The Team Mulsanne-run Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCRs finally got off the mark during the sixth round of the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) in Slovakia last weekend as Fabrizio Giovanardi handed the Italian car its first points of the year in the first and third races of the weekend and with his new teammate Kevin Ceccon also in the points in Race 3 it was finally a weekend to shout about for the Romeo Ferraris built Giulietta TCR.
Before the weekend started there would be a driver change as Gianni Morbidelli left the team. “Team Mulsanne communicates that the professional relationship with Gianni Morbidelli in the 2018 FIA WTCR has come to an end,” read a statement from the team. “The whole team wants to thank the Italian driver for the contribution he has made up to the round in Portugal.”
Former Formula One driver Morbidelli contested the opening five WTCR rounds in the Team Mulsanne Giulietta TCR, making 12 starts and scoring a best result of P13 at WTCR Race of Netherlands in May.
He was quickly replaced by Kevin Ceccon, a former winner in Auto GP, Formula 3 and GP3 with the 24-year-old going straight in to partner Giovanardi in the Italian squad for the Slovakia Ring triple-header last weekend.
Ceccon has a pedigree in karting and single-seater racing, winning the Auto GP title in 2011 when he also become the youngest GP2 Series driver at the age of 17. He also has experience in the European Le Mans Series and Blancpain GT and took part in the Formula One Young Driver Test at Abu Dhabi in 2011 with Toro Rosso, becoming the youngest Italian to drive a Formula One car in public.
Built in 2008 and located 40 kilometres east of the capital Bratislava, the 5.922-km Slovakia Ring hosted the WTCC for five seasons from 2012 and for 2018 was back on the calendar as the sixth round of the inaugural WTCR season. With no points to their name after five rounds and the summer break looming, Team Mulsanne was anxious to get off the mark – and it would turn out to be an excellent weekend for the team.
In qualifying for the 9-lap Race 1 Giovanardi set the P12 time with Ceccon four tenths adrift in P18. In Race 1 the dismal season for the Giulietta finally came to an end as Giovanardi battled his was up to finish in fifth place, the team’s first points finish of the season, a couple of tenths behind the car in P4 and just over 5 seconds adrift of the winner. Ceccon came home in P16.
In Race 2, also 9-laps long, there wasn’t too much talk about although Ceccon continued to improve and came home in P12 while Giovanardi was P16
The final encounter would prove to be the best of the weekend for the Alfa Romeos. Giovanardi was battling for third place in the 11-lap Race 3 only for contact to ultimately drop him to seventh, one place behind new Ceccon, who created a strong impression. At the flag both cars were comfortably in the points in P6 and P7, separated by two tenths of a second.
“This has been one of the most successful weekends for our cars and the WTCR result has been sensational,” Michela Cerruti, Operations Manager at Romeo Ferraris, said afterwards: “We knew we had a good basis to start from, but Fabrizio and Kevin gave us an immense joy with three points finishes.”
“Team Mulsanne has now a busy summer ahead, as we will continue to work hard and prepare the forthcoming events, including those in China at the end of September,” she added.
In the WTCR Teams' championship Team Mulsanne are now in eleventh place with 35 points while in the Drivers' rankings Giovanardi is twentieth with 19 points and Ceccon twenty fifth with 10 points. Four rounds remain, two will take place in China before the final two are contested in Japan and Macau.
Photos: Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup 2018