Photo: ACI Sport

Marco Butti wins race two at Imola as Franco Girolami crowned controversial champion

Target Competition’s Marco Butti completed a clean sweep of the TCR Italy season finale at Imola, staving off Niels Langeveld by just three-tenths of a second.

The Hyundai Elantra N driver started third on the grid but made a superb launch to move into second on the opening lap before usurping polesitter Aurélien Comte on the second lap.

From then on, Butti led the way, defending a train of four cars either side of a safety car intervention to come out on top for the second race in a row.

Franco Girolami finished third for Aikoa Racing; the Argentinian driver ending the season as the champion before the final race began, albeit in controversial fashion following a successful appeal of his Monza penalty which handed him back his on-the-road victory.

Unlike Saturday’s opening encounter, it was a clean start throughout the field as Comte led away from pole position with Butti surging past front-row starter Felice Jelmini who dropped several positions.

Butti did not waste time in pressurising Comte’s Cupra León Competición for the lead and the Hyundai slid down the inside at Tamburello to move ahead.

Behind, Langeveld and Girolami led the chase, having made their past the impressive Junul Park. The Korean driver had been running third early on but bodywork damage on the Hyundai caused a severe wheel rub and he fell down the order.

The top four of Butti, Comte, Langeveld and Girolami then broke clear of Jelmini before the field was neutralised following a spin for Ruben Fernandez’s Audi at the exit of Villeneuve.

That bunched the pack up again and allowed Jelmini to join the lead scrap for the remaining 10 minutes.

Despite the pressure, Butti held on to the lead, even if his Hyundai had a wild slide through Tamburello with a handful of laps to go.

Langeveld, keen to end the season on a high after losing the championship, then passed Comte on the run to Villeneuve to grab second. Girolami also stuck his nose down the inside at the apex but tagged the rear of Comte’s car which forced the Frenchman wide.

Comte then dropped behind Jelmini and finished fifth at the end.

Langeveld then closed in on the back of Butti in the final laps and was arguably the fastest driver of the leading quintet. But Butti held firm and crossed the line to take the win by just 0.356s.

Girolami was only a further half a second behind in third, while Jelmini edged clear of Comte to secure fourth.

Outside the top five, Felipe Fernàndez was sixth ahead of Junui Park and Rodolfo Massaro. Michele Imberti and Marco Pellegrini completed the top ten finishers.

Girolami was crowned champion on 427 points, 38 ahead of Langeveld and 81 ahead of Comte.