Richard Antinucci clinched the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Pro drivers’ championship by winning the opening race of the season finale event at Misano.
Solo driver Antinucci maintained the lead through a pair of safety car periods on either side of the pit window to win Friday morning’s 50-minute race from pole position.
The pressure on the Dream Racing driver was eased just before the halfway mark when his main title challenger Stevan McAleer saw his Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO retire due to a mechanical issue with Jeroen Mul at the wheel.
Second place for Jacob Eidson and Steven Aghakhani promoted the US RaceTronics pair above McAleer in the standings, however their 26-point deficit to Antinucci cannot be overturned in the final race of the season on Friday afternoon.
Antinucci held off Edoardo Liberati in the identical purple Dream Racing Lamborghini at the start, with Mul taking third from Aghakhani in the opening exchanges.
The safety car was brought out on lap two after a spin for Alan Metni and a puncture that caused Ashton Harrison’s Wayne Taylor Racing car to run slowly.
At the restart after six minutes on the race clock, Aghakhani returned to third with a move on Mul into the Rio right-hander, while Antinucci continued to lead the way from Liberati.
Antinucci’s advantage grew to around 2.5 seconds when the leaders started to hit traffic, shortly before the pit window opened after 20 minutes.
Liberati’s co-driver Dario Capitanio emerged from the mandatory stops with a reduced margin to make up, however it soon emerged that the No. 122 car had undercut its minimum pit stop time, resulting in a post-race time penalty of 1.179 seconds.
That turned out to be insignificant, however, as Capitanio collided with a backmarker whilst coming under pressure from Eidson.
The Italian’s Lamborghini sustained left-rear tire damage in the side-on contact with LB Cup competitor Bart Collins and consequently spun out, triggering a late safety car.
Antinucci’s advantage of just under a couple of seconds came down as the field bunched up, but the American driver managed to keep Eidson at bay during a nervy one-lap dash to the checkered flag to clinch his third Pro championship with a race to spare.
Solo driver Max Weering took third, ahead of Danny Formal who shared the No. 101 Wayne Taylor Racing Lamborghini with Kyle Marcelli.
The retirements for Capitanio and Mul resulted in Am class winner Luke Berkeley taking fifth overall for Dream Racing.
The 17-year-old wrapped up the category title in the process as his primary rival Metni retired following his opening-lap rotation.
Brandon Gdovic and Bryan Ortiz all but secured the Pro-Am title in qualifying, courtesy of Victor Gomez failing to take a pole position that would have kept the Puerto Rican driver within range.
Instead, Gdovic and Ortiz took a 30-point lead into Friday, but with 15 points on offer in each contest the Precision Performance Motorsport pair were always due to clinch the title on countback.
They ended up by finishing second in Race 1 after a dramatic final lap that saw Loris Spinelli rise from fourth to first in the No. 151 MCR Racing car started by Claudinei Senhoreti.
Gomez completed the Pro-Am podium ahead of class pole-sitter Jordan Missig.
In LB Cup, Mark Kvamme and Terry Olson provisionally banked the class championship by finishing third behind Michael Menella and race winner John Hennessy.
With erstwhile points leader Matt Dicken absent, Kvamme and Olson needed to score two points across Friday’s pair of races to reach the top of the table.
RESULTS: Misano Race 1 (provisional)