Austin, 12 March 2018 – The largest ever field for Ferrari Challenge in North America arrived to the capitol of Texas this past weekend when sixty-four 488 Challenge and 458 Challenge EVO race cars descended on the Circuit of the Americas. The occasion was of course Ferrari Racing Days, and while drivers reveled in the added excitement, the racing action of Ferrari Challenge took center stage.
Changing weather. A contrast in weather between Race-1 and Race-2 led to dramatically different driving conditions. While Saturday was hot, with intense, direct sun, Sunday’s stage for Race-2 was blustery and much cooler. Even the most fit of drivers faced the added difficulty of maintaining focus through the thirty minute duration of Race-1. The cooler temperatures of Sunday were certainly much appreciated for drivers and fans alike.
Trofeo Pirelli/Trofeo Pirelli AM Race-1. Cooper MacNeil (Ferrari of Beverly Hills) carried on his domination at the Circuit of the Americas after taking victory in last year’s races as well. Thats not to say, however, that this was a straightforward win. Peter Ludwig (Wide World of Cars) pushed Cooper the whole way and finished only three tenths of a second back, while also setting the fastest race lap. By the end of Race-1, it became clear that these two drivers are going to continue to be championship rivals in the Trofeo Pirelli class for the duration of the season. Benjamin Hites (The Collection) rounded out the podium. In the Trofeo Pirelli AM class, Rob Hodes (Ferrari of Washington) was able to build a four second lead over Dave Musial (Lake Forest Sportscars) as he crossed the stripe, with Murray Rothlander (Ferrari of Vancouver) a further thirteen seconds back. Attrition in the Trofeo Pirelli AM class was significant, with four cars retiring due to incidents of one sort or another.
Trofeo Pirelli/Trofeo Pirelli AM Race-2. All of the tension that built up through Race-1 came to a sudden and dramatic halt in Race-2 as Peter and Cooper collided in the famous Turn 1 at the Circuit. In an overly optimistic attempt, Peter made use of the inviting and wide entry to the corner, but misjudged his braking point and speared into Cooper’s 488 Challenge car. Both drivers were fine, but also clearly frustrated with the result. This seemed to leave the door open for Chris Cagnazzi and his Ferrari of Long Island entry to march towards the checkered flag. However, it was not to be. As Chris attempted to power out of the final corner, a moment of oversteer proved to be too much to control, as the car rotated and speared into a concrete wall. Benjamin Hites (The Collection) took his maiden victory in Ferrari Challenge, while Naveen Rao (Ferrari of San Diego) and Marc Muzzo (Ferrari of Ontario) took second and third respectively. In Trofeo Pirelli AM, Murray Rothlander (Ferrari of Vancouver) took the top step on the podium in a depleted class. Three AM cars did not make the start due to the damage sustained from the previous day. Ross Chouest (Ferrari of Palm Beach) took second and Rob Hodes (Ferrari of Washington) cemented his championship charge with a third place finish.
Coppa Shell/Coppa Shell AM Race-1. Thomas Tippl (Ferrari of Beverly Hills) claimed victory in Race-1 for the Coppa Shell and Coppa Shell AM classes on Saturday. Thomas took advantage of chaos behind him to build a gap that he would never relinquish. Michael Fassbender (Ferrari North America) pulled off a decisive and aggressive pass on Geoff Palermo in the middle of COTA’s esses to claim second, his second podium of the season. While he was able to eat into Thomas’ lead quite significantly, he ultimately ran out of time to make a pass stick. Palermo (Ferrari of San Francisco) finished third, challenged by Mark Fuller (Ferrari of Westlake) in forth. In Coppa Shell AM, Brian Simon (Cauley Ferrari), Dale Katechis (Miller Motorcars) and Kevan Millstein (Ferrari of San Diego) made up the podium.
Coppa Shell/Coppa Shell AM Race-2. In what was a carbon replica of the Race-1 podium on Saturday, Thomas Tippl (Ferrari of Beverly Hills), Michael Fassbender (Ferrari North America) and Geoff Palermo (Ferrari of San Francisco) climbed onto the same steps of the podium as before. However, while Race-1 was a tense affair with close battles at the very front of the field, in Race-2, Thomas was able to open a larger gap that Michael could never close. The two ultimately finished over nine seconds apart, with Geoff a further three seconds behind that. In Coppa Shell AM, John Megrue (Ferrari of Long Island) validated his Daytona performance with the win, while Kevan Millstein (Ferrari of San Diego) and Brian Simon (Cauley Ferrari) completed the podium.
458 Challenge EVO Race-1. James Walker (Ferrari of Houston) piloted his 458 Challenge EVO machine to victory on Saturday, setting a circuit record for this car along the way with a 2:16.127 second lap. Running last on a jam packed schedule, the 458 drivers benefited from slightly cooler conditions and a smaller grid to enjoy a race uninterrupted by caution periods. While James had a relatively straightforward race, the battle raged behind him with Trevor Baek (Ron Tonkin) taking the second step on the podium over Danny Baker (Ferrari of Palm Beach). Lisa Clark (Ferrari of Beverly Hills) took the Ladies Cup.
458 Challenge EVO Race-2. Martin Burroues made dramatic improvement on his fourth place finish in Race-1 to take victory in Race-2. The Ferrari of Ft. Lauderdale driver finished just over a second clear of James Walker (Ferrari of Houston) and Francesco Piovanetti (Ferrari of Ft Lauderdale). Trevor Baek (Ron Tonkin) was demoted to forth position, in a closely fought battle with Francesco.