30 May 2004
Euro3000 2004: del Monte takes two at Estoril.
Fabrizio del Monte claimed his second consecutive victory in the Superfund Euro 3000 Championship by extending his unbeaten 2004 record at Estoril.
The GP Racing frontrunner was followed home by Nicky Pastorelli of the Draco Junior Team and Bernhard Auinger of Euronova.
The top three should have featured the weekend's big pace-setter, but pole sitter Norbert Siedler's engine died on the line, allowing fellow Austrian Auinger through to establish an dominant early lead ahead of del Monte and 'Babalus'.
Auinger controlled the race from the first corner, but lost his six-second lead on lap 30 when his rear brakes locked and forced him off into the gravel. The Euronova driver managed to keep his car moving and returned to the track in third place, but now well behind del Monte and Pastorelli, who, having found a way past 'Babalus' began to hound the Italian for first place over the remaining laps.
“My start was pretty good, and I knew no-one could overtake me if I took the inside line on the first corner," Auinger revealed, "From there, it was easy to maintain a strong lead ahead of the others. Unfortunately, I lost it on lap thirty and I'm pretty devastated for my team and for myself that I didn't finish on top of the podium today.”
Buoyed by his opening round success at Brno, del Monte showed solid composure to resist all the Pastorelli threw at him and successfully defended his position to the finish.
“This is an incredible result for me, especially to have won both races so far in the championship," the winner beamed, "I was having some problems with oversteer in the car, which made it physically difficult to drive, and I would have been happy with second place today. However, the victory was perfect for me and the team - tonight, we will have a big party!”
Pastorelli notched up his best result of the season, having finished third in the Czech Republic, but was left ruing his qualifying pace - or lack of it - as he failed to capitalise on the problems that befell the front row starters.
“I'm almost happy with the result today!" he admitted, "I had a great start and the car was really strong - it's just a shame that we had problems in qualifying yesterday. If I had started higher up on the grid, I think this would have been a different race, so it is quite frustrating.”
Siedler tried to fight his way back to the front and, on lap five, set the fastest split times in all three sectors as he moved up to eighth place. The Austrian continued his aggressive pace over the remaining laps to finish the race an eventual fourth.
Several drivers suffered from technical problems, with Jonny Reid and Fausto Ippoliti the most frustrated as they lost their respective second and third row qualifying positions when their cars failed to start on the installation lap. Both drivers were forced to the back of the grid. Elsewhere, Loic Deman retired with a failed steering system, Tuka Rocha with mechanical problems and 'Babalus' with a gearbox failure. There were three yellow flag periods, following Rocha's retirement and spins by Reid and Sven Heidfeld.
del Monte now leads the standings with 20 points, while Pastorelli moves into second, ahead of Siedler.
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