source: Audi Sport Italia
- Mattia Drudi claims maiden GT3 pole position in rain-soaked qualifying one
- Mishaps keep Andrea Fontana stuck to P6 in drivers’ points standings
Imola, Italy – The Italian GT Sprint meeting staged at historic Imola venue started on a high note for Audi Sport Italia, with Mattia Drudi claiming his maiden GT3 pole position in his one-off come back in the same R8 LMS chassis that he made first acquaintance with. Unfortunately the accomplishment of the young Italian driver — subbing in for Andrea Fontana’s 2019 team mate Pierre Kaffer, as busy as elated these days winning his maiden 24 Hours at the legendary Nordschleife — proved all over again that one swallow doesn’t make a summer… While Drudi had dominated the first quali on wet tires, Fontana snatched what could have been his second successive Italian GT pole on a fast-drying track in his very last effort. Oddily, both the best GT3 and GT4 times were set the same way at the eleventh hour — and both cars hobbled back to the parc ferme with thirsty tanks. Too thirsty, actually, as neither had enough fuel left to comply to the minimum 3-liter fuel in the tank prescribed by the regulations. The infringement cost Fontana and fellow young gun Simone Riccitelli a start from the back of the Sunday grid.
There was still an opportunity to shoot for the top on Saturday, tho. Starting from the pole, Drudi dodged the hurdles of an early safety car period and fended off the assault to his leading spot coming from a raging trio of 488 Ferraris, spearheded by former Maranello Academy driver hopeful Antonio Fuoco. Albeit with a skimpy edge barely topping the half-second, Drudi was still leading when he pitted to hand over the car to Fontana. Unfortunately the latter had to add a 5-second handicap penalty to his regular idling time, earned in the previous round at Vallelunga — where Fontana and Kaffer had claimed P3. The additional time gave two 488s and Comandini/Johansson’s BMW the chance to leapfrog the Audi driver, who could not do better than taking the chquered flag a mere 3 tenths of a second removed from another Top3 finish.
Since hope springs eternal in life as well as in motorsport, Sunday’s round early on seemed to convey the ingredients of a stunning comeback. In spite of starting from the 21st spot on the grid, Fontana scythed through the field on the opening lap, overtaking lesser category cars as well as a couple of fellow GT3 drivers, therefore jumping up to P10. The Belluno, Italy-based driver gained another couple of spots soon thereafter and caught on with a trio of AMG Mercedes GT3 cars battling an all-3 pointed star skirmish for P5. Unfortunately, Fontana and Andra Palma tangled at the Tosa corner and race control deemed that the Audi driver deserved blame for dispatching the Mercedes into the sand trap. Fontana served a drive-through on lap 12, just before pitting again to hand over to Drudi. Audi Sport customer racing young gun resumed the race in a lowly P9, however he did not call it a day until he recovered three spots, claiming P6 and six points that come along the spot. Fontana is currently sixth in the points standings, 31 stones adrift of leaders Vito Postiglione and Jeroen Mul, who claimed Sunday race pipping in the dash to the flag Fuoco’s Ferrari, runner-up for the second straight time.