Imola: Race report

2005 FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP - Round 4 - Imola (Repubic of San Marino) Four thrilling races, four different winning cars - the 2005 season of the FIA GT Championship has truly got off to an amazing start. In the scorching heat, in front of 22,000...

2005 FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP - Round 4 - Imola (Repubic of San Marino)

Four thrilling races, four different winning cars - the 2005 season of the FIA GT Championship has truly got off to an amazing start. In the scorching heat, in front of 22,000 spectators, the three-hour race around the beautiful, but difficult circuit of Imola took a high toll on the FIA GT competitors, with an unusually high attrition rate and only 14 cars classified at the end. But the survivors - as well as those who did not make it to the chequered flag - put on a fantastic show in the difficult conditions, with the top six cars on the same lap just minutes from the end. In the end, however, the day belongs to GLPK-Carsport, who became the first overall Belgian winner when their Corvette C5-R crossed the finish line in first position, and to GruppeM, who claimed their third one-two of the season, with a fine win for Collard and Sugden after a perfect weekend.

The results remain provisional pending engine checks on the nr 6 and the nr 88 winning cars.

GLPK-CARSPORT AND THE CORVETTE TAKE THEIR FIRST FIA GT WIN

For the first time in nine years of racing, a Belgian team has claimed victory in the FIA GT Championship. GLPK-Carsport claimed its maiden win, which was also the first win for the Corvette C5-R. Mike Hezemans, Bert Longin and Anthony Kumpen put in a faultless performance, leading for nearly the entire three hours, except for a short time before their second pit-stop. Mike Hezemans, who claimed his seventh victory today, started from pole, after a major scare for the team. Faced with a broken gear-box after the warm-up, and considering retirement, the team managed to repair the car and took the start. "I didn't know how long it would last, so I decided to push very hard for the first laps, at least to give the spectators a good show. But after around 25 laps everything was feeling good, and I was very positive," Mike explained. Setting the fastest lap early on, he handed the car over to Longin without losing the lead. The Belgian put in a great stint, resisting pressure from Thomas Biagi, until he opted to let him through. "I knew they had to do an extra stop, so I decided to be cool out there today," he said. Anthony Kumpen took over, and when the Maserati pitted, was back in the lead "I had quite a comfortable gap of over thirty seconds, so I just had to keep ahead. But I was getting pretty worried, as you begin to hear all the noises and worry that there will be a problem with the car." They crossed the finish line 19 seconds ahead of the nr 11 Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello of Pedro Lamy and Gabriele Gardel, with the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 of Thomas Biagi and Fabio Babini third - three different cars on the top three places, within 24 seconds. "It is a great result after two near misses. It has also be a great weekend for me, as I got pole position, fastest lap and the win ! I am quite proud of myself today !" a jubilant Hezemans said.

COLLARD AND SUGDEN VICTORIOUS FOR GRUPPEM

Gruppe M claimed their third one-two of the season at Imola today, the two cars putting in an excellent race despite the scorching conditions. However, as in qualifying, it was the nr 88 Porsche of Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden which dominated the proceedings, Collard pulling out a good lead in his first stint, which was never to be closed by the nr 66 car of Lieb and Rockenfeller. The combination of the extra penalty weight carried by the Silverstone winners, and the heat - especially for Marc Lieb, who was racing without the cool suit - meant that the usual close battle between the two leading Porsches never took place. They were classified in 7th and 8th places overall, an excellent performance for GT2 cars. Third place in the class went to newcomers Lammertink, with regular FIA GT competitor Wolfgang Kaufmann and his team-mate Luca Moro, who was making his international race debut. Proton Competition finished fourth, with the Ebimotors Porsche fifth, after a difficult race, and the Vonka Racing Porsche the sixth and final car classified - an excellent result for the small Czech team.

In the Championship, GruppeM has a massive lead of 55 points over the second placed Proton Competition. However, there is a close fight for second between Proton, Scuderia Ecosse, LNT and Ebimotors - with the first and last in the group having the advantage, as both will be racing in Brno, while the British teams have a clash with their national Championship.

