The Vita4One Racing BMWs recorded a one-two finish in an entertaining Qualifying Race at the Slovakia Ring in round six of the FIA GT1 World Championship.
The drivers’ championship leaders Michael Bartels (DEU) and Yelmer Buurman (NLD) in the No.18 BMW Z4 added to their points haul by leading home the sister No.17 car of Mathias Lauda (DEU) and Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof (AUT).
“With a one-two it’s a great day for the team,” Bartels, the Vita4One team boss said. “As I say, in this championship the Saturday points are crucially important for the championship result so I am happy to add eight to the account today.
“We didn’t have too much tyre degradation and we were able to run consistent lap times, I think that was the key for us today. The BMW seems to be suited to the infield sector that’s where I think we have an advantage over the others.”
Buurman added: “Michael did a great job getting the gap and then when I got in the car it was quite close for the first couple of corners but the tyres came in really quickly and I was able to keep the gap until the end.”
Third was the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG No.38 of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock. The German pair were followed home by the No.37 Mercedes of Tomas Jager (DEU) and Nicky Pastorelli (NLD).
Winkelhock is confident of mounting a strong challenge from third position for tomorrow’s Championship Race. “I think we have a bit of work to do to sort out the oversteer for tomorrow’s race but then I think we’ll be in a good position. We’re still in a fighting position for the Championship so I’m pretty happy with P3.”
Given the closeness in performance throughout Free Practice and Qualifying, it was likely that the pit stops would shape the outcome of the race.
As the pit window opened, Bartels was followed in to the box by Winkelhock. Buurman and Basseng resumed in the same running order.
But the No.17 BMW conceded third place to the No.37 Mercedes at the driver-tyre change. Lauda handed over to Mayr-Melnhof, who made a slow exit allowing Nicky Pastorelli to get ahead.
However, Mayr-Melnhof regained the place with a daring pass at Turn 6. The Austrian then got the better of Basseng’s Mercedes to round out a solid race for BMW.
Mayr-Melnhof was delighted with the result after getting by both Mercedes. “I was head over heels into the second and third corner and I had to calm myself down a bit. As soon as I was passed the second Mercedes, I just found my rhythm and brought the car home.
“I am very, very happy with second place and to be part of this great team effort,” he said.
Stephane Ortelli (MON) and Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT No.32 finished fifth despite a sluggish pit stop. The race pace of the Audi was impressive towards the end and a podium may have been on the cards had it not been for the pit stop issue.
Oliver Jarvis in the No.33 Audi R8 LMS ultra, who was part of a five-car battle for the lead in the early stages, suffered a left rear puncture at Turn 10 with just 17 minutes elapsed. By the time Jarvis limped slowly back to the pits he had lost two laps to the leaders and the car was retired.
“It made sense to continue particularly as we need the tyres for tomorrow,” Jarvis conceded.
Darryl O’Young and Peter Kox (NLD) were sixth for Lamborghini in the Reiter Engineering No.25.
Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Slovakia’s Stefan Rosina made the start in a replacement Lamborghini No.24 after a crash by von Thurn und Taxis in Qualifying wrote off the original.
A replacement Gallardo was summoned from the Reiter Engineering workshop in Germany and was prepared in time to take its place at the rear of the grid.
A 10-second stop and go penalty was the tariff for a change of chassis. Von Thurn und Taxis eventually brought the car home in 11th place.
Toni Vilander (FIN) and Francesco Castellacci (ITA) were the best of the Ferrari’s in seventh. It was another tough day at the office for the Hexis McLarens who were eighth and ninth.
The Sunred Ford GT No.10 of Milos Pavlovic (SRB) and Andreas Zuber (AUT) sat out the race because Pavlovic was unwell.
Source: FIA GT1