Photo: TCR Italy

Marco Butti claims lights-to-flag win in Imola season opener

Marco Butti withstood pressure from Franco Girolami towards the end of the first TCR Italy race of the 2023 season at Imola to win from pole position, beating his Audi rival by just under half a second.

The top three were unchanged as the lights went to green, with Target Competition driver Butti heading Honda driver Mattias Vathel and Honda driver Niels Langeveld.

The safety car was called into action early on following contact between Ruben Volt and Sergio Lopez Bolotin which saw Volt collecting an innocent Junul Park.

Volt and Park were left stranded in the gravel, retiring from the race, while Lopez Bolotin received a 25-second stop and go penalty.

The field was let got on lap five and Audi driver Franco Girolami soon made a move for fourth position on Matteo Poloni who had made a strong start from sixth on the grid.

Two laps later saw Aikoa Racing driver Girolami making the move for third on Langeveld, then setting his sights on ALM Motorsport driver Vathel in second place.

Girolami made the move for second on lap nine, also allowing Langevelt to get past with some contact that caused damage to the front splitter of Vathel’s Civic.

Vathel dropped down the order due to the issue, finishing 18th.

Girolami then pushed hard to catch Butti at the front, but had to settle for second place behind the Target Competition driver who had support from the pit wall from former world champion Gabriele Tarquini.

Reigning champion Langevelt claimed the final podium spot, six second ahead of the Audi trio of Felice Jelmini, Poloni and Denis Babuin.

Cupra driver Aurelien and Audi driver Ruben Fernandez rounded off the top eight.

The second race of the weekend starts at 13:00 CEST on Sunday.