The Portimão round marked the end of the first part of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli season. At this point, we can take a look at how it’s going in the various standings of the world’s most famous one single-make series.
Trofeo Pirelli. Ahead of the pack on 90 points, Emanuele Maria Tabacchi enjoyed the best possible start in the premier class. Although there are fewer entries than in the other classes, the Trofeo Pirelli Am champion nevertheless showed excellent speed and pace. His string of wins was only interrupted by a superb Thomas Neubauer in Barcelona. However, that doesn’t mean the title is already done and dusted, far from it. Fabienne Wohlwend performed to the high standards she has set down the years, always very competitive and constantly on the podium. The Octane 126 champion lies second, 20 lengths ahead of Neubauer, who didn’t race at Barcelona. With a great win in Race-1 and a podium finish in Race-2, John Wartique stormed up the standings on 26 points, ahead of Michelle Gatting and the returning Florian Merckx. The Belgian could have done even better were it not for some costly mistakes due to an occasional excess of enthusiasm.
Trofeo Pirelli Am. Frederik Paulsen, the new class leader on 84 points, is locked in a thrilling duel with Matús Vyboh, two lengths down. The Danish rookie continued to improve and secured another victory, his second of the season. He showed further progress, especially in terms of race pace, while Vyboh – super fast in Portugal – missed out on two potential wins due to small but decisive mistakes. The Scuderia Praha driver is making the most of his extensive preparations over the winter break and is very familiar with the Mugello track, which hosts the next round at the end of August. Eyes are also on Olivier Grotz. The Luxembourger claimed his first win in Race-1. In so doing, he confirmed his constant presence on the podium and that he is a serious candidate for the title, despite lagging 15 points behind his teammate in top spot. The same holds for Frederik Espersen who repeated his Barcelona placings albeit coming very close to victory in Race-2, with an attack on Paulsen in the final stages. However, he didn’t reap the hoped-for reward.
Coppa Shell. The ranking doesn’t lie: Roger Grouwels and Ernst Kirchmayr are involved in a very heated battle, and the stage is set for an exciting fight down to the end of the season between the two best performers in the category. The Dutchman has been the man to beat, with four wins out of six races, but the Austrian appears set on pushing him all the way. The zero points collected when he had to retire in Race-1 doesn’t leave the Baron Motorsport driver with much margin for error. Still, the formidable comeback in Race-2, from last to second place, clearly shows Kirchmayr’s determination. Fons Scheltema is on 61 points, two lengths behind Kirchmayr and 26 from compatriot Grouwels. The tough Kessel Racing driver left Portugal with 19 points, the same haul he collected in Spain. Behind him, Axel Sartingen, on 38 points, really showed his competitiveness on the challenging Portuguese track with second place in Race-2. Corinna Gostner also moved up the standings on 23 points, mounting the podium for the third time in her career. She is six points behind James Weiland, who didn’t race at Portimão.
Coppa Shell Am. “Alex Fox” enjoyed an excellent first part of the season. After breaking the ice at Barcelona, he again mounted the top step of the podium in Race-1. The Frenchman is on 76 points, against 63 for “Boris Gideon”, his closest rival in the ranking. The German sealed his first Challenge victory in Race-2, taking advantage of a spin by Laurent De Meeus, fourth in the standings, two lengths behind Michael Simoncic. The latter, after he dominated at Imola, returned to the podium in Portugal. Only twenty points separate the Austrian driver from the leader in this close-fought category, meaning the winner won’t be known until the final race.
Coppa Team. Baron Motorsport on 161 points is fending off Formula Racing on 147, which made up just two lengths on the leader before the summer break. Rossocorsa and Scuderia Praha are not far behind, on 131 and 116 respectively, and will be in the mix in the second half of the year.
Rising turnout. The turnout for the Challenge Europe is surprisingly good for such an unusual season. At least twenty-five of the new 488 Challenge Evo models have taken to the track so far, and the number of participants is set to grow for the next races, with a probable peak at the Finali Mondiali.