The fifth round of this years Superleague Formula by Sonangol campaign comes from Monza this weekend (October 2/3/4) where Liverpools Adrian Valles will be hoping to establish an unassailable lead at the top of the championship.
The Spaniard heads to Italy with a 58 point advantage over the chasing pack, headed by Tottenhams Craig Dolby, who leapfrogged Max Wissels FC Basel entry last time out in Portugal after the German suffered gearbox trouble in the opening race.
There is a third driver who Valles will be perhaps keeping the closest eye on in Italy however. A home favourite in more ways than one, Giorgio Pantano has every intention of making that title scrap a four way battle going into the final round at Jarama this November. The AC Milan driver has put together a consistent season so far to sit fourth in the standings, just 11 points shy of Wissel. But on home ground at Monza, a venue where he previously won in both GP2 and F3000, theres every chance that a second Superleague Formula victory of the season could be on the cards.
I hope to be fighting for victory this weekend, confirmed Pantano, who won race two at Magny-Cours. Normally I go quite well there in whatever car Ive got so hopefully that will also be the case in Superleague. My experience from those other championships should also help because as you get to know the circuit, and all the little lines, it all adds up to make you go faster.
A good result will also help with the championship fight, although that depends on what Liverpool do at Monza. I dont really care about just settling for points because I need to close the gap to Adrian (Valles) if Im going to have any chance of winning the title. If I win both races, or win one and get a podium in the other, then thats obviously a good result. Ill be giving the maximum I can so we can go to Spain in contention.
Monza has a lot of long straights, where you can use the push-to-pass, followed by heavy breaking areas so its easier to overtake there than at some other circuits. Its a place where, if you feel good with the car and its going well but youre at the back of the reverse grid, theres still a chance you can come through to the front.
With the Monza circuit set in parkland to the north of the Italian capital, Pantano is also expecting a good turnout of the passionate Rossoneri.
The team havent had such a great start to the season in Serie A so hopefully we can give them something to cheer about with a good result on the track! he added.
Joining Pantano at Monza will be series debutant and Formula 2 race winner Julien Jousse who takes over from Frank Perera at Milans Serie A rivals AS Roma. Tristan Gommendy will return to the FC Porto cockpit hoping to build on Alvaro Parentes victory for the Portuguese giants in Estoril last time out, while Jonathan Kennard will count on his previous Superleague experience when he deputises for Enrique Bernoldi at Brazilian side Flamengo.
As well as a host of driver transfers, the Monza round sees the adoption of a 39-minute +1 lap race format for each of the two races thanks to a packed support bill headed by International GT and F3 Open championships. For the same reason, there will be no Super Final in Italy, the five lap shootout instead returning for the final event at Jarama.
There will also be an extra special treat for AC Milan and Italian football fans on Saturday when 1982 World Cup winner Daniele Massaro pays a visit to the Superleague paddock. The two time UEFA Champions League winner, who scored twice in the 1994 4-0 final thrashing of Barcelona, will be on hand to sign autographs and cheer home the AC Milan car.