Ed Fahey, GT Correspondent
A very heavy rainshower preceded the race, after the damp and greasy track surface of the qualifying race, and this set a precedent for the action that followed. Following their qualifying race victory the #32 WRT Audi R8 of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor would start from pole position with the #38 All-Inkl.com/Munnich Motorsport Mercedes SLS of Markus Winklehock and Marc Basseng alongside them. The falling rain and very wet track meant a start under the Safety Car was the only option to begin the race.
After 4 laps behind the Safety Car, in which #102 Mika Vahamaki in the Heico Gravity managed to spin off and recover, the field was released with Ortelli up front with Winklehock right behind him. Nikolaus Mayr-Meinhof in the #17 Vita4One BMW Z4 slid off at T15 just before the start/finish straight and then Ortelli stumbled just after T1, running wide allowing Winklehock into the lead and the #33 WRT Audi of Frank Stippller into 2nd, Ortelli quickly re-joining into 3rd with Fred Makowiecki in the #1 Hexis McLaren on another hard charge in 4th position.
An incident in the GT3 field between the #111 Rhinos Leipert Lamborghini Gallardo and the #105 Russia Bears Ferrari F458 left the Lamborghini stranded in a dangerous position just after T1, which led to another Safety Car period to recover the car, which coincided with more rainfall with heavy spray and poor driving conditions. It took a few moments for the cars to ‘settle’ under the safety car, but given the spray it was not surprising that not every driver would have seen the lights and flags.
Under the safety car the top 5 was #38 Winklehock, #1 Makowiecki, #32 Ortelli, #2 Alvaro Parente in the second Hexis McLaren and Frank Stippler in the #33 WRT Audi. During the Safety Car period, Mayr-Meinhof in the #17 BMW pitted with a brake problem, the front left wheel being removed to bleed the brakes, the car re-joining under the Safety Car so not much time was lost.
After 9 minutes the Safety Car came in, 2 minutes ahead of the opening of the pitstop window, Winklehock led away, but once again Stephane Ortelli slid wide at the start allowing Parente to take 3rd position for a McLaren 2-3. Parente was now on a charge, swopping positions with Makowiecki but ultimately getting ahead to secure second place. Another car on a charge was Toni Vilander in the #3 AF Corse Ferrari F458 rising from 7th position to the top 6 as the pitstop window opened.
Not long after this, Parente took the race lead from Winklehock at T9, as Ortelli dived into the pits, having clearly lost his rhythm to hand over to Laurens Vanthoor. This was unusual for Ortelli, given that he is regarded as a wet weather expert. Parente kept up his charge, pulling almost 5 car lengths ahead of Winklehock, who was being reeled in by Makowiecki, the superior wet weather handling of the McLarens showing a clear advantage over the Mercedes. Parente and Makowiecki are the more experienced drivers in the Hexis McLaren team, as Makowiecki took Winklehocks 2nd place, and to compound Winklehocks misery he then had to contend with Vilander in the #3 Ferrari. Not long after this Winklehock pitted the #38 car to hand over to hand over to team manager, Marc Basseng.
The rest of the compulsory pitstops then followed in quick succession. Makowiecki who had Vilander on his bumper pitted to hand over to Stef Dusseldorp, then Vilander pitted on the next lap to handover to Filip Salaquarda and race leader Parente pitted to hand over to Gregoire Demoustier. Demoustier inheriting the race lead after the pitstop window had closed, with Dusseldorp and Salaquarda not far behind. #38 Basseng was now 4th but with team mate #37 Nicky Pastorelli right behind him and Francesco Castellacci in the #4 AF Corse Ferrari F458 also very close.
Pastorelli was clearly feeling he was faster than his boss and shoved Basseng off line onto the grass along the start finish straight, passing him, also allowing Castellacci to benefit from the squabbling Mercedes pair and take 5th place, Basseng slipping to 6th. Somehow Pastorelli won’t be held in as high regard by his boss anymore after this impatient and unnecessary move.
Stef Dusseldorp was now on a charge, setting a Sector 1 time 2.5 seconds quicker than Demoustier and clearly eager to pass, flashing his headlights and braking very late, but unlike the Mercedes team mates, Dusseldorp made a tidy pass on Demoustier, passing on the start/finish straight and into the lead.
Pastorelli was now in a much tighter battle for 4th with Castellaci, Castellaci eventually taking it, while Basseng was sliding into the clutches of the WRT Audis with the #32 car of Laurens Vanthoor moving in on the Mercedes. The WRT Audis were running very close together in 7th and 8th, with Oliver Jarvis in the #33 Audi getting ahead of Vanthoor and then pursuing Basseng, getting ahead of the Mercedes at the T13 chicane.
Dusseldorp was well ahead in the lead #1 McLaren but his team mate Demoustier was falling into the clutches of #3 Salaquarda who was pushing very hard, Demoustier struggling to hold off the Ferrari. Laurens Vanthoor was also putting Marc Basseng until pressure, so maybe Pastorellis over eagerness to pass Basseng earlier was not a bad thing.
Salaquarda then made his move on Demoustier with a daring pass into the T13 chicane, but it was not to be, Salaquarda not quite far enough up the inside to make the pass and he hit Demoustier, spinning the McLaren, but both cars recovered, and close together, the Ferrari now in 2nd position. AF Corse clearly went into NASCAR mode at this point with Castellaci pushing Pastorelli wide coming out of the chicane onto the long straight, which was both a sloppy and unnecessary move.
With 6 minutes of the race remaining it was #1 Dusseldorp, #3 Salaquarda, #2 Demoustier, #4 Castellaci, #33 Jarvis and #32 Vanthoor in the Top 6, but then Salaquarda dramatically slowed and retired to the pits, just as the race stewards punished both AF Corse Ferraris with a 30 second penalty each for avoidable contact. This put Castellaci down to 6th from the 3rd place he had held on track.
Dusseldorp held onto win with team mate Demoustier 2nd and Jarvis elevated to 3rd after the AF Corse penalties were handed out. This also elevated championship leaders Michael Bartels and Yelmer Buurman to 7th place in the #18 Vita4One BMW Z4 with a small handful of points to just hold onto their points lead, after a weekend that Vita4One would rather forget, but the good result for Hexis puts Fred Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp back into the championship hunt, into 3rd place behind Marc Basseng and Markus Winklehock in 2nd place.
The see-saw nature of GT1World continued this weekend, at the previous round at the Slovakia ring it was Vita4One gaining the good results and Hexis having a torrid time, now the positions were reversed and Hexis enjoyed a fine weekend. What results will the penultimate round of the championship at the Nurburgring bring?