Niccolò Schirò won the first race of the 2019 Ferrari Challenge Europe, which counts towards the Trofeo Pirelli. On his series debut, the Rossocorsa driver enjoyed a perfect race, handling each stage with skill.
The first start of the season went off without a hitch with Schirò immediately taking the lead ahead of Neubauer (Charles Pozzi – Courage) and poleman Smeeth (Baron Motorsport). However, in the middle of the group, Manuela Gostner (Ineco – MP Racing) suffered a contact that broke the front left suspension, forcing her to retire. Behind Schirò, who pushed the pace of the race hard, Smeeth passed Neubauer and set off after the Italian. In his wake Bonacini (Kessel Racing) and Louis Prette (Formula Racing) fought for fourth position, followed at a short distance by Emanuele Maria Tabacchi (Rossocorsa) first in the Pirelli AM category.
Prette unstoppable. The duel between Prette and Bonacini was lively and exciting with continual passes and counter-passes. The former eventually prevailed when the Kessel Racing driver went slightly long at the last corner on Lap 6. However, not content with fourth place, Prette set off on the heels of Neubauer. In the Pirelli AM category, Tabacchi held a comfortable lead over his nearest pursuers, Christian Overgaard (Forza Racing) and Jack Brown (Graypaul Nottingham) who enjoyed a private battle. An exciting duel also took place behind them, with Kent Chen (Formula Racing), Ali Kamyab (HR Owen), Martin Nelson (Scuderia Autoropa) and the 17-year-old Frederik Espersen (Forza Racing), bunched within a few tenths of a second of each other.
At the halfway point, Prette was in Neubauer’s wake and began to threaten, forcing the Frenchman into defensive trajectories that slowed down the pace of both drivers. This favoured Tabacchi who, in the meantime, had overtaken Bonacini. After 10 laps Schirò was in first, Smeeth 5 seconds behind him, Neubauer 11.7 seconds further back in third, Prette fourth, 12.3 seconds off first place, and Tabacchi fifth overall, 15.6 seconds behind the leader and first among the Pirelli AM drivers.
Top ten fight. Prette successfully concluded his climb to third place a lap later when he overtook Neubauer after a spectacular duel. However, the French rookie wasn’t entirely out of the woods, as Tabacchi seemed intent on imitating the manoeuvre performed by the Italian of Formula Racing. The positions behind the leaders also saw plenty of tussling for position. Brown took second place in the Pirelli AM after overtaking Overgaard who enjoyed a reassuring advantage over Dhillon. The British driver, on the other hand, was exposed to the attacks of a large group of drivers behind him, with Chen and Kamyab the most aggressive.
The closing stages saw several interesting manoeuvres that didn’t yield any changes of position, so Niccolò Schirò crossed the chequered flag to celebrate his first win in the series ahead of Sam Smeeth and Louis Prette. Thomas Neubauer, Emanuele Maria Tabacchi (first in the Pirelli AM category) and Alessandro Bonacini finished next after an exciting race. Then came Jack Brown and Christian Overgaard, respectively second and third in Pirelli AM, followed by Dhillon, Chen and Kamyab.
The second Trofeo Pirelli race starts on Sunday at 7 pm local time (5 pm CET).