Euro3000 2004: Auinger breaks through at Spa
18 July 2004
Euronova's Bernhard Auinger stormed to his first Superfund Euro 3000 victory in race five of the championship at the awesome Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
Championship contenders Nicky Pastorelli and Fabrizio del Monte completed the podium but, once again, there was no top three result for polesitter Norbert Siedler.
Auinger rocketed off the start line from third place, overtaking fellow countryman Siedler and front row starter Pastorelli, to take an early lead going into the first corner and, along with the Dutchman, broke away to establish a lead of over eleven seconds on the competition. Pastorelli had taken five laps to pass Siedler and move into second place, and had no answer for the Austrian out front, as Auinger controlled the pace to come home a second clear.
“I'm really happy with this result and it's a nice new experience," he said of standing on the top step of the podium, "It's been a long time!
"This was my best start of the season and, after the first corner, I was able to build up a good lead ahead of the field. Nicky was pushing very hard and put a great deal of pressure on me, but I managed to hold on and bring my first victory home for the team.”
Pastorelli was safe in second, having distanced himself from the squabbling pack behind, and happy enough with another podium finish to follow his win last time out at Monza.
“My start was not as good as I had hoped," he admitted, "I saw Bernhard coming close straight away, and decided to be careful as it is more important for us to get championship points than risk an early retirement.
"Once I overtook Norbert, I did my best to catch up, but [Auinger] was simply too strong. However, the championship is still completely open and I'm hoping to get back on the top of the podium at the next race in Donington.”
Siedler was gradually experiencing greater problems with his tyres, and slipped down to fifth position as points leader del Monte overtook the ADM Motorsport driver on lap nine.
“I've had better races, as I lost a lot of time behind Siedler - but that's racing," del Monte revealed, "This was the best result I could manage today. We're halfway through the season, and I've been on the podium at every race so far, so I can't help but feel some satisfaction!”
Rookie Alex Lloyd also took advantage of Siedler's lack of pace and overtook for fourth position on the following lap, having already got the better of John Village Automotive team-mate Jonny Reid in a spirited battle for fifth position. Four seconds behind Siedler at the finish, Reid took the final point on offer
The midfield saw its own share of the action, as Traini Corse driver, Mathias Lauda took Fausto Ippoliti by surprise on the 13th lap, passing the Draco Junior Team driver for seventh position. The Austrian driver appeared to be on a charge for the points, but retired just five laps later, after experiencing clutch problems.
Ippoliti re-assumed control of seventh spot, heading home Maxime Hodencq, Allam Khodair and Tor Graves - making the finish of a Euro 3000 race for the first time - to round out the top ten. Loic Deman was the final finisher, in eleventh, as debutant Sergei Zlobin joined Lauda on the sidelines.