The final European round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship started off on a damp but drying track, ensuring an exciting start to an action-packed race round the tight and twisting Oschersleben circuit. Three hours later, in front of 25,000 ...
The final European round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship started off on a damp but drying track, ensuring an exciting start to an action-packed race round the tight and twisting Oschersleben circuit. Three hours later, in front of 25,000 spectators, Maserati's Mika Salo took the chequered flag, while the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello took maximum points, allowing Cappellari and Gollin to win the 2004 GT Drivers' title. Maassen and Luhr were victorious after a close N-GT battle, but with their two cars finishing in the top four, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport have now moved beyond reach of their competitors in the N-GT Teams Classification.
The race was strategically difficult, between those who opted for intermediate tyres on the damp track and those who dared to go for slicks. Two safety car periods closed up the field, which resulted in a thrilling race, full of change for the lead. The Saleen cars dominated the early stages, with first Walter Lechner Jr in the Konrad car and then the Vitaphone Racing Saleen in the lead, while the Graham Nash Motorsport car was a frontrunner until the final stint. However, a starter engine failure on the nr 4, suspension problems with the nr 5 and electrical problems on the nr 28 took them out of contention. The Maserati cars took over, first the nr 34 and then finally the nr 33, building up a one-lap lead to win their first race, ahead of the ever-present BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello. The N-GT cars, excelling as usual in the damp conditions, rose to as high as third overall, and a close battle for the lead between the nr 99 and nr 50 Porsches and the nr 62 Ferrari eventually went to the home team of Maassen and Luhr.
The results are final, pending the fuel analysis of cars 2, 8, 33, 99 and 62
Rain in the morning left the track damp but drying at the start; it was officially declared a wet race. During the race, it remained overcast but dry.
FIRST WIN FOR MASERATI
Having joined the Championship at the previous round, with special permission from the FIA on a non-homologated basis, the Maserati MC 12 took its first win today, putting in a fine performance in difficult conditions, avoiding all the collisions and potential traps. Despite radio problems, Mika Salo and Andrea Bertolini crossed the line with a lead of more than one lap, having lapped consistently and risen up the field as their rivals ran into problems. "For Mika and me, this has been a very hard race," Andrea Bertolini explained. "The strategy turned out to be very important. We started the race on intermediate tyres, which was difficult on the first three or four laps when the track was still wet. I have to thank Pirelli and the team, who did unbelievable work with the pitstop." Andrea was also victorious here last year, when he won the N-GT category. The nr 33 MC 12 will be on the maximum 100 kg for the next round in Dubai. The second car, with Johnny Herbert and Fabrizio De Simone at the wheel, crossed the line in eighth place, after two extra pit stops, one to adjust a wheel and a final splash and dash.
GOLLIN AND CAPPELLARI TOP GT POINTS TO CLAIM THE 2004 TITLE
When they won the first round in Monza, Cappellari said his aim was to still be ahead in Zhuhai. As it turned out, two rounds before the end of the season, the Italian and his team-mate, Fabrizio Gollin, claimed the 2004 GT Drivers' title, with full points in Oschersleben putting them beyond the reach of their nearest rivals, their team-mates Matteo Bobbi and Gabriele Gardel. Crossing the line in second place behind the non-scoring Maserati today, despite their 100 kg ballast, they have maintained their 100% points record, which has seen them on the podium in eight out of nine races so far this season. "It was incredible! Today was just a dream day! The team did fantastic work. Luca and I didn't make many mistakes during the whole season, and it paid off. Eight podiums in one season is unbelievable. I'm lost for words."
Second in the points was the nr 8 RML Saleen S7, with the British team scoring by far its best result of the season for Chris Goodwin and newcomer José Pablo Fontes "It was the ideal race to have a rally driver as a team-mate," Goodwin commented afterwards. The team had been fourth across the line, third in the points, but moved up a spot after the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello received a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable accident, which was translated into a 50 second penalty. This saw Wendlinger and his new Brazilian team-mate Tarso Marques drop down to 4th overall, third in the points.
Bobbi and Gardel, in the nr 1 BMS car, were the other party in that accident; they needed to finish second behind Gollin and Cappellari to keep their Championship hopes alive. However, crossing the line fifth and taking the points for fourth, they are now in a comfortable second place, ahead of Karl Wendlinger, who moved ahead of Babini and Peter. The nr 1 Ferrari finished ahead of the nr 3 Care Racing Ferrari, the nr 7 RML Saleen and the nr 34 Maserati, delayed with a wheel problem. The nr 11 GPC Ferrari and the nr 18 JMB Racing took the final points. In the Teams Classification, Champion BMS is ahead of GPC Giesse, who have a lead of eight points over JMB Racing.
