Photo: ACI Sport

Nicola Baldan and Ruben Volt share TCR Italy victories at Pergusa

Salvatore Tavano moved into the lead of the TCR Italy standings with a pair of top five finishes at Pergusa, as Nicola Baldan and Ruben Volt took a win apiece in Sicily.

Tavano had taken on-the-road victory in the opening race of the day but was demoted to fourth following a five-second time penalty for a safety car restart infringement.

Baldan inherited the win but lost out on a potential double after a spectacular fire engulfed his Aikoa Racing Audi RS 3 LMS in race two.

ALM Motorsport’s Volt therefore bounced back from a difficult opening round at Misano to claim his firt win of the year, with Tavano and Michele Imberti (Kombat Motorsport) completing the podium.

Race 1

Off the rolling start, Tavano got the best getaway from pole position and maintained his lead over the Audi RS 3 LMS of Nicolas Taylor despite sliding over the grass at the first corner.

Tavano made a slight break at the front with Taylor just ahead of a lively battle for third between Michele Imberti and Baldan as the leading quartet stretched clear of fifth placed Matteo Poloni.

Try as he might, Tavano could not escape the attention of Taylor who kept within half a second of the Cupra in front, but Imberti and Baldan’s increased pace meant Candian Taylor had to tread carefully.

Inside the final 12 minutes, the safety car was deployed due to an incident further down the field for Paolo Rocca, whose ALM Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R suffered a puncture and bringing debris and gravel onto the track.

The race restarted with just under four minutes remaining, but Tavano pushed too hard at the final corner, going onto the gravel on the exit and then subsequently decelerated significantly, which bunched the pack up behind.

Tavano was able to maintain his lead at turn one, but the ensuing chaos meant Taylor was held up and fell to fourth behind Imberti and Baladan, who leapt up two places to second.

Invigorated, Baldan sensed blood and had an incredible amount of pace in his Audi heading into the final two minutes and was right on the Cupra’s rear bumper for the lead.

Tavano managed to withstand the assault from Baldan to take the on-the-road victory, with Imberti finishing third.

However, Tavano and Imberti were handed five-second penalties for their roles in the safety car restarts, handing Baldan the win from Taylor, with Volt inheriting the final place on the podium.

Tavano dropped to fourth, just one place ahead of Imberti, with Poloni sixth.

Race 2

Volt started the second race from pole position and the Estonian driver staved off a fierce attack from Baldan to maintain his advantage into the first corner, as Taylor was one of a number of drivers to take to the grass.

Baldan and Volt went toe-to-toe throughout the opening lap, with Junui Park close behind in third place. Much like the opening race, the leading runners made an early break as drama ensued behind.

Alex Ley was shuffled onto the grass at the start of the second lap, while there was contact between Junesong Park and Hwarang Kim, causing a tyre rub on the former.

Out front, Baldan appeared the faster driver in the early stages, but Volt’s positioning of his Honda Civic Type-R was exceptional and he even began to edge further ahead entering the second half of the race.

Baldan’s race then came to a frightening and dramatic end as a fire broke out at the front of his Aikoa Racing Audi. Quick reactions from Baldan ensured he escaped the car without injury but the safety car was deployed immediately.

The retirement of Baldan and Matteo Poloni, who had been running as high as fourth early on, promoted Tavano to second behind Volt.

Just one lap remained at the restart, with Volt only needing to keep it clean to take his first win of the season from Tavano and Imberti.

In the standings, Tavano leads the way with 146 points, with Taylor 30 points in arrears in second. Third is Volt, tied on 107 points with Junui Park and Imberti, with Ley falling back in sixth on 98 points, two ahead of Baldan.

The next round of the TCR Italy season is due to take place at Mugello on the weekend of 12-14 July.