Middleton, Amici and Di Folco miss out on deserved Italian GT Endurance podium at Vallelunga

Middleton, Amici and Di Folco miss out on deserved Italian GT Endurance podium at Vallelunga

20.09.2021: Lamborghini racer Stuart Middleton annoyed to miss Vallelunga podium Middleton, Amici and Di Folco take P8 finish in Italian GT Endurance Rd3 Robust three-hour encounter and unfortunate penalty prove costly Championship bid


•    Lamborghini racer Stuart Middleton annoyed to miss Vallelunga podium

•    Middleton, Amici and Di Folco take P8 finish in Italian GT Endurance Rd3

•    Robust three-hour encounter and unfortunate penalty prove costly  

•    Championship bid still on for Imperiale Racing trio with one round to go




Italian GT Endurance Championship racer Stuart Middleton remains confident of becoming 2021 champion in his maiden season in the category – along with team-mates Andrea Amici and Alberto Di Folco – despite a frustrating outing at Vallelunga over the weekend, 18th/19th September.



Going into the third event of the Endurance campaign leading the points standings, off the back of a fantastic victory last time out at Mugello, the Imperiale Racing trio had to settle for eighth place and fourth in the Pro class due to a cocktail of incident, penalties and a negative Balance of Performance.



Knowing a challenging weekend was in store with a 40 second pit-stop success penalty from the previous round, 21-year-old Ashington driver Middleton and his Italian team-mates had insult added to injury when Di Folco was handed a further 10 second time penalty after a tangle with the Ferrari 488 of Daniel Mancinelli during the closing stages – while on course to finish the race fourth overall.



“It’s been a bit of an unfortunate one, not our day really, but we knew it would be tricky with the success penalty – we had to do everything we could to compensate for that”, said British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Middleton, “We kept fighting throughout, trying to push the maximum we could, but with the BOP we had it was impossible to match the speed of the Ferraris and Audis.



“We’ll take what we’ve learnt from this weekend and keep pushing, everybody at the team did the best job they could and Andrea and Alberto did a fantastic job as always – thank you to everyone as always for their hard work. We’ve still got the chance to win this championship, we’re third now and five points behind so we could do with a win at Monza. That’s what we’ll be pushing for.”







Middleton and Imperiale fight as hard as possible in Vallelunga




In qualifying on Saturday, Middleton ran in session one and produced a best time of 1m32.107 seconds on his first flying lap to go third quickest, but ultimately had to settle for eighth overall, fifth in the Pro class. Amici was a couple of tenths of a second slower in session two, but this was good enough for third fastest, while Di Folco was fourth overall in session three.



Resulting in the No.63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO starting Sunday afternoon’s race from third on the grid, based on combined times from the three sessions, Middleton took the opening stint and he started well to hold third and run closely behind the top two.



After an early Safety Car period, the action resumed on lap four and Middleton was glued to the BMW M6 of Marius Zug. Coming under increasing pressure himself, though, from Riccardo Agostini’s Audi, Middleton repelled the attention and set about trying to get back on terms with Zug.



Around the 20-minute mark, Zug managed to take the lead from Daniel Zampieri and Middleton immediately started to threaten the Ferrari 488. On lap 12 he made a clean bid for second place but Zampieri closed the door when Middleton was fully alongside, tipping the Lamborghini into a spin.



Recovering well, the Briton rejoined the track in seventh and he closed back up to the top six before swarming all over the back of the Ferrari of Max Hoffer – who was defending heavily and putting the Imperiale driver into the clutches of Daniele Di Amato.



Brilliantly, Middleton managed to get ahead of Hoffer on lap 26 after working very hard and after seeing off an attempt by his rival to re-pass, he stayed sixth to the end of his stint. Pitting at the end of lap 35, Middleton handed over the car to Amici for hour two.



Holding eighth overall and fifth in the Pro class when the order settled, the Italian set about catching the cars ahead before the Safety Car was deployed 10 minutes into his stint. When racing resumed Amici quickly moved into seventh overall and at mid-distance he had moved up into the top five, then taking fourth as the second round of pit-stops began. He pitted with 65 minutes to go.



Di Folco held sixth place when he joined the action, right behind the Di Amato car, before the Safety Car was deployed again. Action resumed with just over three quarters of an hour to go and the top six drivers were covered by little more than five seconds. Di Folco took fifth place from Di Amato and on lap 82 he was just 0.4 seconds shy of the Ferrari of Mancinelli.



With 20 minutes to run there was nothing to separate Di Folco, Mancinelli and third placed Bruno Spengler and they circulated nose-to-tail. With little more than 10 minutes left, Di Folco saw his chance and challenged Mancinelli but the Ferrari driver closed the door late and contact enabled Di Amato to pass both.



Di Folco did get ahead of Mancinelli, who then pitted, and so held fifth again and he and Di Amato stormed up behind Spengler’s BMW with Giancarlo Fisichella also joining in with the battle. In the end, Di Folco took the flag in fourth position overall but officials applied a 10 second penalty for the incident with Mancinelli – dropping the team-mates to eighth overall, fourth in the Pro class.



The final race of the Italian GT Endurance Championship will take place on Sunday, 31st October, at Monza. Three weeks earlier, Middleton will partner with Mateo Llarena for the fourth and final race of the sister Italian GT Sprint Championship on Sunday, 10th October, at Mugello.




2021 Italian GT Endurance Championship Standings (after Rd3)

3rd Stuart Middleton/Andrea Amici/Alberto Di Folco, 35pts




Marc Orme- photos Italian GT


Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/middleton-amici-di-folco-miss-italian-gt-endurance-podium-vallelunga---228782.html

20.09.2021 / MaP

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