PHOENIX VICTORIOUS IN DUBAI MULLEN/NIARCHOS WIN GT2 BUT MELO IS THE CHAMPION A fantastic race event at the Dubai Autodrome was crowned with the victory of the Aston Martin DBR9 entered by Phoenix Racing and driven by Jean-Denis Deletraz and...
PHOENIX VICTORIOUS IN DUBAI
MULLEN/NIARCHOS WIN GT2 BUT MELO IS THE CHAMPION
A fantastic race event at the Dubai Autodrome was crowned with the victory of the Aston Martin DBR9 entered by Phoenix Racing and driven by Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini. Their first win of the season, after coming so close to winning the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, also saw the Italo-Swiss duo claim second place in the GT1 Drivers Championship. GT2 saw victory go to Scuderia Ecosse's nr 63 Ferrari 430 GT2, driven by Tim Mullen and Chris Niarchos. They finished ahead of the two AF Corse cars. Melo and Vilander were second, giving Jaime Melo the 2006 GT2 Drivers Championship, while Aguas and Salo, third today, were also third overall. The Dubai spectators filled the immense grandstand and the amphitheatre, and were treated to an action-packed GT race.
Deletraz and Piccini put in a superb performance to win the tenth and final round of the 2006 FIA GT Championship, at the Dubai Autodrome. Their nr 5 Aston Martin DBR9 behaved perfectly throughout the race, and the two drivers crossed the line 49 seconds ahead of the nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette of Longin, Kumpen and Hezemans, with the nr 2 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 of Davies, Biagi and Vosse third. "For a first year with a new team, it's fantastic. In some races, we have been really close to winning. It was very important for us and the partners to do the race this weekend. We're in a good position for the winter time," Jean-Deletraz said afterwards
A fuel problem and oversteer delayed the Corvette, which nevertheless put the most pressure on the winning Aston Martin; a last minute splash and dash saw the GLPK car 49 seconds behind the nr 5 Aston Martin at the chequered flag. However, Mike Hezemans was pleased with the result : "The car was the best it had been all year, the tyres were fantastic. I must say congratulations to Jean-Denis Denis, because he won the race; I think they really did a fantastic job. We always have a problem, because we always start the seasons so badly. I hope we can compete well next year from the very beginning."
Third was an excellent result for Davies, Biagi and Vosse, especially considering the car carried 105 kg penalty weight in total. The podium was especially sweet for Vosse, who did not get to drive the car during his home race in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. The team's second car, with Champions Bertolini and Bartels and their Belgian team-mate Eric van de Poele, finished 11th overall after a long pit stop and a drive-thru penalty further to a collision with the nr 69 Porsche.
Dubai, which so nearly saw the first non-manufacturer win for the Aston Martin DBR9 last year, proved to be good for the Aston cars this weekend, with not only victory for Phoenix, but the three other cars finishing in fourth to sixth positions. Fourth place went to the Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9, after a fine start from Babini, leading the race until lap eight. The team's second car, driven by Gollin and Ramos, finished sixth. In the Manufacturers Cup, Aston Martin scored a total of 173 points this season, finishing ahead of Maserati, Corvette and Saleen.
The Race Alliance Aston Martin was delayed by an early puncture, but recovered to finish fifth for Karl Wendlinger, Philipp Peter and Jarek Janis. This was despite a problem for new Aston driver Janis, whose seat-belt came partially undone during his stint, giving him great problems. The points for fifth assured Jarek Janis of third position in the GT1 Drivers Classification, ahead of his former Zakspeed Racing team-mate Sascha Bert. The nr 9 Saleen had an unfortunate puncture in the early stages, causing damage which took a number of laps to finish. The car rejoined the race on lap 16, finishing 22nd overall and 8th in GT1.
MULLEN AND NIARCHOS VICTORIOUS IN GT2; MELO TAKES THE TITLE
The GT2 victory went to Mullen and Niarchos, in the nr 63 Ferrari 430 GT2 of Scuderia Ecosse, who started from pole. The new British GT Champions put in an excellent performance, and dominated the category all weekend. However, the ten points were not enough to promote Mullen to third in the Classification, as he was followed by the two AF Corse cars. Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander finished second, giving Melo the GT2 title. Aguas and Salo were third today, struggling with a problem in their car, but it was enough to guarantee their third place and the AF Corse domination in the GT2 driver's top three. Mullen finished the season just half a point behind Salo and Aguas, to take a well-deserved fourth.
