Mugello: Race report

RACE ALLIANCE AND EBIMOTORS WIN IN THE WET The weather, variable all weekend, played a significant part in this weekend's seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, taking place at the beautiful circuit of Mugello, in Tuscany. Heavy ...


The weather, variable all weekend, played a significant part in this weekend's seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, taking place at the beautiful circuit of Mugello, in Tuscany. Heavy rain started to fall as the cars lined up on the grid, and the start took place in a veritable deluge. However, as the conditions improved, once again, the cars and drivers taking part in the 2006 season treated us to a close and exciting race, with the top five cars finishing within 5.5 seconds of each other.

Race Alliance claimed its first FIA GT win, with Karl Wendlinger and Philipp Peter taking the chequered flag for the first Aston Martin victory of the season, ahead of the two Vitaphone Maserati cars. In GT2, Ebimotors proved once more that Porsche still reigns in GT2 when the conditions are wet, Collard and Riccitelli winning ahead of the Ferrari 430s of AF Corse and JMB GruppeM.


After a difficult start of the season for new Austrian team Race Alliance, the nr 33 Aston Martin DBR9 has made constant progress since Spa. Finishing eighth, then fourth at the Paul Ricard HTTT and claiming their first podium in Dijon, Wendlinger and Peter went one better today, with not only their first win, but the first win for an Aston Martin DBR9 in the 2006 season. Four different makes have been victorious in the seven races to date : four wins for Maserati, and one each for Aston Martin, Corvette and Saleen.

The Maserati cars led early on, with newcomer Scuderia Playteam ahead for the first hour, in the hands of Toni Vilander, followed by the nr 1 Vitaphone Maserati and the nr 23 Aston Martin DBR9. But the nr 40 spun off shortly after Vilander had handed the car over to his team-mate. Wendlinger overtook Babini for third, and took the lead when the Maserati cars pitted. Peter, on wet tyres while the Maserati MC 12s were on intermediates, saw his lead reduce as conditions improved. Wendlinger came back out on slicks and managed to keep his lead over the two Maserati cars, which were catching him fast in the end of the race. "We have been through some tough times. That's why today's win is all the better. The entire team has done an excellent job. And I must say -- Karl and I, we simply are a great team!" Philipp Peter said.


Vitaphone Racing Team placed its two Maserati MC 12 cars on the podium to extend their Championship lead today, giving Bartels and Bertolini a ten-point lead over their nearest rivals Piccini and Deletraz. "It's good to have both our cars on the podium, and I'm especially happy for our team mates because they came up from 8th position. It was not an easy race under the conditions out there," Michael Bartels explained, after finishing second ahead of Davies and Biagi. The nr 9 Zakspeed Saleen of Bert, Janis and Bertolini finished fourth, after another last-stint climb up the field for Janis, while the nr 23 Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9 and the Phoenix Racing DBR9 finished fifth and sixth respectively -- which will allow the nr 5 car to reduce its penalty weight and be more competitive once more for the next round in Hungary. Seventh went to the GLPK Carsport Corvette, with Balfe Motorsport happy to finish the race eighth and take the final point, especially after a trip into the gravel in the final stages. In the Teams classification, Vitaphone has a lead of 45.5 points over second-placed Aston Martin Racing BMS, who are just 0.5 points ahead of Phoenix.


The Porsche cars, which have been absent from the podium since Brno, first showed their intentions in the wet morning warm-up, when Emmanuel Collard set the best GT2 time in the nr 75 Ebimotors Porsche. As the rain continued, and the three-hour race started in heavy rain, Luca Riccitelli put in a starring performance, and was running up among the GT1 cars for the worst of the weather. He pulled out a huge lead over the following Ferrari cars, and was able to hand the car over to Collard with a healthy margin. They retained the lead, even after they were awarded a 30-second penalty due to having too many mechanics working on the car, to take their first win of the season, and the first for a Porsche this year. "We are happy to get this victory, but we still have more races to do, and why not another victory for Porsche ?" Collard said afterwards. They were followed by the battling Ferrari 430 GT2 cars -- minus that of pole-sitter Andrew Kirkaldy, which slid out of the race at the start -- and the nr 58 AF Corse car finally emerging victorious, to take second place and extend the lead Bobbi and Melo have in the GT2 points. Sugden and Alexander claimed a third podium of the year in the nr 55 JMB GruppeM Ferrari, with Aguas and Salo fourth. Fifth went to Mullen and Niarchos, allowing Mullen to move ahead of Kinch and Kirkaldy in the points. The Felbermayr Porsche was sixth, ahead of the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche, with Rosina and Konopka finishing 8th and taking the final point.


With second place for Bobbi and Melo, the AF Corse duo now have an eight-point lead over their team-mates Aguas and Salo. Mullen is third, ahead of his Scuderia Ecosse team-mates Kinch and Kirkaldy. AF Corse, however, has a 42.5 point lead in the Teams classification.


After some difficult races for the Gillet Vertigo, Belgian Racing came to the fore in the wet conditions and claimed a fine 16th place finish, to the delight of Bas Leinders and Renaud Kuppens. "It was nice to finish without any problems and now we're making good progress. We hope that in the last few races we'll be more competitive. We'll also have a better engine, about 40 horsepower more for Adria. We hope we'll surprise a few people."

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Karl Wendlinger , Emmanuel Collard , Michael Bartels , Luca Riccitelli , Bas Leinders , Andrew Kirkaldy , Renaud Kuppens , Philipp Peter , Toni Vilander
Teams Aston Martin Racing , AF Corse , Phoenix Racing , Team Zakspeed