Tight, twisty yet fast – the Asti circuit delivered rollercoaster racing all weekend.
Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2019 RCGP World Series took place in the city of Asti, northwestern Italy, kicking off the all-important second leg of the championship. With series leader Davide Ongaro holding a clear advantage in the Drivers’ Standings, it would be up to the chasing pack to mount a challenge and break his run of dominance, as the Italian driver entered the weekend with a chance to wrap up the title with a weekend to spare.
The circuit in Asti provided close racing throughout, with a highly technical layout that demanded complete concentration. Several new names were also present in the field, as in Fehring – BeachRC drafted in Marco Ravaglia to form an all-Italian lineup, SWORKz Europe called up Leonardo Valente from the RC2 class for his home round, whilst Atsushi Hara made his return to the series, now with the HB Racing – Performa Racing team.
Friday’s Free Practice sessions were opened up by a strong showing from Elliott Boots, but it wasn’t long before Davide Ongaro hit the top of the timesheets. Managing to maintain a gap over the rest of the field for Seeding Practice as well, it was the CommSportMx – Scuderia Scampi Rosso man who would be top seed ahead of qualifying. A closely matched group of drivers fought for the following positions, with second to fourth overall all with a P2 to count – in the end it would be SWORKz International’s Elliott Boots securing second, ahead of David Ronnefalk and Marco Ravaglia. Kyle McBride placed sixth, whilst the star of Fehring, BeachRC Wildcard Marco Baruffolo would end up fifth, ahead of Atsushi Hara, Lee Martin, Leonardo Valente and Micha Widmaier.
Despite a promising start, Asti would turn into a weekend to forget for David Ronnefalk.
Saturday morning saw the action kick back into life in Italy, as perfect weather adorned the Asti circuit once again. The qualifying races began with the grid order set from Friday’s Seeding Practice results, which meant that home hero Davide Ongaro would line up on pole, followed by Elliott Boots, the British SWORKz International driver having shown promising pace so far, with championship challenger David Ronnefalk in third.
Q1 went the way of David Ronnefalk, with the Swede capitalising on a late race mistake from Ongaro, with Marco Baruffolo three seconds adrift in third. New for this weekend was a partially reversed grid, with the top seven being reversed in each round – this meant that RCGP debutant Leonardo Valente would line up on pole for Q2. The young Italian seized this opportunity and never looked back, with SWORKz also managing to sweep the top three with Juan Carlos Canas and Elliott Boots second and third respectively. A win in Q3 for Ongaro however, which was also backed up by a P2 in the final round, was enough to secure the Italian pole for Round 5. A win in Q4 sealed second overall for Canas, whilst it would only be third for title challenger Ronnefalk. Leonardo Valente would start fifth, ahead of Infinity’s Lee Martin and fellow countryman Boots.
The first of the 22-lap encounters began with a clean start from polesitter Ongaro, but Ronnefalk’s eagerness to pass Canas for second was evident – an early attempt at the end of the straight proved fruitless, and the battle for the podium positions soon settled. Behind, the British pair of Boots and Martin provided entertainment, with nose-to-tail racing and places being traded, before Boots eventually moved ahead to secure fourth. The lead up front remained unchanged however, with Ongaro taking the victory, and a step towards another overall win. Leg 2 was a more controversial affair, as the drama unfolded behind an unflustered Ongaro who led from start to finish, wrapping up the overall win for Round 5 – a late race tangle between Juan Carlos Canas and David Ronnefalk allowed a wingless Boots to hold on to second place, which was also enough to secure second place overall for Round 5. Kyle McBride would cross the line third, but a fourth for Canas was enough for him to take the final step on the overall podium.
Davide Ongaro’s run of dominance continued, the Italian scoring yet another two wins at his home round.
Sunday’s qualifying rounds for Round 6 saw Ongaro repeat his Saturday form, opening up the day by taking Q1 by two seconds from Marco Baruffolo. A P3 from Juan Carlos Canas in the first round and an impressive P2 in round 2 gave him the edge on Ongaro with two rounds completed, with the Italian having struggled to make progress in Q2, with the round being taken by Kyle McBride. Ongaro quickly responded, taking Q3 ahead of Ronnefalk and Boots, whilst Canas could only manage tenth – with a P3 in Q4 to boot, it would be Ongaro who lined up on pole yet again. Marco Baruffolo would prove to be the nearest challenger, albeit eight points further back in second, whilst Elliott Boots would start third.
The 60-minute final proved to be another driving masterclass from Ongaro, taking the 88 laps in his stride on his way to another dominant win, with a comfortable gap of almost ten seconds over Juan Carlos Canas in second position. This win not only continued his streak of dominance in the 2019 season, but also earned him the overall Drivers’ Championship with two rounds remaining. There was also cause for celebration for SWORKz, as Canas led a 2-3-4 finish for the brand, with newcomer Valente taking a hard fought fourth place finish at his home round, his SWORKz Europe teammate Micha Widmaier also scoring a solid seventh place. The race proved disappointing for others however, as David Ronnefalk’s slim title chances evaporated after a late-race breakage, the HB/Performa driver catching the rear end of the car on a pipe, resulting in an unfortunate DNF.
Juan Carlos Canas enjoyed another weekend of strong results, moving up to second overall in the standings.
With only two rounds remaining for the 2019 season, and with the Drivers’ Championship already decided, the attention turns to the battle for second – a strong second place finish in Round 6 for Canas, whose consistency in scoring points has helped to keep him near the sharp end of the standings, has vaulted him into second in the standings, 14 points ahead of Ronnefalk. Kyle McBride remains in fourth, but is now just three points away from third overall – much like Canas, consistency has defined his 2019 campaign, with the Australian now looking to go one further in the USA. The battle in the Team Standings also remains close – CommSportMx – Scuderia Scampi Rosso remain on top with 190 points, but just 40 points covers second to fifth, with SWORKz International now holding a 19 point advantage over the BeachRC Wildcard Team. HB Racing – Performa Racing drop to fourth overall, whilst Team Infinity continue to make up ground in the standings, just 14 points adrift.
Davide Ongaro’s dominance has defined the 2019 RCGP World Series, and with only two rounds remaining, a perfect season could be on the cards for the Italian youngster. However, with lineup shuffles likely for the finale at Thunder Alley Raceway, new challengers could yet emerge – furthermore, with the Teams’ Championship still wide open and key positions in the Drivers’ Standings still to play for, the racing up and down the field is likely to be as competitive as ever.