Abu Dhabi: Series race report

Birthday Boy Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch Take First Championship Victory in Abu Dhabi The first championship race of the FIA GT1 World Championship was won by Thomas Mutsch and Romain Grosjean in the nr5 Matech Competition Ford GT. Mutsch...

Birthday Boy Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch Take First Championship Victory in Abu Dhabi

The first championship race of the FIA GT1 World Championship was won by Thomas Mutsch and Romain Grosjean in the nr5 Matech Competition Ford GT. Mutsch had to battle hard in the early part of the race to hold a slender lead over Andrea Bertolini in the Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC12 but Grosjean, who celebrated his 24th birthday today, pulled away from the rest of the field to take the chequered flag over 20 seconds ahead of Qualifying Race winner Marc Hennerici in the nr13 Phoenix Racing / Carsport Corvette Z06. It was a double celebration for the Corvette team when Andrea Piccini took the final podium position after his partner Mike Hezemans started from the back of the grid. Earlier in the day the qualifying race was won by Marc Hennerici and Andreas Zuber.

Qualifying Race

Marc Hennerici and Andreas Zuber became the first points scorers in the FIA GT1 World Championship by taking the chequered flag from pole position in the qualifying race at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The nr13 Phoenix Racing / Carsport Corvette Z06 with Zuber at the wheel crossed the line 2.2 seconds ahead of the nr5 Matech Competition Ford GT of Thomas Mutsch after Romain Grosjean went from 11th on teh grid to 2nd before handing over to his German teammate. The Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC12 of Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels a further two seconds up the road in third to round out the top three points scorers. During to an infringement of the sporting regulations Zuber and Hennerici were dropped 10 places and would the Championship Race start in 11th place promoting the Matech Competition Ford GT to the front of the grid.

Championship Race

From pole position Thomas Mutsch had to defend his position from the 2009 FIA GT Champion Andrea Bertolini while behind them Andreas Zuber was already moving up the grid finishing the opening seven places higher than his 11th grid spot. There were a few collisions in the midfield, with cars spinning and the nr8 Young Driver AMR Aston Martin DB9 of Christopher Nygaard pulled off the track into retirement. The nr 4 Swiss Racing Team Nissan GT-R returned to the pits to also retire.

Meanwhile back at the front Mutsch and Bertolini were fighting for the lead with the Ford GT holding back the Maserati at almost every turn with the nr 25 Reiter Lamborghini of Ricardo Zonta coming under pressure from Zuber's Corvette, the Austrian sweeping into 3rd on lap 3. The leading two cars soon became three as Zuber latched onto the battle for the top spot and for the next five laps the top 3 were nose to tail at almost every turn.

The pit window opened on lap 12 and Mutsch was the first car in to hand over the car to Romain Grosjean just after Zuber had found a way around the nr1 Maserati to take the lead. Bertolini pulled into the pits on the next lap to hand over to Michael Bartels while Zuber continued to circulate around the Yas Marina circuit. The lead Corvette pitted on lap 14, handing over to Marc Hennerici, and emerged from the pit lane tunnel to see Romain Grosjean in the nr5 Matech Ford GT sweep past into the lead.

Meanwhile the Nr14 Corvette of Mike Hezemans was also moving up the order and after handing over to Andrea Piccini, the second yellow Corvette was in 4th place and closing rapidly on Bartels in the nr1 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC12. On lap 23 Piccini put the nose of the Corvette down the inside of the Maserati and moved into 3rd place under braking for Turn 8. At the front of the field Grosjean's Ford was pulling away from Hennerici's Corvette and in teh closing stages was a very comfortable 20 seconds in front while Piccini was closing the gap to his teammate.

However the chequered flag came out to end the first Championship Race in the FIA GT1 World Championship with Romain Grosjean celebrating his birthday in style. With a total of 31 points Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch hold a 5-point lead in the drivers championship over Andreas Zuber and Marc Hennerici. With 41 points from the weekend, Phoenix Racing / Carsport hold a ten-point lead over Matech Competition in the FIA GT1 World Team Championship.

Romain Grosjean

"The main function of the team going out was to have a clear track with new tyres for the second stint. We kept them for the second stint and I can tell you it is much harder to lead the race in the pit garage than in the car. Thomas did a fantastic job and knew exactly what he should do as well as the team and I think we are very happy to win the first championship race for GT1 World. We have to thank everybody and think a bit about Natacha and to give her a part of the win because yesterday she had a misadventure, shall we say, and is feeling okay."

Thomas Mutsch

"Thanks to Andrea Bertolini who was very fair, I was trying a little bit at the end with my tyres as I think we were one of the only teams who started on used tyres that had already done more than over half an hour. But the team did an amazing job. They really worked so hard over the winter. I can tell you it was many times that they worked later than midnight, so I was also a long time there, but all the mechanics and engineers did an amazing job and really pushed really hard from the end of last season to build and develop a new car. Really, really congratulations to them because without them it would not happen."

-source: fia-gt1

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Ricardo Zonta , Andrea Piccini , Michael Bartels , Mike Hezemans , Andrea Bertolini , Marc Hennerici , Andreas Zuber , Romain Grosjean , Thomas Mutsch
Teams Nissan Motorsport , Phoenix Racing