Starting off with dragons, drums and lions, the eleventh and final round of the 2004 season of the FIA GT Championship came to an exotic and exciting finish at the Zhuhai International Circuit in China. A fast-paced race saw a spirited fight between the two Maserati MC 12 cars and the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, while a relatively high-attrition race in N-GT saw GPC take its second win of the season, Maassen and Luhr claim the title and Czech team Vonka Racing achieve their first-ever podium.
Hot and humid
ONE-TWO FOR THE MASERATI MC 12
The two AF Corse Maserati MC 12 cars took a fine one-two in their first FIA GT Championship race after the cars' homologation was completed. Mika Salo and Andrea Bertolini were victorious, crossing the finish line just ahead of their team-mates Johnny Herbert and Fabrizio De Simone. Matteo Bobbi and Gabriele Gardel, in the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello were a fine third, after leading the race for the first hour, and fighting until the end, despite problems with their brakes and a longer pit stop due to adding water to the engine. "It was a good race, we made a good start. We could not keep up with the Ferrari at the beginning. But we had a good strategy and good tyres from Pirelli, and we did not have any problems whatsoever with the car," Mika Salo said.
The Care Racing Ferrari, shared by Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Christophe Bouchut was fourth, giving Lilian and Enzo third place in the GT Drivers Championship - meaning an all-BMS run top three in the drivers' classification for the second year in a row.
Karl Wendlinger, Tarso Marques and Iradj Alexander, in JMB Racing's nr 17 Ferrari 575 M Maranello, were fifth, ahead of Naspetti and Peter in the nr 13 GPC Giesse Ferrari, the nr 8 RML Saleen of Goodwin and Mallock, with Morbidelli and Babini, in the nr 11 GPC Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello, taking the final point for eighth.
There was less luck for the Vitaphone and Konrad Saleen S7 cars, both suffering from starter motor problems.
In the teams' classification, GPC Giesse took second place in the Championship behind BMS Scuderia Italia, while JMB Racing finished third.
Fourth went to the Vitaphone Racing Team, with Care Racing fifth.
The results remain provisional pending the scrutineering of the nr 1 and nr 5 cars.
GPC WINS IN N-GT
Christian Pescatori and Jaime Melo, who started from pole position, won in Zhuhai today, in the GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 360 Modena. The car had a faultless race and the Italian-Brazilian duo gave the team its second win of the season and third place in the Teams Classification. They finished ahead of Maassen and Luhr in the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche - who won the title - with Czech team Vonka Racing's Porsche an excellent third place, Konopka and Vonka having made just one pit stop today. "I am very happy to have won this last race of the season," Pescatori said afterwards. "It is very important for the team, for Pirelli, and for next year."
Ortelli and Collard, in the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, were not classified - their first non-finish of the season - after first a gearbox oil filter problem and then a spin into the gravel. They finished second in the Drivers classification, 3.5 points behind Maassen and Luhr, Ortelli narrowly failing to claim his third consecutive Drivers' title.
Hong-Kong based drivers Charles Kwan and Matthew Marsh were fourth, in their very first FIA GT race, behind the wheel of the nr 64 GPC Ferrari. The Proton Porsche was fifth, maintaining their record of scoring points at every race this season. Lieb and Sugden were eventually sixth in the Gruppe M Porsche, having looked likely to take third for much of the race, before a driveshaft problem dropped them to sixth.
SASCHA MAASSEN AND LUCAS LUHR : 2004 N-GT CHAMPIONS
Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr won the N-GT Drivers Championship today, finishing in second place in today's race. They started the weekend 4.5 points behind Collard and Ortelli, but as the nr 50 car failed to finish, second place was enough to give them the title. "This morning I woke up and felt we were going to be the champions," Luhr said. "We have won six races this year, we have been the fastest car for much of the time and I think we deserved to win this title. Sascha and I have been driving together for four years and this is our third title, so we are very happy."
Ortelli and Collard finished second in the classification, with Christian Pescatori third. He was followed by Alexei Vasiliev, while father and son team Gerold and Christian Ried were fourth. In the Teams classification, GPC Giesse Squadra Corse took third behind Freisinger Yukos Motorsport and Freisinger Motorsport.