The nr 79 Spyker Squadron C8 Spyder of Bleekemolen and Kane led the GT2 race, but eventually finished fourth. The nr 55 JMB Ferrari finished fifth, despite a collision with the nr 23 BMS DBR9, for which it received a drive-through penalty. The nr 75 Ebimotors Porsche put in an excellent performance despite starting on the penultimate row further to an engine change; it led the category for much of the middle hour of the race, but finally dropped back to sixth after developing power-steering problems. The second Ebimotors car was seventh, ensuring Ebimotors third place in the GT2 Teams Classification behind AF Corse and Scuderia Ecosse. Eighth and final point went to Christian Ried and Horst Felbermayr Jr in the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 996 GT3 RSR.
LARBRE COMPETITION FINISHES SEVENTH OVERALL
The Larbre Ferrari 550 Maranello, running in G2, was awarded 10 kg penalty weight by the GT Bureau, and also placed behind the GT1 cars on the grid. However, it drove a good race and claimed a seventh-place finish for 2005 Champion Gardel, Zacchia and Makowiecki. The drivers were pleased with the performance shown by the car, with its customer engine designed by Care Racing Development. The Gillet Vertigo stopped with a broken propshaft.
VICTORY IN G3 FOR SEILER AND PIRRI
The G3 category was won by Toni Seiler and Luca Pirri, in the nr 133 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBRS9. Both drivers were pleased with the performance of their car, and saw it as a good preparation for next year's FIA GT3 European Championship, which should finish the season in Dubai.
WHAT THEY SAID
Jean-Denis Deletraz: "For a first year with a new team, it's fantastic. In some races, we were really close to winning; we've been unlucky at times. It was very important for us and our partners to do the race this weekend. We're now in a good position for the winter time."
Andrea Piccini: "We knew the circuit very well, the Aston and the Michelin tyres as well, so we were very confident coming here. The car was always good, the tyres very consistent. Thanks to the Phoenix Team all year who have done an excellent job making it a great year. In the end, we're happy at the end to finish second in the GT1 Drivers Championship."
Bert Longin : "I missed my start at the beginning; I lost one place, then I caught it up again. Then I took another place and was in third position when the safety car came out. After the safety car I overtook Bartels and Babini. I thought I could keep the lead and stay a few seconds away, but then I got problems with oversteer. We're not a high budget team and we have to work hard to do this, but we're very happy with our result."
Mike Hezemans: "I drove as hard as I could. Sometimes you make super-quick times, and sometimes you go off a bit. The car was the best it had been all year, the tyres were fantastic. I must say congratulations to Jean-Denis because he won the race; I think they really did a fantastic job. The season was good, but we have a problem, because we always start the year so badly. I hope we can compete well next year from the beginning."
Jamie Davies : "The whole team worked very well. The car, this weekend, was very good for us. Obviously the 105kg in the car didn't help much. So we worked on the balance, the car was very, very good during the race, the Pirelli tyres were awesome during my stint especially. We tried very hard, it's been very good for us."
Thomas Biagi: "I'm sad that this the last race of the season, because these last six races have been fantastic, we were five times on the podium and we've had two victories. We had a very good end of the season, me and Jamie. I have to say many thanks to Maserati, Pirelli and my Vitaphone team."
Tim Mullen: "It's been a fantastic weekend for myself and Chris. We've dominated in every single session -- practice sessions, qualifying and the race. It's a great way to finish the year. The car has been absolutely brilliant; we've hardly changed the set-up at all. The tyres were brilliant. I'd just like to say that the track is absolutely fantastic to drive, and there was a very good, enthusiastic crowd this weekend. It'll be a real shame if we don't come back here next year."
Chris Niarchos : We decided before the weekend that as I missed a couple of races due to other commitments, that the priority this weekend was to see if we could get Tim up to third place in the Championship ahead of Mika and Rui. I got in, and Mike Rockenfeller got past me. The team decided that the best thing was to prioritise Tim's victory, and called me in early. Unfortunately for us, like usual, these guys just kept going and going. I've never been such a Spyker supporter before ! "
Jaime Melo : "First of all, I would like to thank Toni and the team for doing a superb job. The race was a bit tough at the beginning, there was a lot of confusion and I just tried to keep out of trouble. After that, Toni took over the car and did a very good job. For the last stint, we did a double stint with the tyres, and I tried to push hard to catch these guys, but it was not enough. It has been a very difficult Championship, very competitive, and I'm very proud to be Champion."
Toni Vilander -- nr 58 : "The race was OK. It was obviously not easy to come here just for the last race, and I enjoyed the possibility that AF Corse and Ferrari gave me. I did the middle stint and I think I did a decent job -- it was really nice to race with Jaime."