A thrilling and close race round the Silverstone International Circuit was a perfect setting for the Centenary edition of the RAC Tourist Trophy. In front of 27,000 spectators, in the bright sunshine, Aston Martin turned their FIA debut into a fine one-two win, chased across the line by the Vitaphone and JMB Maserati MC12s and the Larbre Ferrari. Pedro Lamy of Portugal, and Peter Kox of the Netherlands gave the British manufacturer entry a fine home win and the honour of winning the Tourist Trophy for the fourth time, after 1953, 1958 and 1959. The GT2 category gave British teams a one-two-three at home, with GruppeM's Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller winning ahead of Embassy Racing and Team LNT, while Balfe Motorsport won the G2 category in style. Despite the non-stop action and the heavy traffic around the tight and twisty circuit, there were only three non-finishes, and no safety car periods at all.
ASTON MARTIN WIN RAC TOURIST TROPHY
After a gap of 46 years, Pedro Lamy and Peter Kox brought the RAC Tourist Trophy back to Aston Martin, their Aston Martin DBR9 completing 134 laps of the 3.62 km circuit in the allotted three hours. The car finished just 1.9 seconds ahead of the team's second car, driven by David Brabham and Darren Turner, after a breathtaking final stint during which the two cars battled for the lead, all the while being chased down by the Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12 of Babini and Biagi.
Apart from the pitstops, the Aston Martin cars led throughout - first the nr 28, which started from pole, and was chased energetically by the GLPK Carsport Corvette early on - and then by the nr 29 car, which took the chequered flag. "To Aston Martin, the Tourist Trophy means a lot," Peter Kox said afterwards. "If I am really honest, I did not know the value of the Tourist Trophy previously, except that David Brabham really wanted to win it!
Then I realised it was something special. Obviously, we are very proud. Our team did a fantastic job, we had fantastic pit stops." Tim Keown, the Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, presented Lamy and Kox with the historic trophy. "The British round of the FIA GT Championship certainly fulfilled all our expectations in providing a perfect setting for the return of the Tourist Trophy in its centenary year. The Tourist Trophy is now, we believe, firmly back in the modern motorsports calendar, and this weekend's event certainly bodes well for us continuing to be associated with the FIA GT Championship for the Trophy in 2006 and beyond. The FIA GT Championship, with its world leading manufacturers, teams and drivers, offers the ideal platform for reviving what was the ultimate achievement in grand touring competition. We have now introduced a piece of British motor racing history to today's generation and that in itself is cause for celebration."
MAXIMUM POINTS FOR VITAPHONE'S BIAGI AND BABINI
Taking the third podium place, after a fine chase in the final stages, the nr 10 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12 claimed the maximum 10 points in the Championship, as the two Aston Martin cars, racing as manufacturer entries, are not eligible for points.
"For me and Fabio and the whole team this is a great result," Thomas Biagi said. "We didn't win, but we got the ten points, which is very important for the Championship. I had a good stint in the middle of the race; I followed the Aston Martin drivers, and I have to say thank you to him as he taught me the right line on this circuit, which I don't know as well as him, so many thanks !"
With the team's two cars finished in third and fifth positions overall, Vitaphone Racing Team added a further 16 points to their score, and now have a lead of 12 points in the Teams classification. The nr 15 JMB Racing Maserati MC 12 of Wendlinger and Bertolini was classified fourth overall, meaning that all four Vitaphone and the two JMB drivers are all tied in the lead of the Drivers Classification, on 22 points. They are three points ahead of Gabriele Gardel, who finished sixth overall after a fine race for the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello which the Swiss driver shared with reigning Champion Fabrizio Gollin.
The car was in the thick of the action throughout, and without a drive-through penalty, could have finished on the podium. Seventh place overall was taken by the nr 2 GPC Sport Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz, in its best result of the season. The remaining points positions were filled by the JMB Maserati of Peter, Buncombe and Rusinov, the Graham Nash Saleen of Hooker, Ardizzone and Panzavuota and the Russian Age Ferrari.
BRITISH TEAMS MONOPOLISE PODIUM IN GT2
GruppeM claimed its third consecutive win of the 2005 season when the team led an all-British one-two-three home in the GT2 category. Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller, in the nr 66 Porsche 996 GT3-RSR, had another close fight with their sister car, driven by Tim Sugden and Emmanuel Collard, in the first stint, but a long pit stop followed by a broken water pipe - a problem which has apparently never previously occurred in six years of racing this car - lost the 88 Porsche eight laps, and it eventually finished sixth.
"It was fantastic !" Marc Lieb said. "We had a very good battle with our sister car at the beginning. It was as close as the two previous races. It was close fighting and a lot of fun ! The team is doing an excellent job at preparing the cars. Today, we had a really good car, we could do consistent lap times all through the race and the pit stops were very quick. My team-mate did a fantastic job as well."
This gave the Embassy Racing Porsche, driven by Ben Collins and Neil Cunningham, its first podium finish, after disappointment in Donington in the British GT series and at Magny-Cours two weeks ago. "It is a great result for the team. It is our third race of the season and the team started from scratch over the winter period. Achieving a podium in the FIA GT Championship is a great result. I am really happy for the boys and all the work they have done," Collins said.
The third place went to Team LNT, giving the TVR its first-ever FIA GT podium finish. "It was a good weekend ! The boys worked a lot, so it is nice to go home with a trophy ! This weekend was quite last minute and mostly a test session. Third is a very good result for us !" said Jonny Kane.
They were followed by the GPC Sport Ferrari 360 Modena of Drudi and Rosa, giving the GPC team points in both categories - the only team to do so this season. The Proton Motorsport Porsche was fifth, with Sebah Automotive and Cirtek Motorsport taking the final points.
In the classification, Lieb and Rockenfeller lead Collard and Sugden by seven points, while GruppeM Racing has a 38 point lead over nearest rivals Scuderia Ecosse and LNT, tied on 11.
BALFE MOTORSPORT LEADS ALL-MOSLER G2
After the Monza and Magny-Cours rounds both saw good qualifying followed by disappointment in the race for Balfe Motorsport, the Mosler MT900 of Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire finally saw the chequered flag, finishing just behind the GT2 winning GruppeM Motorsport Porsche.
"It is good to see all the Moslers at the finish," Shaun Balfe said afterwards . "It was good for the manufacturer, Mosler Automotive, it was good for Balfe Motorsport as we proved that we are on the cutting edge as far as the Mosler's developments concerned. It is just great to finish. We can now go on and improve the car for the next rounds. We will wait and see".
All three Moslers - the most ever seen in a European race - finished, with Balfe 11th overall, the nr 102 Keen/Taylor car 16th and the nr 104 car, shared by Paul and Barrie Whight and Gavan Kershaw, 23rd. Top Eight GT1