incident involving Lorenzo Pegoraro (#14 Oregon Team) and Yury Wagner’s #99 Leipert Motorsport car at turn nine. The same lap, Moretti muscled his way ahead of Bonduel to take second and remained there until the pit-stop window. Team-mate Sebastian Balthasar made the most of Leitch’s longer stop – Leitch had to serve an additional three seconds as a solo entry – to move into the lead. Leitch stayed with the German, but Balthasar seemingly had the race under control as he extended his margin to over 1.5-seconds. However, entering the final lap, Balthasar encountered lapped traffic and a group of four cars slowed the Oregon Team driver sufficiently at turn 11 to give Leitch the gap he needed to dive for the lead. Despite slight contact at the apex, Leitch had the high-ground and seized the lead and the victory, fending off any riposte from Balthasar to emerge half a second clear at the finish. Mattia Michelotto and Gilles Stadsbader produced a superb drive from 16th on the grid to complete the podium in third ahead of the Iron Lynx pairing of Ugo de Wilde and Rodrigo Testa de Sousa who finished fourth. Stadsbader was the first of the leading runners to make his pit-stop at the start of the window after initially making progress. Michelotto took over for the second stint and reeled off a series of well-judged overtakes to move up to fourth before profiting from a slight error from Testa de Sousa at turn nine to take third. Equally producing a strong recovery drive after a frustrating qualifying was the #9 Target Racing duo of Oliver Söderström and Largim Ali, who ended up sixth overall and fifth in the Pro class, while Federico Schionti and Matteo Desideri were seventh ahead of Bonduel.
The battle for top honours in Pro-Am was just as fiercely contested, as Iron Lynx’s Emanuele Zonzini and Emanuel Colombini braved the stifling Valencia heat to come out on top in an immensely competitive race. Having been one of the few crews to manage a representative lap-time in qualifying, Zonzini maintained his position at the start of the race, before switching over to Colombini for the second stint. Behind, the action was frenetic as the #81 Target Racing car of double Super Trofeo Europe champion Patrick Kujala and the #16 VSR car of Artem Petrov charged through the field from their lowly grid positions. The safety car allowed both Petrov and Kujala to gain some ground on Zonzini but it was only in the middle of the second stint that the trio of cars began to race together for position. Colombini held on superbly to take the win as title contenders Alex Au and Andrzej Lewandowski scrapped for second place. Ultimately, Au fell down the order following a spin at the final corner on the last lap, elevating Lewandowski and Petrov to second and handing a second podium finish of the year to Art-Line Team’s Shota Abkhazava and Egor Orudzhev. Scuderia Villorba Corse’s Jim Pla and Michael Blanchemain survived late-race contact with the Pro entry of Dougie Bolger – which broke the latter’s rear suspension – at turn six to claim fourth place, with Karol Basz and Bronislav Formánek completing another good comeback drive in fifth.
Egyptian driver Ibrahim Badawy took his second Am class victory of the season, beating both injury and Leipert Motorsport’s Jean-François Brunot in the opening 50-minute encounter. Badawy, who recorded his maiden triumph last time out at the Nürburgring, suffered a knee and shoulder injury in a race two crash in Germany and spent much of the summer break recovering. The teenager kept his nose clean to see of Brunot, while the second Leipert Motorsport entry of Gabriel Rindone was third. The order at the finish mirrored that of the start, as Adrian Lewandowski (GT3 Poland) led off the start from the Boutsen VDS car of Karim Ojjeh and Brunot. Badawy then assumed the lead from Lewandowski’s team-mate Grzegorz Moczulski but the #55 car slipped back, allowing Brunot and Rindone to profit.
In the Lamborghini Cup, there was also late drama as long-time leaders Donovan and Luciano Privitelio (Iron Lynx) hit trouble in the closing stages, costing them the race win. The #8 car had led from pole position with the younger Donovan taking the start. Luciano then took over and looked set to come out on top before dropping places, handing the win to Jürgen Krebs. Behind, Bonaldi Motorsport’s Petar Matić and Paolo Biglieri finished second while the Brutal Fish Racing duo of Jason Keats and Charlie Martin took another podium in third.
Brendon Leitch (Leipert Motorsport) said post-race: “The win wasn’t really necessary today, just extending the points lead was the main focus, but I started catching Sebastian who was really struggling with the backmarkers. I kind of thought about it on the second-last lap but I wasn’t going to go for it unless it was 100% on. I knew where he was going to go and he left me space, he was really sporting. The car was great all race, I had a good battle with Marzio at the start, he was also really fair. The aim now is to just take care, be decisive and see where we end up at the end of the day.”
The weekend’s action concludes with the second 50-minute race on Sunday, with the start scheduled for 11:25 CEST and live streaming available on the Lamborghini Squadra Corse YouTube channel and Facebook page.