Oschersleben: Post-race notes

OSCHERSLEBEN Oschersleben has always held an important place in the history of the FIA GT Championship, having been the first international series to ever race at the new German circuit in 1998. In recent years, the usual calendar date in the ...


Oschersleben has always held an important place in the history of the FIA GT Championship, having been the first international series to ever race at the new German circuit in 1998. In recent years, the usual calendar date in the second half of the season meant that it has often seen the first titles be secured. This year was no different, with British team GruppeM taking a sixth one-two of the season to place themselves out of reach of all the other GT2 teams. However, the fight goes on for all the other titles, with the situation remaining close in both GT1 classifications, and Lieb/Rockenfeller and Collard/Sugden still in contention for the GT2 Drivers title.

An exciting race around the 3.667 km circuit saw the Vitaphone Racing Team take a fine home win, their second victory in a row, with all-Italian duo Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi and their nr 10 Maserati MC 12 finishing ahead of JMB Racing's Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Bertolini, who further strengthened their Championship lead.

Once again, the GLPK Carsport Corvette proved to be the closest to the Maserati cars, with Anthony Kumpen, Bert Longin and Mike Hezemans taking a well-deserved third place after an eventful weekend. Fourth went to the Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7, driven by Jean-Marc Gounon and Robert Lechner, making a successful return to the Championship and giving the Saleen its best result of the season to date. The Reiter Engineering Lamborghini also made a good return, finishing 8th to take its first point.In GT2, weight proved to be the determining factor, with Tim Sugden and Emmanuel Collard taking advantage of their lesser handicap weight to finish ahead of Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller, who were carrying 75 kg penalty weight in their Porsche 996 GT3 RSR. Third place went to the Proton Competition Porsche of Gerold and Christian Ried - the team's second consecutive podium, consolidating the team's position as second in the Championship. Balfe Motorsport, making its last appearance in the 2005 season, claimed another G2 win after a fine performance for the Mosler, driven by Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire. Next stop, new territory for the FIA GT Championship, with a visit to Turkey and the new Istanbul circuit.


After their resounding victory in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, German team Vitaphone Racing Team put in another fine performance to claim a first three-hour race win in the 2005 season. The team dominated the front row in qualifying, with Michael Bartels taking pole position, and proceeded to win a close fight with the GLPK Corvette, the nr 10 Maserati MC 12 of Biagi and Babini taking the flag. The nr 9 car, which had led for part of the race, had starter-engine problems. This home win has strengthened the team's lead in the GT1 Teams Championship, where they are now 13 points ahead of JMB Racing. The team's four drivers are all tied on 46 points, three behind Gabriele Gardel and just 11 behind current leaders Bertolini and Wendlinger. With four rounds remaining, everything is still to play for. "I'm very happy to win my first race this year," Fabio Babini said. " It's important for Thomas and myself after not finishing at Spa. The car was really good for the whole race -- it was easy to put in fast laps and overtake other cars."


Despite carrying 100 kg penalty weight, the nr 15 JMB Racing Maserati MC 12 climbed up the grid from 8th to 2nd place, allowing the two drivers to extend their slender lead in the classification to eight points. Having worked throughout the weekend to optimise their race set-up, the team had an excellent strategy, which, added to the efficient pitstops, allowed the team to climb up from 8th to 4th place, while Karl Wendlinger gained a further two places in his final stint to take second. The nr 16 car, shared by Philipp Peter, Arjan van der Zwaan and newcomer Marcello Zani, started and finished in 5th position, giving the team an additional 4 points. ""I was trapped in traffic in the first stint -- it's not very easy to pass other cars here," Karl Wendlinger said. "So the team called me in early, to get some clear track. The car and tyres were very consistent through the whole stint. That let me push right to the end and put the Corvette under pressure, and I managed to pass Kumpen with two laps to go."


