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Bahrain: Mike Rockenfeller race report

Mike Rockenfeller finished the FIA GT Championship season in the same place he started -- in the winner's circle. Rockenfeller, of Monaco, and Marc Lieb of Ludwigsburg, Germany, had already secured the GT2 class championship before the final...

Mike Rockenfeller finished the FIA GT Championship season in the same place he started -- in the winner's circle. Rockenfeller, of Monaco, and Marc Lieb of Ludwigsburg, Germany, had already secured the GT2 class championship before the final race of the season in Bahrain on 25 November, but that didn't slow their pace. They took the class pole position, victory and fastest race lap, for a 2005 series tally of six pole positions, six wins, 10 podium finishes and six fastest race laps in 11 races.

The Bahrain event was the first race in which Rockenfeller's and Lieb's No. 66 GruppeM Racing Porsche 996 GT3 RSR carried less success ballast than their teammates' No. 88 Porsche. They took advantage of the lighter weight, leading the class in every track session.

Rockenfeller qualified on the GT2 pole position with a lap of two minutes 1.468 seconds (160.39 kilometres per hour) on the 5.441-kilometre Bahrain International Circuit, his third pole of the season. He drove the first stint of the three-hour race, dropping back to second at the start, but quickly regaining the GT2 lead on the second lap.

"The other car, 88, overtook me on the first corner. I was on the inside and had a better start than he had, but all the GT1 cars in front of me braked really early and there was another car beside me, so I was stuck," Rockenfeller said. "But it wasn't too bad; I overtook him on the second lap. I had a lead of 15 seconds, then they had a problem with a water hose and had to pit. From that point on, our lead was quite big because that was our main competitor."

When Rockenfeller pitted for a driver change, the car's air jacks failed, forcing the crew to use manual jacks to raise the car. ''Our air jacks were both broken, so both pitstops we had to use manual jacks, like NASCAR," Rockenfeller said. "We obviously lost a lot of time, but we made it up on the track."

Lieb drove the second stint, also holding the class lead, and Rockenfeller returned for the final drive to the checkered flag. He set the fastest GT2 race lap en route to a three-lap margin of victory.

-syliva proudfoot-

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