Maltese drivers dominate at Racalmuto

Monday, September 26, 2011, 22:52

Five Classes entered. Five classes won.

Maltese drivers from Motorsport Team Malta had a field day last weekend at the fourth round of the Campionato Siciliano di Velocita in Pista, which took place at the 2.5 kilometre Autodromo Valle dei Templi. The team, managed by Joe Anastasi left Malta early Friday morning on the Virtu Ferry to Pozzallo, arriving at the circuit at Racalmuto just in time to take in four invaluable hours of free practice. Drivers soon got down to improving the settings of their cars and by Friday evening all were happier about the handling, braking and gearing of their respective mounts, whilst new boys Adam Bugeja and Fabio Baldacchino had done enough laps to feel more confident with the track.

Saturday morning was also devoted to free practice, after all the documentation and scrutineering had been sorted out, with Saturday afternoon being devoted to 20 minute qualifying sessions for the seven groups racing. Some 100 racing cars were present in the paddock, ten of these in pit garages 12 and 13 which were allocated to the Team Malta boys.

Group 3, in which David Anastasi (Mini Doda Turbo) and John Zammit (Lotus Elise/VW Turbo) participated, was composed of 14 cars, including a couple of big BMWs, a 3 litre six cylinder, and a 5.5 litre 10 cylinder model, and a gaggle of Porsches from the famous Palazzo stable. At the end of the 20 minute session David was 2nd, and therefore on the front row for Sunday’s grid, and John was a very good 4th. A good start indeed for Motorsport Team Malta.

The next group with Maltese drivers was Group 5 for Formula cars under 1000cc, but within minutes of the green light for qualifying, the engine on Simon Camilleri’s Jedi Suzuki self destructed, leaving him stranded for the rest of the weekend, and bringing out the red flag. When qualifying resumed, the battle at the top was a 2 man affair, but this Time Johann Spiteri seemed to have the legs on his all time nemisis Salvatore Gargante. There wasn’t much in it, but two tenths of a second was enough to give Johann his first pole position of the year in this very competitive group of 10 cars. Matthew Zammit had some niggly problems but still managed to put his Van Diemen Suzuki on the 3rd row of the grid for Sunday’s first race.

The Open capacity Formula class was also well supported, with 11 cars taking to the track for qualifying. Five of these were Maltese. Within a few minutes the session was red flagged, but upto this point Joshua Anastasi (JBR-4 Kawasaki SC) had the fastest time, Alan Curmi (Radical Suzuki) was fourth, and debutant Adam Bugeja (OMS Kawasaki) an excellent 5th. Fabio Baldacchino (OMS Suzuki) was 6th, and Patrick Gauci (Hawke Kawasaki) was 8th. Once the stricken car had been returned to the pits, the session resumed. The top 3 from part 1 of the session all immediately reduced their times dramatically but it was still Joshua Anastasi on pole at the end of the session from Italians Pollara and La Spina. In the process, Joshua had posted his best lap time in 3 years of racing at Racalmuto. Alan Curmi was fourth, followed by another 3 Maltese drivers, Fabio Baldacchino, Adam Bugeja, and Patrick Gauci respectively.

Racing resumed punctually on Sunday for the first in the two race programme, a 6 lap race. In race 3 David Anastasi got an excellent start and was first into the first corner, the BMW’s and Porsches all over him. It was a veritable David and Goliath battle. Bonforte’s BMW nipped through on lap 2, but braking into the last corner of the same lap David’s little Mini again took the lead, to the cheering of the disbelieving crowd. The Mini held the lead for the next 3 laps but half way round the penultimate lap 5, the BMW nipped past again going into the chicane. In doing so it picked up a loose stone from the apex of the corner and flung it straight onto the Mini’s windscreen, shattering it instantly, and forcing David to reduce his pace for the final lap. Bonforte won, but David’s Mini was an excellent second all the same, whilst John Zammit’s Lotus developed a misfire, restricting him to 12th.

