The picturesque Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi has held its fair share of big events in its near-fifty year long existence, including Superleague Formula, World Superbike and even the non-championship F1 Rome Grand Prix in 1963. However, on the 23rd of March 2018, the track saw its first large virtual event as Sim Racing Malta let loose some Porsches.
The championship prior to this round had been dominated by Hany Alsabti, who had won two races from two at the start of the season. He was leading the championship comfortably ahead of Risto Kappet in second, Kevin Siggy in third and Gergo Baldi and Richard Schäfer equal fourth.
However, Alsabti had done no practice laps before official practice due to work, so his opponents knew that this was their chance to gain some points back. Imagine their disappointment, then, when Hany took to the track like a duck to water and put the car on pole position by a whole three-tenths of a second ahead of Kevin Siggy, Risto Kappet and Gergo Baldi.
At the start of the race, Alsabti got off to a bad start and dropped to fourth position, before rubbing doors with Baldi and regaining third position. Siggy took the lead and immediately set about extending this from Kappet who found himself in second place.
Alsabti caught Kappet ten minutes in and attacked for second place into Campagnano, but ran wide and dropped back. This was not his final attack, however, as he weaved around behind Risto, trying the same move at Campagnano again on the next lap with much the same result. There were more attacks just before the pit window, with Alsabti favouring to brake as late as he possibly could and attempt to drive around the outside of Kappet, but Risto was proving unpassable. Hany knew he needed to get strategical.
At the first possible pitting opportunity, Alsabti dived into the pit lane to give himself some fresh tyres and some clean air. At this point, the battle became a case of hotlapping, so when Kappet pitted on lap , everyone held their breath to see who would come out ahead… And it was Alsabti! He had pulled off a fantastic strategical undercut and had claimed second position from Risto Kappet.
Brandon Tabone, who had been running tenth, pitted early on in the pit stages, which backfired when he came out directly behind Sandro Zahra and had to pass him on track. This was made easier for him when Zahra missed a braking point and went over the tarmac runoff.
Race leader Siggy stayed out for as long as he possibly could. Everything went smoothly with his stop and he found himself with a 9.8 second lead from Alsabti.
Baldi then set about chasing Kappet for third, getting as close as seven tenths of a second behind the ACR driver before a trip through the gravel sent Baldi further back again.
Garo Sarafian was having a tough time towards the end of the race. He had a spin at the esses on one lap, a collision with the barrier at Cimini 1 on the next and then another mistake at Cimini 1 followed by a bounce through the grass at Roma the lap after that. His teammate Barouky was also in trouble, clouting the barrier and dropping a lot of time to Keith Camilleri ahead of him. However, despite these incidents, everyone finished the race.
There were more problems for Sarafian three laps from the end of the race as he nudged and spun Omar Barbara whilst the pair were racing for eleventh place. Sarafian let Barbara back through before legitimately passing him again into Tornantino.
The end of the race was a very interesting one, as Siggy crossed the line with just three tenths of a second left on the clock, meaning that there was one more lap than some of the drivers were expecting. This caught out Risto Kappet who ran out of fuel at the final corner, givng third place to Baldi and eventually crossing the line in fourth place.
It was a dominant victory for Kevin Siggy, 5.4 seconds ahead of Hany Alsabti. Behind them came the rest of the field in the following order:
Gergo Baldi, Risto Kappet, Richard Schäfer, Dario Andreoni, Bernard Vella, Keith Camilleri, Justin Barouky, Brandon Tabone, Garo Sarafian, Omar Barbara, Sandro Zahra.
This means that Alsabti still leads the championship ahead of Kevin Siggy, who moved up to second place with his victory, Risto Kappet, Gergo Baldi and Richard Schäfer.
Report by Joshua Jones