The 2006 season of the FIA GT Championship got off to an excellent start in Silverstone today, with the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy. In front of 15,000 spectators, and despite wet weather, a thrilling race kept the excitement going until...
The 2006 season of the FIA GT Championship got off to an excellent start in Silverstone today, with the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy. In front of 15,000 spectators, and despite wet weather, a thrilling race kept the excitement going until the end, when Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels claimed the historic trophy for the Vitaphone Racing Team. A clever strategy saw their Maserati MC 12 triumph ahead of the Zakspeed Saleen S7 and the Aston Martin Racing BMS Aston Martin DBR9, making three different makes on the podium, and the top five cars on the same lap after three hours of racing. In GT2, Matteo Bobbi and Jaime Melo, in the nr 58 AF Corse Ferrari 430 GT2, were victorious ahead of Ebimotors' Porsche 996 GT3 RSR of Emmanuel Collard and Luca Riccitelli, promising excellent things for the season ahead.
BARTELS AND BERTOLINI WIN ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB TOURIST TROPHY
It was their pit-stop strategy that won the race for 2005 GT Teams Champions Vitaphone Racing Team, as by choosing not to change their tyres mid-race, they gained the necessary time to keep ahead of the charging Zakspeed Saleen in the closing stages of the race. "Sitting here with the Tourist Trophy in front of me, I went through a couple of the names, and for Andrea and I to join them on this trophy for the future is a great honour," Bartels said. "It was also a great honour to have the Trophy presented by Sir Stirling Moss. It has made us all very proud!
Stephen Hamilton, the Chairman of the Motoring Committee of the Royal Automobile Club, commented : "We're delighted at the 101st Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy to have seven times winner Sir Stirling Moss OBE presenting the Trophy to Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini. We have enjoyed another cracking race with an exciting grid of cars, starting in wet conditions. As the track dried out, the positions kept changing to make it competitive right through to the final lap."
Stephane Ratel said : "We're delighted that the combined FIA GT, FIA GT3 and fantastic support races from Maserati and Ferrari allowed us to put together an amazing paddock and a weekend of close-fought races.
With three different manufacturers on the podium, and only 4 seconds between the first two cars, as well as the resumption of the traditional Porsche -- Ferrari battle in GT2, 2006 promises to be a great season"
As well as taking the lead in the Drivers classification, Vitaphone's second car finished fifth, meaning the team has also taken an early lead in the Teams Classification.
Jarek Janis crossed the finish line just 4.7 seconds behind the Maserati, showing emphatically the return of the Saleen S7 to the race-winning potential last seen in 2004. With Sascha Bert, the duo were delighted to give Peter Zakowski a podium on his return to the Championship, in which the team last competed in 1998. Moreover, this is an excellent result heading for Jarek's home race of Brno : "We are happy to finish second, quite close to the winner. I have to thanks the team for its great job. The Saleen has made a big step towards the front and we are looking forward for the next race. In Brno it is going to be my home race, where we always try to have the best result"
Third place went to double Champions Aston Martin Racing BMS, returning to the Championship after a year away. Placing one Aston Martin DBR9 on the podium, and the second car in seventh position. Gollin and Babini were pleased with their result, considering this was the first race with their new cars.
Christophe Bouchut and David Brabham were fourth, having started the race on rain tyres, meaning that Christophe had to stay out on the drying track as long as possible, while many of his rivals were on intermediates. Phoenix Racing finished sixth after leading early on, while the GLPK Carsport Corvette C6, which started from pole, recovered to take the final point for eight, after making a poor start and a short excursion into the gravel for Hezemans.
FIRST GT2 WIN FOR AF CORSE
Back in 2003, Matteo Bobbi went into the FIA GT history books when he won his first-ever race, going on to win the title with his team-mate Thomas Biagi and the BMS Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 550 Maranello. At Silverstone this year, he proceeded to win his first-ever GT2 race, also in a Ferrari, but this time a brand-new 430 GT2 model, which he shares with Brazilian Jaime Melo. "It is the first race for this team with this new car, so we are happy with the result for Ferrari, AF Corse and Pirelli," Matteo said. "It is a pleasure to share the car with a driver like Jaime Melo." The duo won an exciting and suspense-full race, which saw early favourites the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari GT2 cars both go out, and problems delay the JMB -- GruppeM Ferrari, leaving the AF Corse and Ebimotors teams to fight it out to the end. Just laps from the end, it looked as if the nr 59 AF Corse car would be victorious, until Mika Salo headed back for the pits, due to a fuel light coming on. He rejoined and finished third, but it turned out that he would have had enough fuel to finish the race.
Emmanuel Collard and Luca Riccitelli brought the Ebimotors Porsche home in second place, starting the season off well with a fine race. The team's second car also finished in the points. "This result is a very good surprise because we were quite far away during the winter test and since the beginning of the week-end," Collard said. "For sure we are competitive, even if it is going to be difficult for us."
Team Felbermayr-Proton got off to a good start, with a fourth place for the 'sons', Christian Ried and Horst Felbermayr Jr, in the nr 66 Porsche 996 GT3-RSR, while their fathers, Gerold Ried and Horst Felbermayr, took the final point for eighth.
Team LNT, a regular in the British GT Championship, finished in fifth place in GT2, to give Panoz its first FIA GT points since 1998 !
ASTON MARTIN TAKES MANUFACTURERS LEAD
After the first race of the season, Aston Martin has taken the lead in the GT1 Manufacturers Cup, three points ahead of Maserati. Saleen is on eight points, with Corvette 1. In GT2, Porsche has a two point lead over Ferrari, with Panoz on one point.