Some frantic work was needed to replace the Mini’s windscreen in time for race 2 but with the Malta team all working together the job was done in time and David’s Mini took it’s position on the front row of the grid for the second time in one day. The start of the 10 lap race 2 was a repeat of race 1 with the Mini getting the better of the BMW’s and the Porsches and leading for the first 5 laps. Bonforte’s BMW nipped past under braking into one of the corners, but the excitement was nowhere near over, for Giovanni Carfi’s V10 BMW had climbed up the field and was now hounding the leading pair. As they raced down the main straight on lap 7 they were 3 abrest, then David’s brakes hesitated and he locked up, disappearing into the gravel at high speed, and missing the two BMW by inches in the process. The red flag came out and the race was stopped with 1 lap to go. It had been a gallant effort that had the crowds of spectators on their feet. John Zammit had driven an excellent race, climbing from 12th on the grid to 6th at the finish, thus winning his class in the process.

The single seater races for 1000cc Formula cars also produced some excellent racing, and a great result for Team Malta. In the 6 lap first race Johann Spiteri got a perfect start from pole position to lead the 10 cars into the first corner. But it was tight, for young Italian karters Gargante and Bonforte, and Matthew Zammit and Costa were all battling for the same piece of tarmac. Costa nipped past Matthew on lap 3 so at the finish it was Johann Spiteri taking his first win of the season from 3 Italian drivers and Matthew Zammit.

Race 2 and Johann again made the perfect start to hold his lead at the all important first corner. Matthew made another of his ballistic starts moving from 5th to third, thus it was the trio Spiteri, Gargante, Zammit that ran like high speed trains for 10 whole laps, with never more than a second separating them from start to finish. It was great to see them all congratulating each other as they all returned to “parc ferme” after the race.

And so to the big capacity Formula race. Again 12 cars lined up on the grid but it was Malta’s Joshua Anastasi who’s JBR-4 Kawasaki was sitting on pole. As the flag dropped Pollara used the launch control of his Formula Masters Renault to good effect to move ahead of the field into the first corner with Joshua in close company. Alan’s Radical snapped it’s chain at the start but Fabio, Adam and Patrick held their positions, that is until Fabio’s OMS had a suspension failure coming onto the main straight, bringing out the red flag once again. The race director announced that the race would be restarted from qualifying grid positions and would once again be of 6 laps duration. Everybody topped up with fuel and Alan even managed to replace his car’s chain in time for the restart, but then there was confusion. As Patrick, Alan and Joshua drove up to the pit exit they were told they would be starting from the pit lane. The race started, then once everyone was away the green light came on in the pit lane. In the confusion Joshua stalled his engine, getting away 30 seconds after the rest of the field. From that point all three drove like there was no tomorrow, Alan and Joshua both lapping faster than the leader. At the finish it was Pollara from Alan Curmi who had climbed up the field to 2nd, Adam Bugeja, and Joshua who made the 3 fastest laps of the race, and the fastest lap of the day in the process. Patrick Gauci was a strong 5th.

Thus, the race 2 grid saw Pollara and Alan Curmi share the front row, with Adam and Joshua on row 2, Patrick next up and Fabio, who had since repaired his car, starting at the back of the grid. It was going to be a tough 10 laps for the Malta boys. As the lights went out Pollara made another good start, Curmi stalled, but Joshua too made a good start to trail the leader into the first corner. Just one lap later Joshua was ahead, sailing past young Pollara on the straight and holding his lead to the finish. “It was the longest 10 laps of my life” said Joshua later. “Marco was filling my mirrors all the time. I couldn’t go any slower because he would nip past, but didn’t want to go much faster to preserve the engine. It was a great race”. The gap between them at the finish was less than a second. Alan Curmi drove a determined race to finish an excellent 3rd with Adam 4th, Fabio 5th and Patrick 6th. Barring Adam, all the Maltese drivers had started this race from the back of the grid.

At the presentation of awards the Maltese boys were all congratulated by the numerous crowd. John, Johann, Adam, Alan and Joshua had all won their respective classes whilst Matthew, David and Patrick were on the respective class podiums. Johann and Joshua also won their races, and Joshua was also presented with the FTD cup for the fastest lap of the weekend. Then to finish things off in the best way possible, race director Mimmo Ipolito approached Malta team manager Joe Anastasi and apologized for the error of judgement that had led to 3 Maltese drivers starting the last race from the pit lane. “That was the greatest gesture of the day” said team manager Joe. “It was good to see that he had admitted to his mistake and apologized honourably. Not many people do that these days”.

Our thanks again to Virtu Ferries and other team sponsors and supporters, without whose help none of this would be possible.





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