FIA GT Championship 16 - 18 October 1998 Homestead Round Sunday 18 October 1998 - Race Report

Weather After clear, hot weather since the cars arrived at Homestead, today we had a taste of the sudden rainstorms common in this area. One hour into the race, the deluge started, and the wet race' boards came out. However, the weather remained extremely hot, and the track dried almost as soon as the rain stopped.

The Start Neither car involved in yesterday's second qualifying crash, the Ford Saleen Mustang and the Stadler Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2 took the start, leaving a starting grid of 26 cars.

The race, which started at 13:15 local time, started smoothly, with Zonta keeping the lead ahead of Schneider. Müller, in the #8 Porsche, however, made a poor start due to problems with the front tyres, dropping down to fifth behind the #7 Porsche and the DAMS Panoz. In GT2, Lamy took under two laps to take the lead ahead of the Marcos.

The Race What looked like being a processional race, with very few changes for positions in the top five places, took a dramatic change when the rain started, one hour into the 500 km race. However, the advantage gained by those teams who pitted just at the right moment to change to wet tyres, was negated by the quick arrival of the safety car. This regrouped the field, and meant that cars such as the #2 AMG Mercedes, which had kept slicks at their pit-stop, were able to change to wet tyres with only a slight loss of time. There were remarkably few victims of the rain, and the race was generally free of major incidents.

Zonta and Ludwig regain Championship lead Apart from a few laps behind the pace-car and when the track was drying, the #2 AMG Mercedes CLK LM led the race throughout. Schneider and Webber, who led the Championship coming into this round, put up a good fight until Webber slid into the gravel on lap 75. The car lost two laps at that point, and rejoined in sixth position, but Webber was soon lapping as fast as he had been before. Schneider took over at the final pit stop, and began to climb back up the field, finishing in fourth after passing the #12 Persson car two laps before the end.

"I am extremely happy," Klaus Ludwig said, after winning his penultimate race. "I have the best team-mate in the world. It was pretty tough - 1h 30 in a car is a bit too long for an old man. We made a perfect start, and we were a bit lucky with the rain and the pace car." His team-mate, Ricardo Zonta, was equally happy with his third win of the season. "I think it is very important that the race goes on until the next race to decide who wins the Championship. It's open !" Zonta and Ludwig now lead the Championship by 4 points.

Two Porsches on the Podium It was a good day for the Porsche team, with Alzen and Müller's #8 car finishing in second place, just ahead of McNish and Dalmas. Early in the race, McNish had put up a good fight, closely following Schneider in the #1 Mercedes, while Müller moved back up the field after his poor start. After the rain, the two Porsches were behind the DAMS Panoz, and it looked as if third place would once more be their best. But only ten laps from the end of the 141-lap-race, Eric Bernard collided with the tyre barrier, losing the car's bonnet.

A pit stop relegated them to sixth place. "We were running as quick as the Porsches, or slightly quicker, and it was a good race for second," Brabham said.

This left Dalmas in second, and Alzen in third. But an engine problem and misfires meant that the #8 overtook their team-mates for second.

Yannick Dalmas, who was involved in a spectacular crash at Road Atlanta last week, was pleased with his result. "We normally finish second or third," he said. "For Porsche and the team I am very happy to have finished on the podium. One week ago was very difficult for me, and I prefer not to think about it. I am very happy to be here, and to finish the race,"

Muller and Alzen, with second place, had their best result since Silverstone. "We tried to stay out of trouble - in the last few races, we've got into a lot of trouble as we were pushing too hard," Jorg Müller said. "I am absolutely happy to be here," Uwe Alzen added. "It's a big result for me, and I hope for good luck in Laguna."

Mixed Fortunes for Persson Gounon and Tiemann, in the older model #12 Persson Mercedes CLK-GTR, finished in fifth place, having run a strong, steady race. "It was OK. I came in when it started to rain, and went out on slicks. So when the pace car came out, I came back in to change again. But the car was nice to drive, and a lot of fun."

Bouchut and Maylander continued their run of bad luck and failing starter motors, their race finishing after 95 laps. "The engine kept on cutting out," Bouchut said.

The sole remaining Zakspeed Porsche finished seventh, after a relatively uneventful race.

Eighth win for the Viper Pedro Lamy and Olivier Beretta took their seventh win of the season, after their team-mates Wendlinger and Bell won the last round at the A1 Ring. They lost their early lead during the mid-race rain, when, amongst other things, Beretta picked up a cone on the front of the car. He tried to shake it off, before finally driving over the grass to dislodge it. Regaining the lead after the #56 Roock ran into technical problems, they finished a lap ahead. "We had a good car, did a good job, and had good preparation from Oreca," Beretta said. "It's great for me after last year," Lamy said. "This year, I've had 7 wins in GT2. The car has been very good all season."

The second Viper, driven by Wendlinger and Donohue, failed to finish, after a problem with the rear-axle.

Podium for Roock Roock Racing's Stephane Ortelli and Claudia Hürtgen had their best result of the season, finishing second at Homestead today, after leading part of the race. "It's a bit frustrating to finish second after leading, but it's good to be on the podium. The Vipers are quicker than us, and we hope to be quicker next race. We were a bit unlucky, as we ran three laps on the reserve tank before putting on wet tyres. Then the pace car came out, and we lost the advantage." Ortelli said. "The second place is good for the team, who have worked hard for the past sixth months. I'm very happy and looking forward to the next race." The Roock Sportsystem car, driven by Andre Arhle and Andy Pilgrim, was fifth in GT2.

Marcos third After problems with their engine in the morning warm-up, the Marcos LM600 driven by Cor Euser, Harald Becker and Christian Vann, finished in third place. "It was very hot in the car, but everything went according to plan," Euser said. "But the car went well, and the mechanics did a great job. When the water pump failed this morning, and the temperature went up to 130, we were afraid to lose the engine. But we are very happy to be on the podium."

Quotes "I am very happy. We had great qualifying and a very good race," Bruno Krauss, Krauss Race Sports team owner, 4th in GT2. "All the race was perfect. It's a great result for the team. Dunlop made a perfect tyre for the race."

Michael Trunk added "We finished ! We are not the fastest, but I did my best. The car ran well, but it was very hot. I was close to collapse because of the heat," Mauro Casedei, Haberthur #61, 9th GT2.

Final Word "The winner takes it all," Klaus Ludwig, on the next race in Laguna Seca.