F1 » 13 October 2013
Hakkinen back on top step
Mika Hakkinen made a successful return to sportscar racing, winning with Erebus and AMG in China.
Double F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen partnered Matthew Solomon to give the Erebus Motorsport and the AMG Customer Sports programme a winning debut in China.
The pair put in a masterful performance to win the 50-minute GT Asia Series race, claiming a tenth consecutive win for Erebus Motorsport's SLS AMG GT3 programme, which includes the prestigious Bathurst 12 Hour race back in February.
Hakkinen started the #36 SLS AMG GT3 from sixth on the grid but had stormed through to second place by the exit of the first corner, moving ahead of team-mate Lance David Arnold, who had started from the third.
Disaster struck for Arnold eight laps in, when he was told to shut the #63 Gullwing down for safety reasons due to a technical issue the team detected on the car's telemetry. This triggered a short safety car period, but Hakkinen - who was caught behind Kiwi Earl Bamber - pitted the Bathurst-winning SLS AMG GT3 to hand over to his 17-year-old apprentice.
Solomon then showed the same sort of maturity as the two-time world champion, using the clear track to his advantage to close the gap to the frontrunners. When Bamber handed over to his co-driver, the track position between the two cars was neutralised and, with eight minutes remaining, Solomon saw a gap to place the lengthy nose of the flying Gullwing through and into the lead.
From there, Solomon was not headed and took an historic first win for the AMG Customer Sports programme in China – the perfect precursor to an all Erebus front row for race two.
The win for Hakkinen - being the first for AMG Customer Sports in China - adds another milestone to his storied international career. It is the Flying Finn's first race in almost two years - his last being in 2011 at Zhuhai - and his first win since a DTM victory at Mugello in 2007 for Mercedes-Benz.
“I have to admit the start was a plan B and it worked,” Hakkinen commented, “I was really focusing on the start to try and make my way forward, it was difficult to make a good start and with the high wings of the GT3 cars it is very challenging to see the lights change, I did a couple of tricks and they worked!
“The first corner was tight, but that is racing and I looked around and I was in second place, I thought brilliant!
“Matthew did a fantastic job when he got into the car. This is a very short race, it isn't a long race, so you have to push all the time and Matthew showed that. We had a great racecar and the team did an awesome job."
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