Veteran Dutchman Peter Kox and talented Slovak racer Stefan Rosina have taken the Reiter Lamborghini team's first win of the 2012 GT1 World Championship in the series' first race of the weekend at the Nurburgring in Germany. They led home the WRT Audi duo of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor, while the highest-finishing championship contenders were Markus Winkelhock and Marc Basseng in third. Fellow title protagonists Fred Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp started from pole, but retired with suspected suspension failure early in the race.
At the start, the combined GT1 World and GT3 Europe field made it through the Nurburgring tight first few corners without incident. However, further around the lap, championship newcomer Jeroen Bleekemolen spun the #24 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini at the Schumacher-S, hitting the barriers hard. He escaped serious injury, but the accident brought out the safety car, which remained on track for the first 20 minutes of the race.
The restart saw an alert Alvaro Parente (#2 HEXIS McLaren) take sixth from championship challenger Michael Bartels in the #18 Vita4One BMW. But shortly afterwards, a very positive weekend for the pole-sitting #1 HEXIS car of Stef Dusseldorp and Fred Makowiecki took a turn for the worse, as Dusseldorp suddenly retired from the lead with suspension failure. That promoted the #32 and #33 Team WRT Audi R8s to first and second place, with Stefan Rosina and Markus Winkelhock third and fourth in the #25 Reiter Lamborghini and #38 All-Inkl Mercedes respectively.
With 20 minutes running having been completed under the safety car, it wasn't long after the restart that the mandatory pit stop window opened. Bartels and Jaeger pitted together, and delay during the stop for the Vita4One BMW saw Jaeger's co-driver Nicky Pastorelli emerge ahead of Bartels' team-mate Yelmer Buurman. But they both gained a place due to an even longer delay for the #33 WRT Audi that had been running second – Oliver Jarvis slotted in seventh after taking the car over from Frank Stippler, and would rise no further before the end of the race.
Rosina handed the #25 Lamborghini over to Kox, and as well as benefitting from the #33's misfortune, they also managed to get out of pits quicker than the #32 Audi, now being driven by Vanthoor. “I saw straight away that I could keep them behind me,” Kox explained, “so I pushed hard for the first half of the stint, and then concentrated on keeping it clean to the end.” Vanthoor complained of not being able to get temperature into his tyres quickly enough after the stop. “I pushed hard once I found the rhythm, and we finished only two seconds behind,” he said.
Parente's co-driver Demoustier came out of the pits in fourth, and as Pastorelli and Buurman fought hard over fifth, his position looked secure. But when Buurman finally got past the Mercedes driver, it was not long before he had caught and passed the McLaren, too, courtesy of a better exit from the circuit's final chicane. He was now not far behind his direct championship rival, All-Inkl team manager and driver Marc Basseng, who had inherited third thanks to the #33 Audi's slow stop.
Basseng was held up momentarily by a backmarker, which allowed Buurman to close right up in the last 10 minutes of the race, but the Dutchman couldn't find a way past. “I thought from yesterday that it would be hard to get heat into the tyres,” said Basseng, “but it was actually okay. The tyres didn't degrade, so I could defend hard right to the end.”
The result means the points gap between Bartels/Buurman and Basseng/Winkelhock at the top of the standings has been reduced to only five, while Makowiecki and Dusseldorp's retirement has dealt a serious blow to their hopes of closing up their larger deficit in tomorrow's race. In GT3 Europe, Giuseppe Ciro and Gaetano Ardagna-Perez's Ferrari retired early under the safety car, leaving Max Buhk and Dominik Baumann free to cruise to victory and take the 2012 series title.
Story by: Stephen Errity
See also Qualifying report by Stephen Errity