A nail-biting race, in front of 32,000 spectators, took the suspense in today's sixth round of the FIA GT Championship right down to the chequered flag -- and beyond. Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels fought up from the back of the grid in their nr 5...
A nail-biting race, in front of 32,000 spectators, took the suspense in today's sixth round of the FIA GT Championship right down to the chequered flag -- and beyond. Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels fought up from the back of the grid in their nr 5 Saleen, overtaking long-time race-leader Karl Wendlinger in the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 Maranello in the closing stages of the race. But a collision with the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche at the penultimate corner broke a rear wishbone in the Saleen, which limped across the line in second place, behind the Ferrari. However, the nr 17 was awarded a five minute penalty for failing to comply with parc ferme restrictions, which dropped it down to fifth, and gave the Vitaphone Racing Team the win. JMB Racing have appealed, and the GT results therefore remain provisional. In N-GT, Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard gave Freisinger Yukos Motorsport its second win of the season. Despite starting on pole, the Monaco-French duo trailed behind their sister car of Maassen and Luhr for much of the race. However, a late pit-stop dropped the nr 99 car to second, allowing Ortelli to take his third win in a row at the British track, with three different team-mates. New entrant Gruppe M Europe came in third, with 17-year old Jonathan Cocker becoming the youngest-ever GT podium-finisher, alongside 2003 race-winner Tim Mullen.
THIRD WIN OF THE SEASON FOR VITAPHONE
Vitaphone Racing Team has had a mixed weekend. Fastest in free practice, they lost their qualifying times from the fastest session, then had to change an engine which forced them to start from the back of the grid. After an impressive rise up from the back of the grid, which nearly turned to disaster on the penultimate corner, they provisionally regained the win after the the JMB Racing Ferrari was penalised. This was the third win of the season for the German team and their two drivers, Michael Bartels and Uwe Alzen : "The team did a great job and, we have improved the car again," Bartels said afterwards. "We were also running with ballast here and the car was still competitive. Now we have a chance to fight for the Championship; the team's motivation is growing and growing. Now we will use all our experience and contacts to get the car to the end of the 24 hours in Spa." The nr 11 GPC Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello, initially third, inherited second for Babini and Peter, with the nr 1 and 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars taking third and fourth. After their penalty, Wendlinger and Melo were classified fifth, ahead of Naspetti and Morbidelli in the second GPC car, with Care Racing seventh. Erdos and Newton took the final point for eighth, in the RML Saleen.
Pending the results of the appeal, Gollin and Cappellari lead the Championship with 45 points, eight ahead of Bobbi and Gardel. Bartels and Alzen are on 30 points, with Wendlinger, Babini and Peter all on 25. In the Teams classification, BMS Scuderia Italia continues to lead, with 82 points compared to 37 for GPC Giesse Squadra Corse. JMB Racing and the Vitaphone Racing team are provisionally tied on 30.
THREE IN A ROW AT DONINGTON FOR ORTELLI
Donington obviously suits Stephane Ortelli; he has now won here in the N-GT class every year since 2002. Teamed with Romain Dumas in 2002, Marc Lieb last year and now with Emmanuel Collard, he finished ahead of Maassen and Luhr to take the win, and also to become the first driver to be hit with the extra 25 kg penalty weight for winning with the maximum ballast of 50 kg. However, this will not come into force until Imola, as no penalty weights are carried at Spa. "We've been lucky all day -- we had a gearbox problem in the warm-up, which could easily have happened in the race," Ortelli said. "It's good to be back in the lead in the points. It's very special win for me -- I hope to come back next year for the fourth win in a row."
Gruppe M's Porsche 996 GT3-RS finished third, with Scuderia Ecosse's Ferrari 360 Modena driven by Kinch and Kirkaldy fourth. GPC Giesse's pairing of Pescatori and De Simone were fifth, ahead of Jordan and Warnock in the JWR Porsche. Jens Petersen's Porsche also finished in the points, with father and son team Gerold and Christian Ried taking the final point for eighth in the Proton Competition Porsche. In the Classification, Ortelli and Collard are now two points ahead of Maassen and Luhr. De Simone and Pescatori are a further ten points behind. Freisinger Yukos lead the Teams with 64 points, while Freisinger Motorsport is on 46 and GPC Giesse on 36.
The next race is at Spa, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Double points are on offer, with half normal points available after six hours, half after twelve, and the normal amounts after the full race distance.
