The winning team also took the FIA GT Series Pro-Am class honours with drivers Andreas Simonsen and Sergei Afanasiev
HTP Gravity Charouz celebrated a second consecutive main race win in the 2013 FIA GT Series at Slovakia Ring this afternoon, but this time it was the Pro-Am entry of Andreas Simonsen (SWE) and Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) that took a shock but richly deserved overall victory.
In temperatures approaching 90° Fahrenheit the Slovakia Ring basked in not only bright sunshine but also pulsating GT3 action today. A first corner incident, intense on-track battles and a variety of iconic racing brands fought for positions tooth-and-nail, presenting a thrilling spectacle on the challenging 5.9kms circuit .
Andreas Simonsen escaped a first corner incident involving several cars to place second in the early running. When Stéphane Ortelli (MCO) was adjudged to have jumped the rolling start from his front row position, Simonsen took over at the front and quickly found some very impressive pace to take a comfortable lead.
Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) took over from Simonsen just before the pit window closed and the young Russian completed a solid final 25-minute stint to take the chequered flag with a 4.148s advantage, impressively holding off a late race charge by René Rast (DEU) in the Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra.
Rast had taken over from team mate Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT), who had placed 5th before the pit stops and after fighting his way up to second place, Rast mounted a serious charge for overall victory. It was however too late, as Afanasiev dug deep to defend the hard-won lead and Rast had to be satisfied with second place overall and a precious 25-point maximum score for the Pro Cup class victory.
Following Rast across the line was Laurens Vanthoor (BEL), who clawed back most of a 20-second deficit from the earlier drive-through penalty given to Ortelli. The young Belgian immediately set some scintillating lap times and overtook team mate and series title rival – Frank Stippler on the last lap to take away three, possibly crucial points, from the German. It was certainly a day to celebrate for the team as they rounded out a famous 1-2-3 Pro Cup result.
Frank Stippler, sharing with Sweden’s Edward Sandström had himself threatened to hunt for the Pro Cup class win after pressuring Rast intensely. The German eventually had to settle for the final rung of the podium in the #12 Audi R8 LMS ultra after a close shave in traffic put him at the mercy of Vanthoor.
A frantic first lap of the main race saw incident aplenty with pole sitter Sebastien Loeb (FRA) caught up in a first corner contretemps with Peter Kox (NDL) - Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter and Alon Day (ISR) - HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes. All three were forced to retired before the end of the first lap, with Day in the gravel, Kox with accident damage and Loeb with a puncture that ignited his front left bodywork causing him to pull of the circuit and scramble the safety car. The genesis of this incident started even before the race had begun when Stephane Ortelli jumped the start and the subsequent first corner melee shook up the order, allowing many cars to make up positions.
In another showing of immense promise the BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil took more points with a 5th placed finish for the #21 BMW Z4 of Ricardo Zonta (BRA) and Sergio Jimenez (BRA). The team were not just impressive on the track weekend as their mechanics scooped 2000€ for their quick work in the pits to scoop the FIA GT Series Pit-Stop Challenge.
Completing the podium in the Pro-Am class were GRT Grasser Lamborghini and Nissan GT Academy Team RJN. The former of these challengers ran in 6th place overall in the early stages with Hari Proczyk (AUT) recovering from slight contact with Sandström’s Audi to set up team mate Dominik Baumann (DEU) to consolidate a clear second place. Although losing their series points lead the Austrian team were satisfied to keep within striking distance of the Afanasiev/Simonsen pairing in the Pro-Am standings.
The Nissan GT Academy Team RJN duo of Wolfgang Reip (BEL) and Alex Buncombe (GBR) rounded out the podium after a competitive showing. Reip, using his ‘gamer to racer’ skills to the full, made up several positions at the start of the race and handed over the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 to Buncombe in a solid Pro Am 4th place. Buncombe then hunted down the AF Corse Ferrari of Fabio Onidi (ITA) to steal the final podium position in typically assertive style.
The Gentlemen’s Trophy class once again fell to the #50 AF Corse of Claudio Sdanewitsch (DEU) and Michele Rugolo (ITA). The pair sealed an impressive double victory after their qualifying race success to finish off an ultra-successful debut weekend in the FIA GT Series.
