Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent
Thomas Jager and Nicky Pastorelli matched the achievement of their All-Inkl Mercedes team-mates Markus Winkelhock and Marc Basseng by winning the second GT1 World Championship race of the weekend at Portimao, Portugal. The Basseng/Winkelhock car initially looked on for a repeat of its Saturday win, but after some furiously close racing following the pitstops, the Jager/Pastorelli SLS came out on top.
Polesitter Basseng had stayed at the head of the field after the first lap, while a fast-starting Fred Makowiecki (HEXIS McLaren) jumped up from his race-one finishing position of fourth to stand second after the first few corners. Further back, both Frank Stippler in the #33 WRT Audi R8 and Toni Vilander in the #3 AF Corse Ferrari 458 were spun out in the charge down to the first corner. Vilander pitted and retired immediately, while Stippler attempted to keep going after a visit to the pits, but eventually had to park the car.
Up front, Makowiecki immediately set about hounding Basseng for the race lead, but he also had to deal with the attentions of third-placed Yelmer Buurman in the #18 Vita4One BMW Z4. Pastorelli in the second All-Inkl SLS was not far behind either in fourth. Yet the top four remained finely poised as the pitstop window approached, despite several attempted passing moves. Pastorelli was the first of them to pit, handing the #37 car over to Jager, while the next lap saw both Basseng in the #38 Mercedes and Buurman come in together, pitting the All-Inkl and Vita4One pit crews directly against each other. The Mercedes team pulled off a quicker stop, which dropped Buurman's co-driver Bartels down to fourth.
Fred Makowiecki stayed out longer than the other leading cars to get some running in clear air, and initially it looked like the tactic had worked for HEXIS. Makowiecki's co-driver Stef Dusseldorp emerged from the pits a fraction ahead of the two All-Inkl Mercedes cars, which had lost time by battling hard with each other just after making their pitstops. Before long, Jager managed to snatch second from his team-mate Winkelhock with a daring move around the outside of turn 15. He then swiftly despatched with Dusseldorp, who was proving unable to match the first-stint pace of his co-driver Makowiecki, putting the #37 Mercedes into a lead it wouldn't lose.
Winkelhock passed Dusseldorp in almost identical fashion to his team-mate on the next lap, leaving the McLaren driver to soak up increasing pressure from Bartels' BMW in the closing laps. But their fight allowed fifth-place Peter Kox in the #25 Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo to make up ground, and he made robust move to pass the veteran German driver and snatch fourth at the very last corner of the race. Up ahead, Dusseldorp held on to third. At the time of writing, Kox had been summoned to the race directors, so it remains to be seen if the officials will judge his move to have been too robust and hand down a penalty.
Sixth place changed hands several times during the second half of the race. It was initially held after the stops by Laurens Vanthoor in the #32 WRT Audi, but he was clumsily spun out by Niki Mayr-Melnhof in the second Vita4One BMW. This earned the German driver a drive-through penalty, which promoted Andreas Zuber in the Exim Bank Team China Porsche to sixth. But unfortunately for him, the car gave up on the last lap, allowing a recovering Vanthoor to retake the place, just ahead of Francesco Castellaci's AF Corse Ferrari in seventh.
The weekend's race results leave Bartels and Buurman at the top of the GT1 World drivers' championship standings, just five points ahead of Basseng and Winkelhock in second. The series' next scheduled round is on September 29 in Russia, but with the cancellation of two planned rounds in China, replacement events could fall before then.