ETCC - Down to the wire: dramatic Zolder double-header sets up ETCC title showdown in most


ETCC - 2017 Race of Zolder - Race 

RACE REPORTFIA ETCC Race of Zolder, rounds 9/10 of 12, 15-17 September 2017

*Wins for Schreiber and Stefanovski but frustration for Fulín
*Four-way fight for ETCC glory in store in Czech Republic
*More pole position agony for title chaser Nagy

The 2017 FIA European Touring Car Cup is gearing up for a dramatic season climax following two action-packed rounds in Zolder today, with four drivers heading to the final two races in Czech Republic next month separated by just seven points. Race victories for Rikli Motorsport’s Christjohannes Schreiber and Stefanovski Racing Team’s Igor Stefanovski at the former home of the Belgian Grand Prix ensures the closing two events at Most from October 6-8, will be unmissable as the title battle plays out. Points leader Petr Fulín could only salvage a solitary third place in his Křenek Motorsport SEAT, which leaves him just six points in front – with Schreiber on 57 points, Stefanovski and Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Nagy both tied on 56 points in third.

Christjohannes Schreiber made a scorching start from the second row to win the opening encounter at ETCC Race of Zolder to secure his fourth victory of the year in the FIA European Touring Car Cup. The Swiss driver was only fourth on the grid in his Rikli Motorsport Honda Civic, but timed his getaway to perfection to shoot into the lead into Turn 1. From there, Schreiber was never headed to win the 13-lap race and close on points leader Petr Fulín, who failed to score. Gearbox gremlins in qualifying had forced Czech racer Fulín to start from the back of the grid, and he was up to sixth by the end of the first lap. But further transmission problems forced him out after nine laps. Igor Stefanovski looked set to claim second place in his SEAT after pressing Schreiber hard for the lead in the early laps. As the race continued the Macedonian came under increasing pressure from Peter Rikli and pole position starter Norbert Nagy. In a dramatic climax, both passed him in one move, before Stefanovski pulled into the pits with a heavily worn front left-tyre. He’d pushed so hard in his attack for the lead and subsequent defence of second place, the top layer of rubber was completely shredded. But an eighth-place spot in the final results did at least ensure Stefanovski would start the second reverse-grid race from pole position. Rikli ensured a Honda one-two for his brother Erwin’s team, while third place was small consolation for Nagy after his disastrous start from pole. The Hungarian’s Zengő SEAT bogged down off the line with engine mapping problems and was only fifth at the end of the first lap. He made up places only thanks to the problems of others ahead of him. Fábio Mota, running directly in front of him in fourth, had a grassy moment on lap eight, then Stefanovski’s late problem further promoted Nagy on to the podium. Mota recovered to claim fourth for LEIN Racing, ahead of Andreas Pfister’s self-run SEAT. The result leaft Schreiber just three points behind Fulín at the top of the standings ahead of the reverse-grid second race.

Igor Stefanovski made up for his disappointment in Race 1 by dominating the reverse-grid encounter from pole position in an action-packed FIA European Touring Car Cup event in Belgium. The Macedonian was classified only eighth in the first race after shredding the rubber from the front left tyre of his Stefanovski Racing Team SEAT. But he made the most of his reverse-grid pole in the second counter to lead all the way as drama played out behind him. The Rikli Motorsport Honda Civics of Peter Rikli and race one winner Christjohannes Schreiber wasted little time making up places from their respective starting slots on the fourth row. Rikli was second by the end of the first lap, a position he would hold until the flag. But Schreiber had less fortune. The former title leader was preparing to challenge Andreas Pfister for third at the end of the first lap when his Honda was struck by the out-of-control Audi RS3 of Rudolf Pesovic. The wildcard Zolder entrant was too ambitious on the brakes into the final chicane and made a lunge on Fábio Mota. He made contact not only with the Portuguese, but also more heavily with Schreiber’s Honda, which was left beached in the gravel. Pesovic kept pushing, but as he started lap two he found himself spearing off at the fast first turn, skipped across the gravel trap and clattered into the steel barrier with force – fortunately emerging without injury. The accident forced a safety car period while the Audi was recovered. At the restart on lap six, Stefanovski escaped once more at the front ahead of Rikli, while championship leader Petr Fulín demoted Pfister for third. Meanwhile, Mota found himself in the wars once again when Plamen Kralev’s Audi RS3 turfed him into a spin at Turn 1. Kraf Racing driver Kralev was now on a mission and took on Pfister into the first chicane. His pass was at such speed he could not avoid cutting the corner, but instead of handing the place back he pressed on regardless in fourth place. Behind him Schreiber was on a charge to recover ground and vital ETCC points, despite obvious damage to his Honda. His defence of fifth place from race one pole position man Norbert Nagy was valiant, but he bowed to the inevitable a few laps before the flag. Kralev endured a similar tyre problem as Stefanovski in Race 1 and eventually dropped down the order, while Schreiber ended up seventh behind Pfister. Kralev was awarded a post-race 10-second penalty, which promoted Schreiber to sixth, earning him an extra point in the championship battle.

Christjohannes Schreiber (Race 1 winner): 
“It was an amazing start in Race 1 and I knew we didn't have the pace as the fast cars this weekend. I tried to manage my start as well as possible and I think it was ok. My team-mate Peter did an amazing work there as well, he fought up the order and had a good fight with Norbi. Like this I was able to pull away and tried to manage my car and brakes as well as possible. In Race 2 my car was sideways a lot and I could feel that because my geometry was completely damaged. I think an Audi hit me on the entrance of the last chicane and there's a hole in my door and the geometry is completely off. I tried to limit the damage from that point and that's all I could do."

Igor Stefanovski (Race 2 winner): “For me the first race was good until the last lap, but my tyre was broken and I had to stop in pits. It was a ‘little’ disappointing. In Race 2 I did a good start and finished the race in first. That race was for me without stress as we had enough space behind and that's how we won it. I'm not completely happy but we will see how the championship ends.”


NEXT RACE: ETCC Race of Most, 6-8 October 2017