A third class was racing at Donington today, with two TVR Tuscan T400R cars competing in the Spa 2 class, equivalent to the Group 2 at Spa. The nr 153 RSR car of Nigel Greensall and Lawrence Tomlinson finished 18th overall, ahead of the sixth-placed N-GT car, to the delight of the team. The nr 154 Chamberlain-Synergy car was involved in a collision with the nr 9 Zwaan's Viper, landing in the gravel.
The Race Story
Jump Start for Bobbi
The nr 1 BMS car swept into the lead at the start ahead of the pole car, the nr 4 Konrad Saleen, but was judged to have made a jump start, and was awarded a drive-through penalty. This dropped Bobbi down to 5th. The Konrad Saleen, Seiler at the wheel, spun into the gravel on lap 6, rejoining at the rear. Wendlinger took the lead in the nr 17 JMB Ferrari. In N-GT, Luhr overtook Ortelli at the chicane on the second lap for the lead
Lap 8 : 17 -- 2 -- 28 -- 11 -- 1 -- 7 -- 13 -- 18 / N-GT : 99 -- 50 -- 62 -- 88 -- 71
Ferrari dominate the front
The situation stabilised, with the JMB car ahead of the nr 2 BMS and the nr 11 GPC Ferraris, with the nr 1 up to 4th. Bartels, starting from the rear, was up to 8th by lap 15.
Lap 22 : 17 -- 2 -- 11 -- 1 -- 28 -- 7 -- 5 / N-GT : 99 -- 50 -- 62 -- 77
Vitaphone takes the lead
After starting from the rear, and making an early first stop on lap 26 for fuel only, the nr 5 took the lead after the first round of pit stops, on lap 42. He had a lead of 20 seconds over Melo in the nr 17 car. The nr 18 JMB Ferrari made an impressive performance, with Malucelli at the wheel. In N-GT, the nr 62 had a long pit stop, with problems restarting.
Lap 47 : 5 -- 17 -- 1 -- 18 -- 11 -- 2 -- 7 -- 28 / N-GT : 99 -- 50 -- 88 -- 77
Bartels hands over to Alzen
On lap 55, the leading Saleen pitted, with the nr 17 retaking the race lead. Alzen took over the car.
Lap 56 : 17 -- 1- 18 -- 11 -- 2 -- 5 / N-GT : 99 -- 50 -- 88 -- 77 -- 65
Second pit stops gives the Vitaphone car the lead
The second round of pit stops, from around lap 72, put the nr 5 Saleen back into the lead. By lap 82, Alzen was leading Wendlinger by 33 seconds, but still had to make another stop. He pitted on lap 86 for fuel only. This put Wendlinger back in the lead, with the Saleen third. On lap 90, Alzen sets the fastest race lap : 1:28.906, and took second
Lap 92 : 17 -- 5- 1 -- 11 -- 2 -- 13 -- 3 / 99 -- 50 -- 88 -- 65
N-GT changes hands; Ferrari / Saleen battle for the lead
On lap 110, the nr 99 car came into the pits with a suspected right rear puncture; the wheel was replaced but the car had lost the N-GT lead to Ortelli and Collard
The nr 17 and nr 5 continued to lap in similar times, maintaining a gap of around 10 seconds, with the nr 1 BMS Ferrari also close behind the Saleen. As the end of the three hours approached, the nr 17 was low on fuel and had to slow slightly, while Alzen upped the pace, overtaking on lap 115 and pulling away.
Lap 115 : 5 -- 17 -- 11 -- 1 -- 2 -- 13 / N-GT : 50 -- 99 -- 88
Final Lap drama
Slowing for the race end, there was a collision between the race leader nr 5 Saleen and the nr 99 Freisinger Porsche, which broke the Saleen's wishbone. It hobbled to the line, but the nr 17 JMB Ferrari got there first.
Chequered flag -- lap 117 : 17 -- 5 -- 11 -- 1 -- 2 -- 13 / N-GT : 50 -- 99 -- 88
The nr 17 Ferrari was awarded a five minute penalty for infringing Parc Ferme regulations, with Karl Wendlinger having stopped at his pit at the end of the race, leaving the car, which was taken to parc ferme by other team members. This penalty has been appealed by the team, therefore the GT results are pending
Provisional GT results : 5 -- 11 -- 1 -- 2 -- 17 -- 13
N-GT results : 50 -- 99 -- 88 -- 65 -- 62