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VSR pairing come out on top in tight first race of the season in France
VS Racing’s Mattia Michelotto and Gilles Stadsbader produced a consummate performance to claim victory in the opening round of the 2023 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe season at Paul Ricard, beating Oregon Team’s Sebastian Balthasar and Marzio Moretti by a little more than five seconds at the finish. Michelotto and Stadsbader started fourth on the grid but began to move up the order before the mandatory pit-stops. With the karting graduate Stadsbader in the car for the second stint, the #6 Huracán rounded the leading Pro-Am runners in front to take a sensational victory first time out.
The 15th season of the one-make category reserved for Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO2s began under perfect blue skies and warm ambient temperatures, with Yelmer Buurman taking pole position for Iron Lynx in morning qualifying. The experienced Dutchman was one of 29 drivers new to Super Trofeo, with the entry swelling to 48 cars, the most since Spa in 2016.
Buurman led away at the rolling start and maintained his advantage into the first corner, as Target Racing’s Frederik Schandorff moved up three positions to run third behind the Iron Lynx car of Emanuele Zonzini. Further back, the Rebelleo Motorsport car of Daan Arrow was tagged by BDR Competition’s Amaury Bonduel at turn four, dropping the former to the back of the grid. Zonzini held onto second but soon fell into the clutches of Schandorff and Michelotto. Both got ahead of the San Marino driver who finished 14th at the finish after handing over to team-mate Emanuel Colombini.
Given this was the first Super Trofeo race in Europe with the new Hankook control tyre, pit window strategies varied between the leading runners throughout the field. Those further down elected to peel in at the earliest opportunity, with Bromek Formánek swapping over with Karol Basz and Andrzej Lewandowski handing over the commands of the #16 VSR machine to Loris Spinelli.
Pro-Am runners Buurman, Zonzini and Schandorff left it until the final minutes of the 10-minute window to change with Nigel Schoonderwoerd, Colombini and Alex Au respectively. Of the leading trio, Schoonderwoerd suffered the most, dropping behind Au and Stasdbader who made his stop at the last possible moment. This then gave Stadsbader the chance to seize the advantage from Au after carving chunks out of the Target driver’s lead, eventually hitting the front with 12 minutes remaining. Stadsbader then opened up a margin of over five seconds from Balthasar, who himself made inroads through the Pro-Am field at the flag.
Completing the overall podium was Leipert Motorsport’s Brendon Leitch, contesting his first full season of GT racing as a solo entry in the Pro class. The Kiwi closed in on and passed Schoonderwoerd and Au inside the final 10 minutes to finish third. Off the Pro podium, Bonduel was fifth, just ahead of the Iron Lynx duo of Rodrigo Testa de Sousa and Ugo de Wilde, with Boutsen VDS’ Thomas Laurent eighth, CMR’s Stéphane Tribaudini and Loris Cabirou (CMR) ninth while Scandinavian pair Oliver Söderström and Largim Ali (Target Racing) were 10th.
Spinelli took over from Lewandowski at the pit-stops and produced a superb drive in the second half of the race to not only finish well inside the top 10 – just off the podium in fourth – but also first in the Pro-Am class thanks to a last-lap overtake on Au. The reigning Pro class champion starts race two on Sunday from pole position. Au and Schandorff clung on to finish second in class and seventh overall, with early leaders Schoonderwoerd and Buurman just outside the top 10 in 11th, completing the class podium.
There was late drama in the Am category, as Leipert Motorsport’s Gabriel Rindone – who had dominated the race from pole position – was taken out by the Brutal Fish Racing Pro-Am entry of Martin Ryba with just two minutes remaining. Ryba tried to pass Rindone at turn 13, but sent Rindone into a spin, with further contact breaking the #21 car’s rear suspension. This allowed Boutsen VDS’ Renaud Kuppens and Pierre Feligioni to claim victory, but only just ahead of 16-year Ibrahim Badawy – the first Egyptian to ever race in Lamborghini Super Trofeo – who finished a brilliant second on debut. Jean-François Brunot and Kerong Li were third for Leipert Motorsport.
In Lamborghini Cup, the father and son combination of Luciano and Donovan Privitelio were the class of the field as they took victory in their first Super Trofeo outing with Iron Lynx. The #8 car started from pole and held onto the lead for the majority of the race, beating the Bonaldi Motorsport pairing of Paolo Biglieri and Petar Matić. Leipert Motorsport’s Jürgen Krebs completed the podium in third.
Mattia Michelotto (VSR): "At the beginning it wasn't easy because at the start, I found myself on the outside line and immediately lost two positions, which luckily I managed to recover. During the pit-stop, we gained even more ground, and Gilles also did a great job in the second stint. My last victory in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo was back in the 2021 Misano finals. I'm happy to have achieved this success after a year of absence, and for that, I want to especially thank Vincenzo Sospiri's team."
Gilles Stadsbader (VSR) added: “It’s an amazing start to the season for us, I definitely didn’t expect it to be like this on the first weekend. Mattia did a really good job at the start of the race, and I finished it off after the pit-stops. I knew I had to pass the leaders in front of me as soon as possible because there was a chance I was going to get caught. So, I did that immediately and it worked out in the end, even though I lost a few seconds behind some cars.
The second race of the opening weekend of the 2023 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe season at Paul Ricard takes place on Sunday morning at 10:05 and will be streamed live on the Lamborghini Squadra Corse YouTube channel and Facebook page.