Zhuhai: Race report

An exciting race, in front of packed grandstands, saw the GLPK Carsport Corvette take its second win of the season, ahead of the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello and the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12. With two races remaining, the leading...

An exciting race, in front of packed grandstands, saw the GLPK Carsport Corvette take its second win of the season, ahead of the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello and the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12. With two races remaining, the leading seven drivers in the GT1 classification are only separated by seven points, while Vitaphone Racing Team have extended their lead in the Teams Championship. Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller led another GruppeM one-two, to claim their fifth win and the GT2 Drivers Championship, while Ebimotors, finishing third, moved up to third in the GT2 teams classification. Next stop : Dubai.

Second win of the season for the GLPK Corvette

The team had a difficult start to the weekend when it was forced to miss the second free practice session, after using both sets of tyres in the morning session. "It is a big disadvantage to miss a free practice session. Luckily, after qualifying, we found a very good set-up which helped us secure this great result !" said Bert Longin. Starting from 4th position on the grid, Anthony Kumpen overtook the GPC Sport Ferrari 575 Maranello GTC driven by Andrea Piccini and took the lead when the nr 17 Russian Age Aston Martin and the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari went off in the gravel trap after sliding on oil. "When I saw what happened to the other cars, my main goal was to keep the car on track. Luckily, it was OK and I did quite a long stint" explained Anthony Kumpen.

The GLPK Racing Corvette lost the lead after the car's second pit stop in favor of the nr 9 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati, but it was obvious that both cars were on a different strategy, with one more pit stop scheduled for the Maserati. The Corvette, driven to the finish by Mike Hezemans, spent about 14 laps between the two Vitaphone Maserati cars, with the nr 9 car in the lead. But as planned, both Maserati cars had to come in for another pit stop. When the nr 9 car pitted 30 minutes from the end, Hezemans took the lead of the race, with a 30 second-lead over the nr 11 Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello in the hands of Pedro Lamy. Despite the Portuguese driver being the fastest man on the track, setting successive best laps of the race on laps 77 and 80, he did not manage to catch the Corvette and Hezemans took the chequered flag after 110 laps. "Since the beginning of the season, the car has been really good when the weather is hot, thanks to our very good Pirelli tyres. All the team did a fantastic job this week-end, the car was efficient and consistent and we made no mistake" Mike Hezemans said after this deserved victory.

Bartels and Scheider close on Wendlinger and Bertolini but seven GT1 drivers are in the contest!

Despite a heavily ballasted car and a three pit stop strategy, Michael Bartels and Timo Scheider in the nr 9 Vitaphone Racing Team finished third and scored important points towards both the GT1 Drivers Championship and the GT1 Teams Championship, with their sister car, driven by Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi, finishing fourth. "We increased our leading position in the Teams Championship and we scored important points for the Drivers |Championship", Michael Bartels said. "Both Championships are very close and the last two races promise to be exciting!"

Their direct competitors in the Championship fight, Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger, finished 6th in their nr 15 JMB Maserati and retain a lead of four points on the German Maserati duo. Also on heavy on ballast, with 10 kg more than the nr 9 Vitaphone car, the JMB Racing Maserati MC12 fought for 5th position during most of the race with the nr 2 GPC Sport Ferrari 575 Maranello. At the end of his stint, Karl Wendlinger overtook Jean-Denis Deletraz for fourth position which he lost when he had to pit to hand over to Bertolini. The fight was finally won by the Ferrari as the Maserati came in for a splash and dash five laps before the end.

The Championship is closer than ever, with seven drivers separated by just seven points at two rounds from the end of the season. "This Championship is long and difficult, with a nice fight. Today it is impossible to say who is going to be the Champion. It is a fantastic finish for this Championship, four different cars are in good position to win" analysed Gabriel Gardel, after a good second position in the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello he shares with Pedro Lamy - who set the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages.

Lieb and Rockenfeller secure the GT2 Drivers Championship Tim Sugden took the lead of the GT2 race after a brilliant start, but he slid on the same oil leak as Bouchut and Lamy : "Luckily, we were pulled out of the gravel and could fight back. But we definitely lost the lead there." Sugden managed to come back to second position within ten laps. However, the nr 66 GruppeM Porsche 996 GT3 RSR was then leading the race and never lost its lead, taking the chequered flag.

The third position was strongly fought for between the Ebimotors Porsche 996 and the Noble-Group Gruppe M Porsche 996. Noble-Group GruppeM take the third position in the middle of the race but finally Luigi Moccia and Cristian Passutti managed to get back into third position, claiming the Italian team's second consecutive podium finish and third place in the GT2 Teams Classification, behind GruppeM and Proton. With the Hong-Kong Noble Group-GruppeM team finishing fourth, fifth place went to the Spyker C8 of Huisman and Kuus, scoring points on its first appearance in the Championship. The ARC Bratislava-Slovakia Porsche of Konopka and Rosina was sixth, with the Czech National Team seventh. Unfortunately, the GPC Ferrari 360, 4th on the GT2 starting grid, was out of contention from lap 35 when it came to the pits with a broken gearbox.

