Fiat Pro Racing in the points as project gains competitive momentum
After the first four rounds of this year's TC2000 touring car series in Argentina the Fiat Lineas of the factory Fiat Pro Racing team are edging their way to the front of the field and have been in the points during the most recent two races, including last weekend's encounter in San Martín.
The driver line-up at the Fiat Pro Racing team has been rejigged slightly following the opening rounds of the series with the highly experienced former TC2000 Champion Omar "Gurí" Martínez being drafted in to replace Francisco Viel Bugliotti in the #47 car and join team leader Emiliano Spataro (#46) in the brace of Lo Jack and Selenia sponsored red-and-white saloon racers. Bugliotti is expected to return to the team during the season when a third Linea race car becomes available. Martínez was the TC2000 champion in 1998, then driving a Honda Civic for the Pro Racing team, and it is hoped that his presence after several years away will play a key part in the drive for honours.
At the Autódromo Jorge A. Pena in San Martínez last weekend the Fiat Pro Racing drivers arrived looking forward to pushing the new project further up the leaderboard and boosted by Spataro's ability on the 3.586 km circuit: he held the lap record going into the race, a 1:25.430 (151.169 km/h) which he set in 2007 at the wheel of a Renault Megane. The team also came of its first points score in the previous round, held three weeks earlier at Ciudad de Oberá. That event had started very well of the Fiat ProRacing team with with Spataro making it through to the top-ten qualifying shootout (fourth in the first run, eighth in the second run) to line up seventh on the grid and after a jump start at the green light he actually led the first four laps before being called in by the stewards for a stop-go penalty. He recovered well to finish inside the top-ten, the first time that the new Fiat ProRacing team has collected TC2000 points. In a further boost the week before the last weekend's race the Fiat ProRacing team tested at the Autódromo Oscar Cabalén de Córdoba with both Spataro and Martínez getting in time behind the wheel of the Lineas.
In San Martínez at the weekend the drivers were immediately able to demonstrate the rapid progress that the team is making: in the first free practice session Spataro (1:25.271) was ninth quickest while Martinez (1:25.870) was half a second back, out of a bumper 34 car strong field. This put Spataro just 0.941 seconds off the quickest time of the session which was set by Matías Rossi (Renault Lo Jack Team). In the second practice session Spataro (1:24.045) was thirteenth quickest while "Gurí" Martínez (1:24.817) was ten places further back. Spataro was however edging closer to the fastest time of the session, just 0.799 seconds adrift. The best time of the second session was set by José María López (Equipe Petrobas). Emphasising the ultra-competitive nature of this touring car series, the top-17 runners were split by less than a second.
Come the first knock-out qualifying session Spataro (1:24.578) easily made the cut with the tenth fastest lap time which was 0.641 seconds off the quickest time although Martínez (1:25.232) failed to make it through to the fastest twenty cars run-off after he posted the twenty-third best time. Spataro (1:24.574) was however eliminated in the second session, which whittled the runners down to just ten, after setting the eighteenth best time. Pole position went to Córdoba's José María López (Equipe Petrobas) who posted an unbeaten 1:22.449 in the final shoot-out and he would be joined on the front row by his team mate Leonel Pernía who was half-a-second adrift with a lap of 1:22.933. The Honda pair were in buoyant mood as they were coming off another one-two victory last time out at Oberá.
The 31 lap round 4 of the TC2000 brought more good fortune for Spataro as he drove an excellent race into the top-10 and crossed the line after 44 minutes and 17.079 seconds of racing to finish in eighth place, just 10.456 seconds behind the winner Matías Rossi. Spataro's team mate Martínez however had very little luck, climbing up to twentieth place early on, he managed to complete only 22 laps of the Autódromo Jorge A. Pena before he succumbed to hydraulic problems.
Three points at the weekend thanks to his eighth place, added to the two points he collected last time out at Ciudad de Oberá moves Spataro up to fifteenth in the points standings after four meetings. neither Omar Martínez nor the team's other driver Francisco Viel Bugliotti have troubled the scorers thus far. In the team's championship Fiat ProRacing is in twelfth place while in the manufacturers standings Fiat is in sixth with four points. Honda are the runaway leaders at the moment with 137 points, followed by Toyota (51) and Ford (49), this pair are neck-to-neck. Then comes Renault (41) and Chevrolet (37), while Fiat (4) is just ahead of the other series newcomer this year, Peugeot (3). The other brand to feature on the grid, VW, hasn't got off the mark yet.
Now the Córdoba-based Fiat ProRacing team prepares for the fifth round of the 2009 TC2000 Championship, to be held on the 4.417 km long Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo at Hondo, S. del Estero, which will be the first of the endurance rounds and includes driver changes and refuelling. The series this year comprises of 12 rounds ending on 29th November at Potrero de los Funes.
Nieuws, uitslagen e.d. m.b.t. toerwagenraces.
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