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GT3: Racing Box secure race two at Silverstone
7 May 2006
Despite the best efforts of its drivers to throw away a possible win, the French Racing Box team secured victory in the second FIA GT3 European Championship race at Silverstone.
Andrea Ceccato brought the #27 Dodge Viper to the flag in second place but with team-mate Stefano Zonca hit with a penalty for an incident during the closing laps it was Ceccato and co-driver Stefano Livio who claimed the second win of the weekend.
While race one had been held on a damp but drying track, the start of race two saw rain still falling as the 38 cars headed for the line - two of Damax Ascari's having failed to even make it to the green light and the pole-sitting Porsche of Morgan Moullin Traffort one of two cars to start from the pitlane.
The missing Porsche meant it was the Viper of Frederic Makowieki who led the field away, but he soon slipped behind the Racing Box car of Marco Cioci as the #26 Viper moved into the lead. Marcello Zani in the BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin held third ahead of Steve Zacchia in another Viper while Allan Simonsen - the winner of race one - had produced a storming start to end lap one in fifth despite starting from 16th.
Eager to prove that Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen isn't the only 'Great Dane' around, Simonsen quickly moved past Zacchia into fourth and then, having challenged Zani into Priory, went round the outside of the third placed DBRS9 at Luffield to move into a podium position.
Clearly the man on the move, the Ferrari was soon hounding the rear of second placed Makowieki and Simonsen was soon through to chase down Cioci - taking the Viper on lap four to move into the lead.
While the Ferrari started to scamper away at the front, battles raged throughout the field, with Vipers featuring in the majority of them. Zacchia and Livio both overhauled Zani's DBRS9 in quick succession while former BTCC racer Anthony Reid was - like the race leader - a man on a mission as he manoeuvred the lead Pouchelon Racing Viper through the heavy traffic towards the fringes of the top ten.
However, luck wasn't on the side of team-mate Rachel Green - who had produced an impressive stint in the car during race one before failing wet tyres saw her drop back from sixth place to finish twelfth - as contact with the Maserati Gransport Light of Diego Alessi saw her race end in the gravel trap at Becketts.
Also impressing during the opening stages was the sole remaining Ascari in the hands of Italian driver Luca Pirri. Having dropped back from sixth on the grid at the start, Pirri was bringing the KZ1R back up the order as he lapped in times second only to those set by Simonsen and took seventh past Zani - now going rapidly the wrong way down the order - on lap seven. However the good work the Damax newboy was doing would be undone a matter of corners later when he ran wide at Stowe and slipped back to ninth.
Pirri would run off track again a lap later - without losing a place - while a spin for Zani capped a miserable stint behind the DBRS9 for the Italian as he slipped out of the top ten.
With Simonsen holding a comfortable lead, battle raged for second with Cioci coming under pressure from Makowieki before the Frenchman claimed second on lap ten, as the JMB Ferrari led a train of Vipers towards the mandatory pitstops - Makowieki and Cioci being followed by Zacchia and Reid who had carried the Pouchelon car into fifth after overhauling the similar machine of Patrick Bornhauser. With Livio in seventh, it meant Sean Edwards in eighth in the Tech 9 Porsche was the only other non Dodge inside the top eight positions at the end of lap eleven.
The majority of teams having started the race with their quickest drivers onboard, it took time for the leaders to pit but once they did Hector Lester retained the lead in the JMB Racing Ferrari but behind him, Olivier Dupard had jumped to second having taken over from Zacchia in the Racing Logistic car with Zonca third and Ceccato fourth - with work to do to catch the cars ahead but lapping significantly quicker than the three drivers ahead.
Lap-by-lap the gap between the Ferrari and the three Vipers came down, with under six seconds seperating the first four at the end of lap 23. Behind them, Stuart Turvey was also lapping quickly to have moved the Ascari into fifth, with Paul Van Splunteren and Ian Khan sixth and seventh having battled past Gilles Duqueine in the #29 Viper.
However on lap 24 came the incident that would ultimately shape the result of the race as the battle between the three Vipers went wrong. Zonca tried to muscle his way past Dupard but only succeeded in pushing the Racing Logistic car round which removed him from contention and allowed Ceccato in the sister Racing Box machine to not only go third, but close right onto the tail of Zonca's car - moving ahead into second before Zonca fought back into the position.
With the clock ticking ever closer to zero and the conclusion of racing, the bickering Vipers looked to be doing their best to throw away a possible victory as Lester was able to break away a little but with backmarkers appearing in front of the Ferrari at the worst possible times - the two Vipers remained in contention heading into the final lap.
Although Lester crossed the line 2.4 seconds ahead of Zonca to start the final lap, the Viper was clearly the quicker car although the Silverstone timing screens had been flashing up the message that Zonca was 'under investigation' for his part in Dupard being removed from the battle for victory.
On the run down Hangar Straight, Lester went left to go round a backmarker while Zonca went right, giving him the inside line as the two went into Stowe corner and putting the Viper into the lead.
Lester was then left to try and hold off Ceccato but as the Zonca edged away towards victory, the Italian saw the race taken away from him as the message appeared that the Viper was being given a drive through penalty. All of a sudden, Lester was once more fighting for victory but he was unable to hold off the challege of Ceccato who took the place in the closing corners to give Racing Box race two honours.
Second place was still a fine result for the United Christian Broadcasters backed Ferrai, while third went to Dupard and Zacchia despite the late spin. Stuart Turvey inherited fourth in the Ascari while Zonca and Cioci had to console themselve with fifth once the penalty for Cioci's indiscretion was applied.
Ian Khan and Steve Earle claimed sixth in the second of the JMB cars while the leading Porsche was that of Sean Murphy and Paul van Splunteren in seventh. Running higher than at any other time during the weekend, Lamborghini were represented in the top eight by British F3 racer Denis Retera and Jaromir Jirik while the lead Aston Martin DBRS9 was way down in 15th - Max Mugelli bringing the car that had started near the front in the hands of Zani to the finish.
Corvette honours went to Marco Panzavuota and Paulo Bonifacio in 18th place while the top Maserati claimed 23rd in the hands of Paolo Cutrera and Giuseppe Arlotti.