Throughout the weekend, the nr 6 GLPK Carsport Corvette driven by Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen and Bert Longin, was the nearest rival to the Maserati cars around the twisty Oschersleben circuit. Third in qualifying behind the two Vitaphone cars, the Corvette finished third, despite minor collision damage. "I had a perfect car and perfect tyres for 50 minutes," Mike Hezemans said afterwards. " I think that the Vitaphone Maseratis were on a slightly harder tyre than we were. Then I just had a little bit less grip and made a little mistake coming out of a corner when Fabio [Babini] overtook me. I enjoyed my stint ! It was good racing ! Then, in his stint, Bert had a collision with a GT2 car which spun into him. He came in earlier as the bodywork was damaged and Anthony had to do one hour and five minutes. We chose a soft tyre compound because we were lacking grip due to the accident. Everything was good until ten minutes to the end when Karl [Wendlinger] finally overtook him and we finished third."


It was difficult to elect the best driver performance in the Oschersleben round... The permanent media representatives had to make a difficult choice between two drivers and the winner is :


Mike has a long record in the Championship as he has taken part in 79 races so far in cars from eight different makes (Lotus, Porsche, Marcos, Lister, Chrysler, Ferrari, Corvette, Bitter) with 8 pole positions, 21 podium finishes and 7 victories. He is currently 10th in the FIA GT1 Drivers Classification, with one win, one third place and two fourth place. After putting the car on third position on the grid on Saturday, he had an amazing start in Sunday's race, taking second position in the first corner. In the fourth lap, he overtook Michael Bartels in the nr 9 Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 to take the lead of the race. He finished third after his Corvette got hit by a spinning car which damaged the front of the car and caused tyre wear. Mike also had to do most of the driving this weekend with his two teammates also committed to the 24 hours of Zolder.


British team GruppeM, which has dominated the GT2 category this season with six onetwo results, secured the GT2 Teams title at Oschersleben, bringing their points total up to 120. After suffering bad luck in the last two races, Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden took their third win of the season at Oschersleben, ahead of their team-mates Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller. Tim Sugden claimed pole, and pulled away at the start : "At the start, I was really keen to get some cars between me and Mike; once I'd managed that, I just pushed as much as I could and pulled out a gap before the first stop. We're very pleased to have secured the Teams' Championship; it's been a good effort from everyone through the whole year." With the absolute maximum 75 kg penalty weight, the nr 66 car found it hard to challenge their team-mates : "The start is difficult when you have GT1 cars behind you on the grid, because they have more power, so Tim managed to get away at the start. They were quicker the whole weekend, because we have 75kg ballast; there was no chance to close the 20s gap." For the next race, they will be back to 50 kg.


The Balfe Motorsport team rounded off its 2005 FIA GT campaign with third place in the GT2/G2 class in Oschersleben. The Spirit Kia backed team continued where it left off at Brno in the Czech Republic, being the closest to challenge the factory backed GruppeM Porsche team.

Shaun Balfe managed to take third place on the grid for the three-hour race and got a great start, passing Mike Rockenfeller in one of the factory Porsche's into the first corner, before having to give up second place later on the opening lap. A solid stint over the first hour gave the team a lap in hand over their nearest rival as Balfe handed over to team-mate Jamie Derbyshire. Jamie managed to maintain the cushion over the cars behind, despite struggling with an intermittent throttle problem causing him to take a trip across the gravel at one point as the car under steered wide. After Balfe took over at the controls once again for the final short stint to the chequered flag he settled in to a series of steady laps to make sure the Mosler MT900R made it to the cheqeuered flag in the last round for the team in 2005. "We certainly had our share of small problems in this race," said Balfe afterwards. Shaun feels that the FIA GT series has certainly played its part in moving the team forward and is looking forward to returning next year."The whole team has enjoyed racing in the FIA GT Championship this year. It's what the team and me as a driver needed to prove ourselves at the highest level. We are certainly looking forward to returning in 2006."