SECOND FOR LARBRE COMPETITION

French team Larbre Competition continued its excellent comeback to the FIA GT Championship with second place in today's race. The team put in a fine performance, with the nr 11 Ferrari 550 Maranello always towards the front. Eight points for second has put Gabriele Gardel in joint second place in the Championship classification, on the same points as Wendlinger and Bertolini, just one point behind leaders Biagi and Babini. Larbre Competition is lying third in the Teams classification, having finished in the points in each and every race. "It was too hot out there today - the last laps were very difficult," Pedro said. "I felt very bad after my first stint, but I was able to recover and get back in the car. We had a good set-up today. The Corvette was just too fast for us today, so second place is good. "

BIAGI AND BABINI TAKE THE CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD FOR VITAPHONE

For the fourth race in a row, Biagi and Babini, in the nr 10 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12, have finished in third place on the track. This remarkable consistency - added to the full points they received at Silverstone, when the Aston Martin cars did not score - has given them a slender one-point lead in the Drivers Classification. Running a four-stint strategy, as did all the Maserati cars, they were involved in some close fights with the Corvette as well as the Larbre and GPC Ferraris. Vitaphone now has a fine lead in the Teams classification, with nine points separating them from JMB Racing. The nr 9 car, which put in an amazing performance in qualifying despite 80 kg penalty weight, started off strongly but had to retire with a gearbox problem. The nr 10 car will now go on to Brno with the maximum 100 kg. " It is a very good result for us," Biagi confirmed. "The 80 kg was very hard today, and we will have 100 kg for Brno, but I am not worried. I won a lot of races in the Ferrari with 100 kg so I am still confident."

A RACE OF ATTRITION

Fourth place went to the nr 15 JMB Racing Maserati of Bertolini and Wendlinger, struggling with 70 kg ballast and bad oversteer, but putting in a regular race to score as many points as possible - as well as losing weight for the next round. The team's second car finished fifth, after two excellent stints from Philipp Peter at the start and mid-race. The nr 3 GPC Sport Ferrari 575 M Maranello was classified sixth, having been third until very shortly before the chequered flag. In what had been its best race to date by far, the Melo/Belloc car had a late drive-through penalty, and then ran out of fuel just three laps from the end. The final two points went to the nr 8 Graham Nash Saleen of Casoni, Panzavuota and Varini, as the seventh and last GT1 car to be classified in a hard race.

Among the non-finishers, the Russian Age Racing Ferrari went out early on, with a puncture following contact. The rapid Camathias/Ruberti Graham Nash Saleen lost a wheel before the start, and retired mid-raced as a consequence of the damage. The two Konrad cars had a difficult race, while the nr 2 GPC car, very fast early on, suffered a gearbox failure. The Lister had an engine failure, while the the Ram Racing Saleen crossed the finish line but just missed out on being classified.

SECOND G2 WIN FOR MOSLER

The Balfe Motorsport Mosler took its second consecutive win, finishing 9th overall, between the two Gruppe M Porsches and the Graham Nash Saleen. "I've never driven in such hot conditions," Jamie Derbyshire said afterwards. "We didn't know what to expect. Both of us, 35 minutes into our first stint, we were both shot, and on the radio telling them we were not going to be capable of driving at the speeds we normally do. They asked us to hang on. I got out and almost collapsed. I had to go back to the motorhome and lie down in the air conditionning and cool down. Then they came to tell me that Shaun was in a similar condition again, so I pulled my suit back on and came back out to do the last 25 minutes. To be truthful, I'm happy to get to the end of it. The GruppeM cars will always be tough to beat, but we're happy with what we're doing so far." The Vertigo Streiff failed to finish, stopping by the side of the track after 30 laps, while it had been running strongly.

-fia-

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Emmanuel Collard , Pedro Lamy , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Wolfgang Kaufmann , Marc Lieb , Jamie Derbyshire , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Thomas Biagi , Gabriele Gardel , Bert Longin , Philipp Peter
Teams Proton Competition , Larbre Competition