Istanbul: Race report

VITAPHONE RACING TEAM AND GRUPPEM RACING DO THE DOUBLE AT ISTANBUL PARK Strategy was the key to the eighth round of the FIA GT Championship, held over a shorter race distance of two hours (instead of the usual 500km, three-hour format) at the ...


Strategy was the key to the eighth round of the FIA GT Championship, held over a shorter race distance of two hours (instead of the usual 500km, three-hour format) at the magnificent Istanbul Park. The race, covered live on Eurosport International, had to include two mandatory pit stops and at least one driver change, and each driver had to complete at least one 35-minute period of continuous driving time.

21,000 spectators attended the sunny weekend and cheered the one-two results for Vitaphone Racing Team in GT1 and GruppeM Racing in GT2. Both teams are leading their respective Teams Classifications, while in the GT1 Drivers Classification, Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Bertolini are still ahead, thanks to a third place finish in today's race.

In the GT2 Drivers Classification, GruppeM's Mike Rockenfeller and Marc Lieb are leading their team mates, the winners of today, by 26 points, with three rounds to go, while the Ebimotors crew of Emanuele Busnelli and Luigi Moccia had a consistent race, finishing third.

Maserati Corse Director, Claudio Berro, could not wish for a better birthday present, with a full Maserati GT1 podium and the Manufacturers Cup now being secured for the Italian manufacturer.


Since the Proximus 24 hours of Spa, the Vitaphone Racing team keeps on winning ! After a thrilling two-hour race, Michael Bartels and Timo Scheider, at the wheel of the nr9 Maserati MC12, took their second win of the season, ten seconds ahead of their team mates, and Oschersleben race winners, Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi.

All the team was very happy with this double and dedicated it to one of its mechanics, who tragically died in a car accident a few days ago. The Vitaphone Racing Team is now leading the GT1 Teams Championship by 22 points ahead of JMB Racing, while the team's drivers are now closing up on the JMB drivers, reducing the gap from 11 points before this round to 7 points, with three rounds still remaining. "We are very pleased with this first double of the season and with this 100% Maserati podium", Michael Bartels said. "Since Spa, everything has been like a dream for us, but I hope it is going to stay like that until the finish !"


Despite carrying the maximum handicap weight on a hilly circuit, and starting from 8th position on the grid, Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Bertolini, at the wheel of the nr 15 JMB Racing Maserati, maintained their leading position in the FIA GT1 Drivers Championship.

After a difficult start, when Andrea Bertolini spun in the first corner after a huge moment with the nr14 Lister Storm, the nr15 Maserati dropped back to the last position of the field. However, Bertolini managed to recover to ninth place just before the safety car period. The team chose to immediately change drivers, which enabled them to get to the second position by the time the safety car pulled in, after seven laps. During his stint, Karl Wendlinger could not withstand the pressure from Thomas Biagi, who, at the wheel of the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati, overtook him on lap 30. However, the JMB drivers were happy to finish on the podium and will fight to maintain their lead for the last three rounds of the Championship, in Zhuhai, Dubai and Bahrain.

"The Championship is too close to know the eventual winners", Andrea Bertolini said. "For the next race, all the leading cars are going to carry heavy handicap weights, so it is going to be close and fun." Karl Wendlinger added : "The third position is OK, we scored important points and we are still leading the Championship."


In GT2, Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden, in the nr88 GruppeM Porsche, chose an audacious strategy, and finally took their fourth victory of the season ! Their team mates, Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller, in the nr66 GruppeM Porsche, finished second, and were therefore unable to secure the GT2 Drivers Championship title, lacking 5 points.

Fastest since the beginning of the weekend, everybody was expecting another victory from the nr66 GruppeM Porsche. But when on lap 2 its sister car, the nr88 GruppeM Porsche, went to the pits to change the driver from Emmanuel Collard to Tim Sugden, it was a huge surprise.

"We were not the quickest this weekend, so we decided to try something different...", Tim Sugden said. "We decided to stop at the end of the second lap to change driver, and honestly we were hoping for a safety car! We were very lucky ! Just before the Safety car period, the nr 66 car was not far. Then Emmanuel [Collard] had a very long stint, with the same tyres. It was hard to finish ! This is a lucky victory !"

Emmanuel Collard finished just 1.8 second ahead of Mike Rockenfeller.


At the start, pole setter Piccini, at the wheel of the GPC Sport Ferrari, and Philipp Peter, at the wheel of the JMB Maserati nr 16, went straight on, which allowed Fabio Babini, driving the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati, to take the lead of the race. In the same corner, the nr 15 JMB Maserati driven by Andrea Bertolini went off and rejoined, without any damage.

With a battle raging behind him between the GLPK Corvette, the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati and the nr 16 JMB Maserati, Fabio Babini was able to pull out a gap of ten seconds on the nr6 GLPK Corvette. After a good fight with the Corvette driven by Mike Hezemans, very good in braking, and Philipp Peter's Maserati, Timo Scheider finally put the nr 9 Vitaphone into second position on lap 9.

After the nr 4 Konrad Saleen spun and hit the barrier, leaving debris on the circuit, the safety car was brought in. The nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati was the first to pit, followed after the 35 minute-period by most of the cars. This brought a lot of changes to the hierarchy. The first cars to stop managed to get to the top of the classification and when the safety car was brought in, the Larbre Ferrari was leading ahead of the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati. Michael Bartels in the nr 9 car quickly managed to overtake Gabriele Gardel, who was struggling with the rear tyres of his nr 11 Ferrari, to take the lead of the race. The Larbre car spun on lap 25 and rejoined in 7th position. Three Maserati cars were leading the pack, with Wendlinger in the nr 15 Maserati second and Thomas Biagi in the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati thid.

The Italian driver was pushing hard and managed to overtake the former Formula One driver just after the half-race mark.

The remaining of the race was more peaceful, with the hierarchy remaining largely the same, despite the last driver change overs for the three leading cars which allowed local hero, Can Artam in the nr 16 JMB Maserati to lead for a few laps before he pitted.

In a last attempt to finish on the podium, Andrea Piccini at the wheel of the nr 2 GPC Sport Ferrari 575 Maranello was pushing hard and overtook the nr 6 GLPK Corvette, just thirteen minutes to the end, to finish fourth.

After the end of the race, a penalty of 30 seconds was added on the Maserati nr 16 result for overtaking during the safety car procedure. This made them lose one position in the classification, to the benefit of the Larbre crew which 6th and thus scored 3 points - instead of the previous 2.


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Karl Wendlinger , Emmanuel Collard , Timo Scheider , Michael Bartels , Mike Hezemans , Luigi Moccia , Marc Lieb , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Can Artam , Andrea Bertolini , Mike Rockenfeller , Thomas Biagi , Gabriele Gardel , Emanuele Busnelli , Philipp Peter