Having won the qualifying race at Slovakiaring in June, AF Corse Ferrari drivers Toni Vilander and Filip Salaquarda finally managed their first championship race victory of the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship season at the Nurburgring today. Second place went to title contenders Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock of the All-Inkl Mercedes team, who now lead the standings by just one point from Vita4One's Michael Bartels and Yelmer Buurman going into the final round at Donington Park in the UK next weekend. This weekend's race-one winners Peter Kox and Stefan Rosina were third, making it a double podium weekend for the Reiter Lamborghini team.
Although polesitter Kox and most of the field got through the first couple of corners without incident, Nicky Pastorelli in the #37 All-Inkl Mercedes set off a chain reaction further down the pack when he moved across in front of the #33 WRT Audi of Laurens Vanthoor. This in turn caused the young Belgian to hit the #2 HEXIS McLaren, being driven by Gregoire Demoustier. The McLaren retired on the spot with a missing wheel and Vanthoor pulled his car into the pits with a puncture shortly afterwards.
Up front, Kox pulled out a reasonable gap and looked to be on course for a repeat of yesterday's victory, while Vilander in the #3 Ferrari used the chaotic start to get up to second from his eighth-place grid slot. Basseng maintained his starting position of third in the #38 Mercedes. Buurman in the #18 BMW was able to pass Vanthoor for fourth as the Belgian slowed with his puncture, and he then set about resuming the battle with Basseng for third that had begun during yesterday's race. “I don't know how we made it to the stops in third,” said Basseng later, “as the car felt really slow. It feels good to lead the championship, even by a point, but Donington will be... stressful,” he smiled.
Further down the field, Fred Makowiecki was fighting to keep his and co-driver Stef Dusseldorp's GT1 title hopes alive. He passed GT3 entrant Giuseppe Ciro's Ferrari to take sixth on lap six, but then found himself stuck behind the newly crowned GT3 Europe champion Dominik Baumann's Heico Mercedes SLS. After several laps of frustration, including HEXIS the team manager asking the Heico team to get their driver to move aside, Makowiecki ran out of patience and nudged the Mercedes. He then proceeded to catch and pass Buurman for fourth, but it wasn't long before the stewards announced the #1 McLaren would have to serve a drive-through for Makowiecki’s actions.
Kox and Vilander pitted on the same lap, but when the #24 Lamborghini didn't immediately fire up after Stefan Rosina climbed aboard, Vilander's co-driver Filip Salaquarda found himself out in front once the pitstops were over – and there he would stay until the chequered flag. “As in Moscow, the cold conditions were good for us,” the Czech driver said afterwards. “Toni's good start made things a lot easier for me. I could push straight away after the pitstop, and then I saw no cars in my mirror, so I was cruising to the end.” Explaining his fantastic start, Vilander said: “The first corner has often caught us out this year, but this time it worked to our advantage. I braked earlier than most of the field, so I could take a tight line through the first corner, and then I fought a bit with Basseng in the second and third corners.”
Rosina's pitstop delay saw his Lamborghini lose two places – he finally emerged just behind Markus Winkelhock, who had taken over the #38 Mercedes from Basseng and now sat in second. “I knew there was a chance to pass Markus in the first few laps of my stint,” said Rosina, whose best attempt was a dramatic lunge into the Schumacher-S, “but I just couldn't make it stick – that's life.” Both he and Winkelhock complimented each other on their fair driving. “I knew I could defend once the tyres came up to temperature,” Winkelhock added, “but the first two laps were difficult – the Lamborghini was strong in a straight line and under braking.” Behind the top three, the two Vita4One BMWs finished fourth and fifth, while GT3 champions Baumann and Max Buhk got amongst the GT1 runners to come home sixth overall.
Story by: Stephen Errity