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ETCC Race 2 flash: Stefanovski dominates dramatic reverse-grid race

2017-09-17

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Igor Stefanovski made up for his disappointment in the opening ETCC Race of Zolder round 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 León Cup racer. But he made the most of his reverse-grid pole in the second round 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 would face a tougher test.

The Swiss was preparing to challenge Andreas Pfister for third at the end of the first lap when his Honda was assaulted by the out-of-control Audi RS3 of Rudolf Pesovic. The one-off 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 Lein Racing SEAT León Cup, 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 championship points, despite obvious damage to his Honda. He 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.

Nagy passed Kralev for fourth on the last lap, while Schreiber ended up seventh behind Pfister’s SEAT León.

The result ensures a fascinating scenario as the ETCC heads for its final two rounds at Most in the Czech Republic on October 6-8. Fulín’s third place in the second round at Zolder has salvaged a slender points lead following his non-finish in race one. He has a six-point advantage – over three drivers, who are all tied on 56 points.

Stefanovski, Schreiber and Nagy will all believe they can steal the crown from Fulín as the FIA European Touring Car Cup heads for what promises to be a dramatic climax to the 2017 season.