FIA GT Championship 18 - 20 September 1998 A1 Ring Austria Round Sunday 20 September 1998 - Race Report
The weather in Austria remains cool, overcast and dry, with no sign of the high winds originally forecast for today. The 500 km race starts at 13:00 - no rain is expected.
The thirty minute warm-up session saw the factory-entered teams take a back seat while the semi-works teams set the best times. Fastest was Marcel Tiemann in the Persson Motorsport Mercedes CLK-GTR, ahead of the leading Zakspeed car and the Panoz. "The car is good - both our cars are quick," Tiemann said. "I think the track suits the V12 quite well - there is a lot of torque, which helps. I think this may be a good chance for a good finish." His team-mates Bouchut and Mayldnder, who were fourth, were equally optimistic. "I think this is our best chance for a podium," said Mayldnder, who won here last year with Ludwig and Schneider. The AMG cars were eighth and ninth, having spent much of the session practising pit-stops. In GT2, Ortelli's Roock Porsche was fastest, ahead of the two Oreca Vipers, with the Wendlinger/Bell car having been repaired since yesterday morning's crash. "It's all right now - it was good in the warm-up and I'm looking forward to the race," Justin Bell said. "I think it will be a hard sprint today - a really good battle. This could be one of the better races !"
Karl Wendlinger took his first FIA GT victory at the A1 Ring today, at his home track. "This is more than I hoped for after the Qualifying, when we were 11th," the Austrian Oreca Viper driver said. Driving with Justin Bell, he made good progress up the field, taking the lead by lap 17. They were overtaken by their team-mates during the second stint, but regained the lead later on. "The car was very good, with good balance - we had no problems at all !" Second place in GT2 was taken by their team-mates, Beretta and Lamy, who suffered from brake problems from early in the race. "Karl was faster than me," Beretta said. "Congratulations." Wendlinger was not the only Austrian on the podium, as Franz Konrad finished in third place with his # 66 Porsche 911 GT2. "I'm very happy," he said, "Especially as we had a difficult start, when there was not enough room and Beretta hit me." Konrad Motorsports are now in second place in the GT2 Teams Championship, ahead of Roock Racing, who had another miserable day, with only one point for the # 58 car driven by Ahrle and Maassen.
It was an emotional race for AMG's veteran driver Klaus Ludwig, as the German, who has announced his retirement for the end of the season, won his last race on European soil. "It's a very emotional feeling," he said, after he and his young Brazilian team-mate Ricardo Zonta took a comfortable victory in the GT1 class. After a good start, Ludwig was overtaken by Schneider on the sixth lap, and lost further time after a spin. But the first pit stops changed everything, as the # 2 AMG Mercedes CLK-LM did not change their tyres, and Zonta, on warm tyres, took a good lead, leaving Webber five places behind. The # 1 Mercedes fought its way back, but was never in a position to challenge for the lead, and Zonta crossed the line 32 seconds ahead of Schneider. Schneider and Webber now lead Zonta and Ludwig by only 3 points in the Drivers' Championship. "The car was simply perfect," Ludwig said afterwards. "A very special thanks to Bridgestone as we did three hours in one set of tyres, with no tyre changes at all. That was maybe the key to our victory."
The Zakspeed cars, which have been in good shape all weekend, put up a good fight in the race, finishing up with a fierce battle for third place between Angelelli in the # 6 Zakspeed Porsche, and Allan McNish in the # 7 factory-entered car. The green privately-entered Porsche passed McNish on the second serious attempt, but then had to make a splash-and-dash pit-stop, which put them back to fourth. "Third was the best we could expect, and more than we hoped for," said McNish, whose co-driver Dalmas started from seventh on the grid. "We picked up where others made mistakes." Angelelli, in only his second race for Zakspeed, was very happy with his fourth place . "It was a great performance by the car, the team and the tyres," he said. Concerning his battle with McNish - "I was studying him a lot. Once I lost, and the second time, he made a mistake and I went past. I was his shadow !"
The older V-12 Mercedes CLK-GTR cars, entered by Persson Motorsport, put up a good performance in today's race. Christophe Bouchut, who had said before the race that he was going to attack, made a good start and got ahead of Schneider's AMG Mercedes. But Schneider tried to win the place back, taking them both off the track. They both recovered, but Schneider's subsequent tyre change possibly made the difference in the race result. Mayldnder and Bouchut were lying comfortably in the points when Mayldnder, leaving the pits on cold tyres, lost the car and went off at the end of the pit-lane. "He burnt the tyres out within 100m - they were practically on fire -" Bouchut said. Gounon and Tiemann had a less eventful race, lying third for much of the time and eventually finishing in fifth, having also raced on one set of tyres throughout. "I am very happy. I think it's the best we ever did. Even with the '97 car we could do good times. I enjoyed it very much," Tiemann said.
The McLaren F1 GTR, four years old and still racing, finished in sixth place to claim the final point, after a steady race. This is their last appearance in this year's Championship, as Bscher and Lees will not be making the trip to the United States. "We had a quick cruise," Lees said. "I'm pleased with the result - it was the best we can do. We're happy. But the end of the season has come too quickly for me."
The Freisinger Motorsport team, who only joined the Championship at the last round at Donington Park, finished in a fine fourth place in the GT2 category today. After a fifth place in Donington, drivers Kaufmann and Ligonnet were pleased with their result. "It's better than Donington - it's getting better each time," Frenchman Michel Ligonnet said. "We hope for third in America !" The car was understeering badly, and they had problems with their tyres in the second stint, so all in all the result was good, especially considering the problems they had during the rest of the weekend, which had drastically reduced their running time in the dry.
The Krauss Race Sports Porsche 911 GT2, which lost all the second qualifying session yesterday after a fire in the electric system, rose from their 10th qualifying place to finish once more in the points. "We worked really hard," M|ller said. "More was not possible today. Our car weighs 1100 kg, and on this track with tight bends and hills it was very difficult."
"If you know anyone who needs a driver for Laguna Seca" Geoff Lees, Davidoff Classic.