Vitaphone Racing's Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini won the third round of the FIA GT championship at Oschersleben in Germany on Sunday.
Bartels and Bertolini crossed the line 14 seconds ahead of the sister Maserati MC12 of Jamie Davies and Thomas Biagi, to give Vitaphone a perfect one-two.
Bartels has always liked the Oschersleben circuit, but despite some excellent qualifying positions in the past, including pole last year, he has never been able to bring his car home in first position. That changed today, when, along with his Italian team-mate Bertolini, he put in a fine performance to win the event in the #1 Vitaphone. Starting from pole, the #1 car kept the lead from the start, and apart from during the pit stops, was in command throughout.
"After my past experience in Oschersleben, a track I like very much as you can see from my qualifying results, I am very happy with what we have achieved here," reflected Bartels. "Last year, we won here with Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi, and we were close to a double win. This year, finally, we got it! I am happy that Andrea and I won, as I have had many tries in Oschersleben, but although I've led a lot, I've never won here. The team did an incredibly good job. We were very concentrated all weekend and didn't change our programme. We had some problems as we collected some stones and things on the tyres but Pirelli worked hard to clean them, and they deserve a big, big thank you, as they were one of the big factors for winning here. What can be better? Blue skies, Germany in the semi-finals, a double win for Vitaphone in Oschersleben. I hope this will continue on Tuesday."
"I must give a special thanks to Pirelli as I have won here with them in the Ferrari in 2003, then again in 2004 with the Maserati, and now again today," added Bertolini. "For sure, the team has put in unbelievable work today. Everyone has worked very hard in the team. Today, in the Vitaphone Team, it's like the semi-final between Italy and Germany, so I am waiting impatiently for the next match!"
The result means Bertolini and Bartels take the lead in the drivers' championship, two-points up on Jarek Janis and Sascha Bert. In the teams' classification Vitaphone Racing now has a commanding lead of 14 points going into the Spa round - where the German team was victorious last year.
Biagi and Davies meanwhile, despite qualifying fourth, started from 14th on the grid, following a penalty from Brno. However Davies navigated his way through the field - not easy on a track like Oschersleben and the car slotted into second position at the start of the final hour, and despite pressure from Andrea Piccini in the Phoenix Aston Martin, claimed its first podium of the year.
"First of all, many thanks to the team. Jamie did a very good start, with a lot of nice overtaking manoeuvres. For me this result is very important as we started with a big handicap, 14th position on the starting grid, on a circuit where it is not so easy to overtake," explained Biagi. "I care a lot about the race because it's my second 'home' race, as Vitaphone is a German team. It's a fantastic result, and I want to thank Maserati and Pirelli who have done a lot of development work. I would like to dedicate this result to Michael Bartels because he trusted in me and gave me the opportunity to drive for this strong team for the second year in a row and to drive this fantastic Maserati!"
"Obviously, this is not the ideal circuit to overtake," added Davies. "My start was very good and I could get around some of the GT2 cars to get up with the tail of the GT1 cars. We had some fantastic dices with the Astons, and a great run through the first stint. I had an unfortunate contact with Karl Wendlinger, but the corner was clearly mine, he turned in coming into turn nine. It's unfortunate, but that's racing. For the first and last stint the car was very good, the car was running perfectly. I have to thank Pirelli as well as the tyres were fantastic, at the beginning and end of the stint."