Certainly one of the more intriguing newcomers to burst from the starting gates this season, Bruno Spengler marked his return to saloon car racing by making his FIA ETCR eTouring Car World Cup with Romeo Ferraris.
While pressure might have come with a profile as lofty as his, Spengler quickly adapted to the rigours of both the ETCR’s innovative race weekend format and the sheer performance of his 500KW ‘Italian stallion’ saloon.
Announcing his arrival at the INFINITE REALITY RACE FR opener in Pau, Spengler hit the ground running with victory out of the gate in his Quarter-Final, following it up with a run to second in his Semi-Final.
Consolidating his status as the top Romeo Ferraris over the event, third place in his DHL Super Final earned Spengler a solid fifth position in the King of the Weekend classification.
“Good points this weekend,” Spengler commented after the event. “I think we progressed well through my first weekend in FIA ETCR and also it was really enjoyable to work with the team. They did a really amazing job through the weekend, preparing the car and helping us to gain confidence.”
Spengler’s encouraging start to the year gained momentum next time out in Round 2, the RACE HU at the Hungaroring where Spengler capitalised with a run to third place in his DHL Super Final, which in turn earned him fourth in the final reckoning, just behind team-mate Maxime Martin.
With his sights set on going one step better to the podium in Jarama, Spengler set himself up smartly with victory in his Semi-Final, only to have his DHL Super Final hopes hampered by an early tangle with Jean-Karl Vernay that lost him ground.
Going on to take the flag in fifth position, Spengler would wind up seventh in the King of the Weekend final ranking.
“All and all a bit of a frustrating final; I would have loved to bring more points to the team,” he said. “Unfortunately, I got squeezed at the exit of turn one by Vernay, which cost me one position. I was quicker than him and but unfortunately, I finished P5.
It was a similar story for Round 4, the RACE BE in Zolder, with Spengler showing strong pace in the early rounds to pick up another victory at the Semi-Final stage before brake issues during the DHL Super Final consigned him to the back of the field, dropping him to eighth overall in the King of the Weekend standings.
“It was a very disappointing DHL Super Final,” he conceded. “We had a brake issue in the middle of the race and the final issue forced me to slow. We had a fantastic car, but we could not maximise the potential and points.”
Turning his attention to Round 5 and the RACE IT at Vallelunga, Spengler had high hopes of delivering a rewarding result for Romeo Ferraris on home turf.
However, instead of stepping on the podium, Spengler found himself in hospital after suffering a nasty high-speed crash. Glancing the kerb on the inside of the fast, banked Turn 3 right-hander, Spengler lost the rear of his Giulia ETCR, sending it skimming across the uneven gravel – briefly flicking airborne – before piling side-on into barriers.
With the hefty impact necessitating medical attention, Spengler nevertheless was back behind the wheel of the Giulia ETCR for the RACE DE Sachsenring finale.
Read about Spengler’s smash and his recovery plan
“I really want to thank the whole Romeo Ferrari family and team because they have been supporting me already before the accident, but during the accident and after the accident, like a family and we were always behind me,“ he said.
Alas, the final round would prove something of a struggle, Spengler off the pace around the flowing German venue during the initial exchanges. Nevertheless, he’d clawed back some ground come the DHL Super Final, ascending from sixth to fourth place, to leave him ninth in the overall classification.
Though Spengler could be satisfied with his own sixth place finish in the drivers’ classification, he was otherwise disappointed for the Michela Cerruti-helmed Romeo Ferraris team to lose out to Hyundai in the race for second in the constructors’ standings.
“it’s a bit sad that we could not achieve more points to finish second in the Manufacturers’ standings which would have been awesome as we fought really hard for it,
“In the end, it was not enough and would have been awesome for the whole team the hard work they have done all the year long, night and day, to give them the second place in the championship, but we will come back stronger and fight better.”
Alfa Romeo Giulia
6th – 306 points