German team Proton, which has competed in more FIA GT races than any other team, finished on the podium for the second race in a row. Gerold and Christian Ried, with 34 points, are now lying joint third in the Drivers classification, and Proton is lying second in the Teams points, behind GruppeM and ahead of the Czech National team, Vonka Racing. However, Oschersleben was not all plain sailing for Proton. "We had some problems in the morning with the gearbox, " Christian explained. "But it was fine in the race, so thanks to the team for doing a good job in fixing it. The race was good for us; we had some problems at the front of the car, but it didn't stop us, so overall we're very lucky."


Bert Longin and Anthony Kumpen had a very busy weekend, which turned out to be slightly more eventful than they had planned.

"It was a tough weekend for us as the team was split in two between Belgium where we took part in the Zolder 24 hours and Germany for the FIA GT Championship," Bert Longin explained. "Unfortunately, we retired in Zolder on Saturday night as I hit a wall... Then, in the FIA GT race, in my stint, I was overtaking a GT2 Porsche when it suddenly spun and hit me ! But that was not all ! When flying from Belgium to Germany, the door of the plane suddenly opened and Anthony [Kumpen] and I were quite shocked. The pilot was not stressed at all but suddenly the plane lost speed and altitude and we thought "that is it...". The pilot then told us that he just read the plane manual and that it was possible to close the door while flying. So he did ! We could not believe it ! At the end of the race, Anthony told me I should walk home ! Anyway, we finished third and the fight with the Vitaphone Maserati cars at the start was so exciting ! I enjoyed watching it and think that the spectators, both on site and on TV, must have enjoyed it as well !" Anthony Kumpen agreed : "The race went well but we were struck by bad luck when a GT2 Porsche hit Bert [Longin]. This caused damage to the car and we lost twenty seconds. Bert made a shorter stint as we did not know how damaged the car was. The front splitter and the front left wheel were touched. Therefore, we had less downforce and the end was difficult. Still, we were happy to finish third. We were lucky to have Pirelli as the first six finishers had Pirelli tyres."


Konrad Motorsport claimed its best result of the season with a fine fourth place at the Nurburgring for Robert Lechner and Jean-Marc Gounon. The duo were sixth in qualifying, putting in a steady race performance to cross the line in fourth place, on the same lap as the winner. Frenchman Gounon, returning to the team for which he claimed two pole positions in 2003, was pleased with the result : "It was a good result for us and I would really like to thank Franz Konrad for asking me to race for him, and to show that the Saleen still has good potential. The race went very well; we're down on power compared to the Maserati cars, but the car was well-balanced, and the lap times were good right to the end."


Peter Kox led the Reiter Engineeringrun Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT to its first competitive FIA GT finish in 2005 at Oschersleben. The Dutchman, together with his German driving partner, Norman Simon, brought the car home in 8th place. The small Reiter Engineering team, in only its 4th FIA GT outing this year, never stopped fighting. Peter Kox attacked hard in the last quarter of the race taking back one of the two laps lost earlier due to a puncture, and the Lamborghini was one of the fastest cars on the track during that time. In the last ten laps of the race he caught and passed two Maseratis and two Ferraris. A tired Peter Kox said after the race: " I think I had two good stints and I'm happy to finish and score a point. It's hard work doing a double stint at this track because there is no chance to rest at any point, it's very physically demanding the whole time."

Team Principal Hans Reiter commented: "I'm happy with our performance towards the end of the race, when we were one of the fastest cars on the track.I think to finish 8th, with the little dramas we had, is more than I could have expected."


The Vitaphone Maserati team claimed their first front row of the season for their home race at Oschersleben. Michael Bartels claimed pole in the nr 9 Maserati MC12, closely followed by Fabio Babini in the nr 10 Maserati. Third went to Mike Hezemans in the nr 6 GLPK Corvette C5-R, while fourth for the nr 2 GPC Ferrari 575 Maranello made it three different types of car in the top four places. In GT2, it was Tim Sugden's turn to secure pole for GruppeM in the nr 88 Porsche, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller in the sister nr 66 car. Third went to Luigi Moccia in the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche 996 GT3 RSR.


