Luca Filippi's already had a memorable 2011, storming back in the second half of the season to take the runners-up spot in the GP2 championship behind Romain Grosjean. But his year is not over yet, and this weekend he has a chance of taking a title of his own as Auto GP arrives at Mugello for its final race of the season.
"Some could think that after ending the GP2 season on such an high note I could be lacking motivation, but it's a completely wrong assumption," insisted Filippi heading into the Mugello weekend. "I really want this title and I will race as hard as I can to clinch it."
Filippi is in third place for Super Nova Racing in the Auto GP championship with 101pts, 15pts adrift of current leader Kevin Ceccon. Ironically it was Ceccon's decision to step aside from the GP2 race seat at Scuderia Coloni mid-season to concentrate on his Auto GP bid that opened up the spot that Filippi seized with both hands and rode all the way to the GP2 'vice-championship'.
In doing so, Filippi had to make a critical choice when the GP2 weekend in Hungary clashed with the AutoGP event in Oschersleben, Germany: even though he was ahead in the AutoGP championship at the time, Filippi opted for GP2 - and despite a relatively poor event by his late-season standards, the 4pts he picked up there ended up making the difference between second and fourth place in the final standings.
On the flipside, Ombra Racing's Ceccon won 20pts that weekend at Oschersleben, contributing to the lead he now has over Filippi. Even though up to 26pts are available from race 1 and 18 from race 2, that could still be simply too much of an edge to overturn in a single race weekend.
"I can't afford any strategy, really. The Auto GP points system still gives me a chance, but in order to make it I must win Race 1, there's no other way to make it," admitted Filippi. "And still it might not be enough, because a 15pts gap is a lot. The first aim will be a front row qualifying, and then winning the first race. If I manage to do this, my job for Race 2 will be boasting a good recovery to get other good points.
"If you look at Ceccon's season, he was never the best on raw speed, but had an incredible consistency, with many podiums and point finishes. If he manages to get another weekend in his style, he will win the title, no matter what I do," added Filippi. "The starts have been one of his flaws this season, and this could get him in trouble, so you never know."
It's not just Ceccon that Filippi is squaring off against, of course. Russian driver Sergei Afanasiev is currently in second place on 109pts in the Dams car and could be the dark horse to clinch it from both the Italians, having notched up three race wins and a pole position in 2011.
"Afanasiev ... is the driver who improved the most during the season, and now he seems to be the quickest guy out there," agreed Filippi. "He doesn't have a lot of experience in Mugello and this could be an advantage for me, but I can't count on this."