A race-ending crash saw the final FIA GT1 World Championship decided in favour of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock of the All-Inkl Mercedes team, while Fred Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldop capped off another dominant weekend for HEXIS McLaren by winning Sunday's dramatic and shortened Championship Race at Donington Park.
With light spots of rain falling on the track, the race was barely underway when the red flags came out after a big shunt at the Craner Curves. Laurent Groppi in the #10 Sunred Ford GT and Niki Mayr-Melnhof in the #17 Team Vita4One BMW Z4 came together towards the back of the field, causing both cars to spin off at one of the circuit's fastest points. Groppi hit the tyre wall particularly hard, and although he was fortunately uninjured, significant damage to the barrier necessitated a lengthy delay while it was repaired.
There was a single-file restart with 56 minutes to go, with the remaining cars retaining the positions they'd held before the stoppage. Polesitter Fred Makowiecki, no longer in contention for the drivers' title but fighting for third in the teams' standings on behalf of HEXIS McLaren, set about establishing a healthy lead for the #1 car, while Peter Kox, driving the sole Reiter Lamborghini entered for this round, had moved up from fourth to second, ahead of WRT Audi's Laurens Vanthoor in third. In fourth place, All-Inkl Mercedes' Nicky Pastorelli led Alvaro Parente in the second HEXIS McLaren.
As the race approached pit-window time and on-form Parente got into fourth ahead of Pastorelli, who then swapped places with All-Inkl's team manager Marc Basseng in the other Mercedes SLS. Amidst it all, an opportunistic Enzo Ide in the #4 AF Corse Ferrari sneaked through into fifth ahead of both cars. All-Inkl's team formation was shortly disrupted by Oliver Jarvis in the #33 WRT Audi R8, who overtook Pastorelli to take seventh. Pastorelli in the #37 car was now on track just ahead of the #38 crew's championship rival, eighth-place Michael Bartels in the #18 Vita4One BMW.
Just before the pit window opened, Jarvis attacked Basseng and took sixth place through the Goddards hairpin on lap 12. On the next tour, Parente continued his charge by passing Vanthoor for third at Coppice. When the pits opened, a very quick stop from Vita4One saw Bartels' co-driver Yelmer Buurman emerge right behind Frank Stippler, who'd taken over the #33 Audi from Jarvis. With the championship in his sights, Buurman wasted no time in getting past the Team WRT car. This put him right behind his and Bartels' title rival Winkelhock, who had just taken over the #38 Mercedes from Basseng. If he could get the BMW ahead of the All-Inkl car, the title would go to the Vita4One pair.
However at this point, the incident that brought a premature end to the race occurred. Buurman had got alongside Winkelhock into Regdate corner, but as they exited almost side-by-side, there were multiple contacts that sent both cars spinning towards the barrier. Buurman's impact was particularly severe, dislodging a piece of the circuit's concrete wall and heavily damaging the rear of his BMW, while Winkelhock was also out of the race. The damage to the barriers was too severe to repair immediately, so the race was stopped early with 12 minutes remaining on the clock.
The final GT1 race win of the season thus went to Makowiecki and Dusseldorp in the HEXIS McLaren – making this their second double-win weekend of the year – while Peter Kox and Stefan Rosina continued Reiter Engineering's strong finish to the season with second place. Parente and Gregoire Demoustier made it a double podium for HEXIS with third place overall.
At the time of writing, the latest update on Buurman's condition was that he was conscious but would be taken to the Queen's Medical Centre in nearby Nottingham for precautionary scans. The incident between him and Winkelhock will also be investigated by the stewards, so the championship result remains provisional for now.
Update: Winkelhock and co-driver Basseng have been excluded from today's race but since he retired due to the crash, there were no points involved. At this time the standings remain provisional.
Story by: Stephen Errity