Corvette duo secure Oschersleben victory
21 June 2009
PK Carsport pair Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans picked up their first win of the FIA GT Championship season at Oschersleben, taking the flag ahead of the two Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 cars.
As for the GT2 category, AF Corse, victorious at this circuit in 2007 and 2008, made it three in a row, with reigning champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander taking their first victory of the season in their Ferrari 430 GT2. Sharing the podium was the #61 Prospeed Competition Porsche and the Hexis Racing AMR's Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Despite qualifying down in seventh position, Hezemans made the best of the start, while a three-way sandwich at the first corner dropped the pole-sitting #2 Maserati MC12, the #14 K plus K Saleen and the #19 Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette out of immediate contention. Although the cars made their way back up the field, Hezemans took the lead and pulled away, followed initially by the SRT Corvette and the #18 K plus K Saleen.
When rain started to fall, the gap at the front closed up, but once the car had pitted for rain tyres, Kumpen continued the good work, keeping the lead and seemingly unbothered by the treacherous conditions. Hezemans took over for the last few minutes, emerging with an eleven-second lead and finally crossing the finish line after 71 laps with a 9 second advantage.
“We're happy, we're still second in the Championship but it's close,” Kumpen said afterwards. “Bartels and Bertolini did a fantastic job again so they are making life tough for us.”
The Corvette was followed across the line by the two Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati cars. Bertolini, in the #1 car, had dropped some places at the start, but he and Bartels put in a steady performance despite the weight in their MC12, lying third for much of the first hour until they were overtaken by the recovering #2 car.
However, in the rain, the #1 recovered the advantage, and they were lying in second place after the second round of pit stops, followed by the #2 car, 26 seconds adrift. The fine group finish for Vitaphone not only confirmed Bartels and Bertolini's points lead heading into the Total 24 Hours of Spa, but strengthened the team's position in the Team classification.
Belgian team SRT finished in a fine fourth position, Longin and Ruffier having made the most of the first corner chaos and kept in the leading group for most of the race. The #19 Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette was fifth, crossing the line ahead of the two battling Ford GT cars, the Marc VDS Racing car just ahead of that entered by Matech GT Racing.
The best Saleen was the #11 Full Speed Racing Saleen S7 Twin Turbo of Luke Hines and Stephane Lemeret in eighth, taking the final point. The Nissan GT-R achieved the team's objective, which was to reach the finish line, being classified for the first time in an FIA GT Championship race. The #14 K plus K Motorsport Saleen S7 the final classified car in tenth, having dropped back during the heavy rain due to visibility problems.
The #13 Full Speed Racing Saleen did not finish further to misfire problems, while the #18 K plus K Saleen went into the barriers while lying an excellent second, reportedly with accelerator problems.
In GT2, Bruni made a good start to take the lead before Ragginger, in the Brixia Porsche, took advantage of traffic to regain the lead. However, the AF Corse Ferrari maintained position and really came to the fore once the rain started. With 'rainman' Toni Vilander behind the wheel, the #50 Ferrari was in command, Bruni taking over again at the end and bringing the car across the line with a 16-second lead over the nearest Porsche. This was the #61 Prospeed Competition car of Marco Holzer and Sean Edwards, the youngest driver pair on the grid.
Third place went to the #80 Hexis Racing AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage, claiming its first FIA GT podium finish and giving the category a rare sight of three makes in the top three. The car may have struggled in the dry, but was consistently fast in the difficult conditions, with Mücke and Makowiecki behind the wheel.