MAASSEN AND LUHR VICTORIOUS IN N-GT
Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr claimed a fine home win in a close and tricky race today in Germany, keeping their Championship hopes alive. "It sounds very easy when you have pole position and win the race, but the race today definitely was not easy," he said. "The conditions were quite difficult. All of the leading N-GT cars decided to start the race on slicks, which was the right decision, but it made things very difficult at the beginning, because there were many accidents. We were saving fuel right from the start of the race because we knew that we could get through the race with on stop in the wet, and we did that! I'm very happy." They finished ahead of Ortelli and Collard, with Pescatori and Vosse in the GPC Giesse Squadra Corse third.
All seven N-GT cars finished the race, with all the drivers therefore scoring points. Vasiliev and Fomenko were fourth, ahead of the extremely consistent Proton Competition car of Ried, Ried and Marcinkiewicz, with the Jens Petersen and Vonka Racing cars in sixth and seventh.
FREISINGER YUKOS MOTORSPORT SECURE N-GT TEAMS TITLE
With the nr 50 and 77 cars finishing the race in second and fourth places, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport now has a score of 127 points, and cannot be caught by any of the other teams in the N-GT championship. This is the third year in a row that the German team has been victorious in N-GT; a record for the category. "Freisinger is just the best," a delighted Nicolaj Fomenko said. As for the Drivers' title, that will necessarily go to a Freisinger driver too, as the title fight continues between Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard, currently on 82 points, and the Freisinger Motorsport duo of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, whose victory today brought them up to 75.5 points. The classification in N-GT remains provisional, however, due to both the pending appeal concerning the exclusion of the nr 62 from Imola, and the fuel analysis of cars 62 and 99 from this round.
THE RACE STORY
The start : Lechner loses then recovers the lead
Gollin leads from second place into the first corner, but makes a mistake and goes wide, allowing Lechner in the Konrad Saleen to regain the lead. The nr 33 Maserati moves up to second, with the nr 28 Graham Nash Saleen third. The wet conditions see a number of changes at the back, with the nr 77 Porsche taking the lead
The track dries out; Vitaphone takes the lead
Over the first 15 laps, the track gradually dries and those cars which had started on intermediates began to come in for slicks. By lap 17, the nr 5 Saleen has moved up from the back of the grid to take the lead, followed by the nr 17, also on slicks. The nr 4 had a drive-through for a starting grid infringement. The N-GT field sorts itself out to its usual leading trio, with the nr 50 car lying third overall. The safety car comes out to remove debris on lap 18, closing up the field
Close fight for the lead in both categories
By lap 36, both categories see fascinating fights : Bartels is 2 seconds ahead of Wendlinger, with Gollin 0.7 behind, while in N-GT, Pescatori is just behind Ortelli, with Maassen, a further 1.4 behind.
Pit stops, a collision and the safety car
The first round of drive changes starts, with the nr 5 and nr 17 making their first stops. Gollin takes the lead. The nr 3 car has a collision with the nr 10 Viper, earning the nr 10 a drive through penalty. The debris brings the safety car out again.
Problems for Vitaphone ; N-GT leaders make their first stops
On lap 50 the nr 5 Saleen spins out, returning to the pits with possible steering or suspension problems. The leading N-GT cars, on a single-stop strategy, and which had risen to second and third overall, make their first stops. The nr 34 Maserati takes the lead
Double pit stop for the Herbert/De Simone car
Mika Salo takes the lead of the race when the nr 34 car had to make two pit stops in close succession, due to a wheel problem. A close fight between the nr 8 RML Saleen, and the two BMS Ferrari cars for second. Salo pulls away
Bobbi and Wendlinger clash
The second round of pit stops sees the nr 33 retain the lead with Salo staying in the car. By lap 100, he has a lead of over a lap, ahead of Gollin and Wendlinger, with Bobbi fourth. To keep in the Championship fight, Bobbi needs to finish just behind Gollin. There is contact between the nr 17 and nr 1. The nr 17 is awarded a drive-through, translated into a 50 second penalty, dropping the car back a place after the finish.
After 118 laps around the 3.667 km circuit, the chequered flag is brought down on the nr 33 Maserati MC 12, with the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari second and first in the GT points. In N-GT, Maassen and Luhr cross the line first, a lap ahead of Ortelli and Collard.