Taking second behind the Ferrari 458 Italia was the SMS Seyffarth Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of former DTM racer Hubert Haupt (DEU) and ‘Yenci Michael’ (DEU), both of whom made their series debuts. In 3rd place and accumulating more points toward their inevitable title success was the HTP Gravity Charouz pairing of Jan Stovicek (CZE) and Petr Charouz (CZE).
The penultimate round of the 2013 FIA GT Series will take place over the weekend of 28-29 September at Navarra, Spain before the big finale at the Baku World Challenge Powered by Aztexnika on 18-20 October.
Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT), Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS “I was happy I managed to pass through the accident at the start without damage, and I tried to push until the Safety-Car period was over, which was quite a long time. After that, I tried to stay with the guys at the restart, then we had a good Pit Stop, and René kept pushing until the end so it was all great. I think we had a very good and deserved (Pro Cup class) win today.”
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO), Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS “Obviously I made a mistake at the start, which was really close to the corner and basically I did a jump start. I was still behind Sébastien but when he came to the left I could not see him anymore and I went into first gear, I looked into my mirrors and I did not see him. I should have stayed behind but I did not expect him to be so slow at the start. I am sorry to him.”
Frank Stippler (DEU), Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS “I think the Audi was very quick on this circuit, even if we could have scored more points. I am very happy for the team because the guys did a good job, we had problem with the gearbox during the qualifying so the whole weekend did not start very well for us. It was a hard weekend but in the end we had good pace during the main race and we were better than we expected. So it was fine but it could have been better.”
Sergei Afanasiev (RUS), HTP Gravity Charouz - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 (Pro-Am) “There was pressure coming from outside and inside during this race because I knew that we were not fast enough on the circuit at the beginning of the weekend. During the last four laps I did some improvement with myself so I am glad with that. We are now leading the series points but there is a long way to go. We still have two races to go and the last one is a city race (Baku) so it is going to be a gamble.”
Hari Proczyk (AUT), GRT Grasser Racing – Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 (Pro-Am) “I think our main problem was that during the qualifying race we were hit and we spun. So, we had to start in 14th position, which was not easy but actually our start was perfect and I had a good battle with Von Thurn und Taxis and Sandström, and our speed was good. We are absolutely happy to be sixth overall because when we see from which position we came from this was an absolutely nice result for us.”
Wolfgang Reip (BEL), Nissan GT Academy Team RJN – Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 (Pro-Am) “My start was pretty good. I overtook five cars before the first corner but unfortunately I almost had to stop to avoid the crash in front of me and then I was at the back of the pack and it was pretty difficult to rejoin the cars in front. Alex (Buncombe) did a great job when he took over from me and we finished at the same position that we had more or less been all the weekend. Anyway, this is a nice track and I enjoyed racing on it so it was great experience.”
Michele Rugolo (ITA), AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (Gentlemen Trophy) “It was a perfect weekend and the car was really good. We had the advantage of having a team that knows the Ferrari very well. It might even have been easier for us to learn the track as we were using all the information coming from (Fillip) Salaquarda and (Toni) Vilander from last year. Compared to race one I think that we improved again, our pace was better and if we struggled a bit for the driver change during the qualifying race, it was almost perfect in the Main Race.”
Hubert Haupt (DEU), SMS Seyffarth Motorsport - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 (Gentlemen Trophy) “My last race in FIA GT was in 2005, so quite a long time ago. This weekend was a bit difficult because we had problems in Free Practice, then in qualifying and also during the qualifying race which we did not manage to finish. Yet, for the main race I think that we did a good job, my lap times were not bad, it was a nice weekend and it is nice to be back.”
Jan Stovicek (CZE), HTP Gravity Charouz - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 (Gentlemen Trophy) “We are happy to have some more competition in the Gentlemen Trophy class. However we are the only Gentlemen drivers that have no real experience, so for us it was impossible to compete with some of the drivers here this weekend. So, it was very difficult for us but we tried to give our best, get the best result and collect some good points for the points table.”
SRO - FIA GT