At his home race, Michael Bartels claimed pole position for the second race in succession. He lapped the Oschersleben circuit in 1:22.991 in the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 he shares with Timo Scheider, but they were pushed hard ; the sister Maserati, the nr 10 car of Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi, was less than a tenth of a second slower to give the first all-Vitaphone front row of the season. "Both qualifying sessions were very positive, they were like a dream," said Michael. "We've continued here as we finished at Spa, despite the penalty weight. From the first lap yesterday, the car has been very competitive. We have a lot of ballast on the car, so we've had to work on the set-up to compensate, and that gave us a good base for today. It's great to have a Vitaphone front row as it's our home race as a team, and for us as a German driver pairing. Also it's important to start from pole as it's quite a narrow track, making it difficult to overtake. " The grid was closely fought, with less than a second covering the top six cars ; Mike Hezemans, who claimed third in the nr 6 GLPK Corvette C5-R, felt that if he had put in a perfect lap with the car set up right, he could have been on pole; "But it's not a perfect world," he lamented. Current Championship leaders Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger had more to worry them, the nr 15 JMB Maserati MC12 down in eighth. "We lost our best lap on the second set of tyres when the red flag came out," explained Wendlinger. "But even without that, we couldn't get near the pace of the Vitaphone cars; for some reason, our car is just too slow this weekend."


British team GruppeM continued its nearperfect domination of the GT2 category when Tim Sugden claimed pole position in the nr 88 Porsche, making the most of carrying less weight than the sister car. "We had no problems here, and we wanted to be quick," Tim said. "We've had so much bad luck in the last few races, but it's always good when you're on pole." Lieb and Rockenfeller had to settle for second place in the nr 66 car, carrying 75kg ballast and finishing 0.250s slower. The GruppeM team look almost certain to claim the Teams' Championship on Sunday. Third went to the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche of Emanuele Busnelli and Luigi Moccia, over two seconds behind both GruppeM cars. The sole G2 entry, the nr 101 Balfe Mosler MT900R of Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire, had an untroubled qualifying, ending with a time of 1:28.541.

NEXT RACE : ISTANBUL (TURKEY) - September 16th - 18th 2005

The circuit is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, and was designed by Herman Tilke, the architect behind a number of circuits. The circuit which runs anti-clockwise is 5,333 km long with an average width of 14 to 21,5m. The circuit is made of 14 curves of which 6 to the right and 8 to the left. The start/finish straight is 655,5m long and will enable the GT cars to reach their maximum speed. The circuit is located 6km from the junction of Kurtkoy on the north side of the TEM motorway, linking Istanbul to Ankara. The circuit is close to the newly constructed airport Sabiha Gokcen Istanbul Airport (8km). Coming from Yesilkoy Ataturk International Airport : Km 0 : Exit the airport on the right hand side Km 4 : Take D100 direction Istanbul and Camlica. Km 35 : Take motorway 04 (E80) direction South (Ankara, Samandira) Km 60 : Exit the motorway at Kurtkoy and follow the signs to the circuit for 6km. Km 66 : Arrival at the circuit The Istanbul FIA Championship round will be held on a maximum duration of two hours, with full live television coverage on Eurosport. There will be two mandatory pit stops and at least one mandatory driver change. The minimum continuous driving time per driver will be thirty five minutes.


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Franz Konrad , Karl Wendlinger , Norman Simon , Emmanuel Collard , Timo Scheider , Michael Bartels , Peter Kox , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Luigi Moccia , Marc Lieb , Christian Ried , Shaun Balfe , Jamie Derbyshire , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Jean-Marc Gounon , Andrea Bertolini , Mike Rockenfeller , Hermann Tilke , Thomas Biagi , Gabriele Gardel , Bert Longin , Arjan van der Zwaan , Robert Lechner , Emanuele Busnelli , Marcello Zani , Philipp Peter
Teams Proton Competition , Reiter Engineering