Just half a point seperate New Zealander Brendon Leitch and Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe title rivals Mattia Michelotto and Gilles Stadsbader, with the latter now holding the advantage having taken victory in the opening race of the final round at Vallelunga.
A late race charge fell just short for Leitch, who was forced to settle for second after hunting down Stadsbader but failing to find a way through to take the lead.
It sets up a winner-take-all season-finale on Friday night, with whichever car that finishes ahead claiming the 2023 title.
The Leipert Motorsport driver qualified on the front row, and slotted into second off the start, behind Michelotto, and the lead two pulled clear.
The gap was short lived, however, with an incident in the mid-pack bringing out a Safety Car just minutes in.
Michelotto controlled the restart, again putting a gap on Leitch, who also slowly pulled clear of third-placed Ugo de Wilde.
Once the pit window opened, lapped traffic slotted in between the Kiwi and the leader, resulting in him coming to the lane on the half-way point.
Michelotto followed minutes later, handing over to Stadsbader to bring the race home.
As a solo driver, Leitch’s stop is timed to take three seconds longer, which saw Stadsbader emerge on track with a 6.1-second advantage.
That gap was quick to reduce, and within 10 minutes the Dayle ITM Lamborghini Huracan was on the rear of the leader and looking likely to hit the front.
Stadsbader’s stubborn resistence, however, made this no easy task, and Leitch twice aborted a move up the inside at the Turn 12 hairpin.
On the third attempt, with minutes remaining, the two came together, leaving cosmetic damage on the left-rear of the leaders and the right-front of the Leipert car.
Leitch hit the front following the contact, but was wise to redress and slot back into second, avoiding a penalty as de Wilde’s teammate Rodrigo Testa continued to close in, from third, on the battle ahead.
Stadsbader went on to take the chequered flag over Leitch, also taking the championship lead for the pairing ahead of Friday’s season-finale.
Despite dropping to second in the standings, Leitch remains in a strong position to take the title, having qualified fourth for this evening’s race, while Stadsbader could only manage eleventh.
Race 2 begins at 11.00 pm NZ time and will be streamed on the Lamborghini Squadra Corse YouTube channel.
Header Image: Leipert Motorsport