The 100th race in the history of the FIA GT Championship, at the challenging and spectacular circuit of Dijon-Prenois, saw the Vitaphone Maserati of Thomas Biagi and Jamie Davies claim victory in GT1 ahead of the Race Alliance and Phoenix Aston Martin DBR9 cars, while AF Corse's Matteo Bobbi and Jaime Melo were victorious in GT2, leading an all-Ferrari trio of Scuderia Ecosse's Mullen and Niarchos and the second AF Corse car of Salo and Aguas. This thrilling race, in front of 16,000 delighted spectators, was the crowning glory in a weekend packed full of action, from the 100-race exhibition, starring the BMW Motorsport McLaren F1 GTR, through the VIP race experience laps for the public, the pit-stop challenge, a busy pit-stop and excellent on-track action in two frantic rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship, excellent single-seater competition from the Formula Palmer Audi cars and a look into the past with the FIA Historic Racing Championships. A fantastic weekend, much appreciated by everyone, and a fitting way to celebrate one hundred FIA GT races.
VICTORY FOR BIAGI AND DAVIES
The crew of the nr 2 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 have had a difficult season so far, collecting more than their share of bad luck. However, all went to plan for Davies and Biagi today, and the duo claimed a place in the history of the Championship with victory in the 100th race. Chasing the Zakspeed Saleen at the start, the car made an early pit stop. An incident involving the nr 9 Saleen saw the car penalized with a drive-through penalty, but it still emerged ahead, and from that moment only lost the lead during the pit-stops. "It is a great result for us, but also for Maserati, Pirelli and our team. We are trying hard since the beginning of the season to have such a result. Now we managed to do it, and I hope we can carry on like that, and also that now we will have luck until the end of the year,"Jamie Davies said.
RACE ALLIANCE : A PODIUM AT LAST
fter a difficult start to the season, things began to turn for Race Alliance in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. In round five, at the Paul Ricard HTTT, the nr 33 Aston Martin DBR9 qualified and finished in fourth position. In Dijon, the young Austrian team performed even better, with a third place on the grid and a fine podium finish in second place.
The car ran strongly throughout. Peter was third in his stint, but after the pit-stop, Wendlinger rejoined in fourth. He proceeded to put in a fine stint, catching and overtaking the nr 1 Maserati and the nr 5 Phoenix Aston Martin, and before the end of the second hour, saw Race Alliance lead an FIA GT Championship race for the very first time. In the final stint, Peter withstood pressure from Bartels and Piccini, but kept ahead to cross the line second, 19 seconds behind the winners. "We are delighted with this second position," Philipp Peter said. "We have had some problems since the beginning of the season, but we are working very hard and now we have a strong group of people who are working together, the right tyres, and with Karl Wendlinger we pushed as much as we can."
PHOTO FINISH FOR PHOENIX AND ZAKSPEED KEEPS THE BATTLE ALIVE
The battle for the GT Drivers Championship between the nr 1 Vitaphone crew of Bertolini and Bartels, and the nr 5 Phoenix Racing drivers Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini is definitely still alive, with the Aston Martin DBR9 finishing third today, two places ahead of the nr 1 Maserati MC 12. "In fact with the weight we are carrying, it is a really good result for us, and we have gained two points on the Maserati nr 1, which is more important for us," Deletraz explained.
Five points now separate the two with four races remaining. Phoenix, carrying 60 kg penalty weight, put in a fine run on the challenging track. An incident with the pit wall on entering for the final pit stop brought the car back out behind the nr 1 Maserati, but Piccini caught and overtook the car to move up to third. In the final stages, Piccini was being caught by the nr 9 Zakspeed Saleen, recovering after losing a lap in the gravel earlier on, with Jarek Janis catching his rivals by on average two seconds a lap. "I was over the limit everywhere," the young Czech driver said, who climbed from seventh to fourth in the last thirty laps. He crossed the line just 0.1 seconds behind Piccini.
The nr 1 Vitaphone Maserati finished fifth, and will lose a further 30 kg for the next round in Mugello, while still scoring four points. The two Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9 cars put in a formation finish in sixth and seventh positions, while the Lamborghini Murcielago claimed a first point for new team All-Inkl.com Racing. There were problems for both the nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette C6, which stopped by the side of the track early on, while the nr 11 Balfe Saleen lost all drive.
SECOND WIN FOR BOBBI AND MELO
Jaime Melo and Matteo Bobbi claimed their second win of the season today, with a dominant performance around the Dijon circuit. Taking the lead at the start from second on the GT2 grid, their nr 58 AF Corse Ferrari 430 GT2 lengthened its lead when the nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse and nr 59 AF Corse cars went off in the early stages. Both cars recovered and finished in the points, but it gave Melo and Bobbi a healthy lead which they kept until the end. "It was a fantastic race, I'm very happy to have won," Melo said. "We had just one chance, that was in the start of the race, to try and overtake the nr 62 car, and I got it. I got in front of him in the first corner, and just tried to keep to a good pace. I would like to say thank you to the team, and Pirelli has done a very good job as well. So thank you AF Corse and Pirelli, and Matteo of course. Without him we couldn't be here..."
The Italo-Brazilian duo have therefore strengthened their lead over their AF Corse team-mates to five points. A fine climb back up the field after their earlier problem saw Aguas and Salo claim the final podium place. "We are actually very happy to be third with the damage we have with the car. It was really difficult today. But I'm happy to have taken the car to the end," Salo said.
Second place went to the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2 of Tim Mullen and Chris Niarchos, the best result to date for the duo, who are also leading the Avon Tyres British GT Championship. "Second is a great result for me and Chris today and we're very pleased with that," Tim commented.
Once again, it was a Ferrari one-two-three, with the leading Porsche in fourth place : the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 996 GT3 RSR of Horst Felbermayr Jr and Christian Ried. The nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche of Luigi Moccia and Emanuele Busnelli was fifth. The team's other car, driven by Collard and Riccitelli, had been running in second place in the first hour, but stopped after a wheel problem saw the car spin out. Kinch and Kirkaldy recovered to finish sixth, despite a long pit-stop due to the wheel damage incurred earlier. ARC Bratislava Slovakia took its first points of the season, with a seventh-place finish for Konopka and Rosina, while the nr 69 Felbermayr Proton Porsche of Gerold Ried -- the man who has competed in the most FIA GT races -- and Horst Felbermayr Sr took the final point for eighth. The JMB GruppeM Ferrari of Gosse and Kutemann was ninth; the team's leading car had been running second behind AF Corse but stopped after 19 laps. The sole G2 car, the Belgian Racing Vertigo, had been running strongly but succumbed to alternator problems.
SIX ROUNDS DOWN, FOUR TO GO
Past the half-way mark, the points remain close in the Driver classifications. Bertolini and Bartels lead Piccini and Deletraz by five points, with Sascha Bert a further seven points behind. In the GT1 Teams, Vitaphone are 35 points ahead, with Phoenix Motorsport moving ahead of Aston Martin Racing BMS by half a point. Zakspeed is a close fourth.
In GT2, Bobbi and Melo lead by five points over their team-mates Aguas and Salo, with Scuderia Ecosse duo a further 13 points behind. AF Corse have a healthy lead of 34.5 points over Scuderia Ecosse, with Ebimotors fourth. In the Manufacturers' Cups, Aston Martin leads Maserati in GT1, while Ferrari dominates GT2.
The results are provisional pending the fuel analysis of cars 2, 33, 58, 63.