With their 5th victory of the season, Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller claimed the FIA GT2 Driver's Championship three rounds before the end. "It is a great pleasure to win again and to win this Championship. It was always close with the other GruppeM Car. We have to thank the team as our car was competitive all season long" Marc Lieb said afterwards. This is Marc's second title win, having already won the N-GT title in 2003, with Stephane Ortelli in the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche. As for Mike Rockenfeller, at just 21, the German is the youngest FIA GT Champion to date.

Belgian Racing Vertigo Streiff win in G2 after strong battle with the Ampex Lotus

For its return in the FIA GT Championship, the Belgian Racing Vertigo Streiff won the G2 category in today's race despite a fuel pump problem. "It was a difficult but interesting race for the team. We learnt a lot. Unfortunately, we had a fuel pump problem. We changed it, but even after that, we had problems. We made some major improvements to this car and now we need a stronger engine to play with the GT2 cars", said Belgian driver Bas Leinders.

The Amprex Motorsports Lotus Exige 300RR was close to victory, but the car pitted three laps to the end for q driver change over further to the exhaustion of Tengku Djan Ley. "We had a fuel leak problem during the whole race. We planned to do only one pit stop, but in fact we had to stop four times! Anyway we learnt a lot in the FIA GT Championship, it was a good experience for us, we are happy with this week end," Mr Hashimoto, Amprex Motorsport owner, said afterwards.

Race Rundown

The Russian Age Aston Martin of Christophe Bouchut made a good start from pole position, ahead of the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari, the nr 6 GLPK Corvette and the nr 2 GPC Ferrari. Bouchut and Lamy pushed very hard from the start and started to pull out a gap over their contenders. Unfortunately, in the third lap, the nr 97 Lammertink Porsche was hit by problems, losing oil on the track and ending its race in turn 5. Both race leaders, Bouchut and Lamy, were caught by surprise by oil on the track and went off in the gravel, closely followed by the GT2 leader, Tim Sugden.

The Safety Car came out to allow the track to be cleaned. In the meantime, the nr 11 Ferrari and the nr 88 Porsche were quickly removed from the gravel, while it took longer to extract the nr 17 Aston Martin. The Aston then went to the pits to be cleaned. The green flag was shown on lap 9.

The nr 6 GLPK Corvette was then leading the race ahead of the nr 2 Ferrari, the nr 10 and 9 Vitaphone Maserati cars, and the nr 15 JMB Maserati. Although Bouchut was pushing to recover the lost time, he eventually had to retire in lap 15, due to a broken alternator belt on the car.

After the restart, the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari 550 was pushing very hard to regain positions. Pedro Lamy easily overtook the GT2 cars, coming back to 5th position in lap 23. A strong fight took place between the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari and the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati, driven by Michael Bartels. The two cars were very close, when Bartels ended the fight in order to pit. The nr 9 Maserati went out again with Scheider at the wheel, a full tank but on the same tyres.

Meanwhile, Lamy had overtaken the nr 10 Maserati as well as the nr 2 Ferrari 575 and was back in second position, his original position on the starting grid. Most of the cars then pitted, with the leader, Anthony Kumpen, the last to hand over his wheel to co-driver, Bert Longin. The nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati, which pitted earlier, took the lead and was 17 seconds ahead of the nr 6 GLPK Corvette, followed by the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati and the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari 550. The gap between those cars did not change until the leading car came in for its second stop on lap 59, after 1 hour and 40 minutes.

All the others cars stopped much later and once more, the leading nr 6 GLPK Corvette was the last car to pit. With less than 45 minutes to go, the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati was leading again, with an advantage of 8 seconds on the nr 6 GLPK Corvette and 11 seconds on the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati. 35 minutes before the end, the leading car stopped for a splash and dash, thus conceding the lead to the Corvette again.

Mike Hezemans in the yellow Corvette was leading ahead of the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati and the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari, driven by Pedro Lamy who was setting the fastest lap times of the race. The nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati also went to the pits for a splash and dash 16 laps to the end, coming out again in third position. On the last lap, the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati, fourth, overtook its sister car for third. Mike Hezemans, in the Corvette, took the chequered flag with a lead of 7.160 seconds over Pedro Lamy in the Larbre Ferrari, second, and 1 minute 19 over Timo Scheider in the Vitaphone Maserati. The top four cars were on the lead lap, while the winning GT2 car, the nr 66 Porsche, was seventh.

The results remain provisional pending fuel analysis of cars 6, 11, 10 and 66


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Karl Wendlinger , Pedro Lamy , Stéphane Ortelli , Timo Scheider , Michael Bartels , Jean-Denis Deletraz , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Christophe Bouchut , Luigi Moccia , Marc Lieb , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Tengku Djan Ley , Andrea Bertolini , Mike Rockenfeller , Bas Leinders , Thomas Biagi , Bert Longin
Teams Larbre Competition