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Paul Ricard 2006: GLPK lead Corvette 1-2
20 August 2006
The Corvette C6.R obviously likes the Paul Ricard circuit after GLPK Carsport led home PSI Experience to give the American car a one-two finish in the latest round of the FIA GT Championship at the French test track.
It was a first victory for Anthony Kumpen, Mike Hezemans and Bert Longin in 2006 and a first win in the FIA GT series for the C6.R – although Jos Menten and Jean-Philippe Belloc made them fight all the way to the flag, the gap between the two under four seconds when the flag dropped after 500km of racing.
The lead had changed on numerous occasions throughout the race, but smoother pit strategies for the #4 car saw Kumpen take the advantage into the final hour and despite Menten's best efforts, he came home to secure the win – admitting afterwards that he may not have been able to hold off the blue and yellow car had the race run to three hours.
Third place on the podium went to the #2 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 of Jamie Davies and Thomas Biagi – which has been due to start from second on the grid but hit drama before the race even started. Contact with a GT2 car on the way to the grid saw Biagi forced to bring the car back into the pits where the team completed a quick repair job to allow him to start the race from the pit-lane – the two drives launching a fine recovery to claim the final podium place.
Race Alliance had its best race to date, with Karl Wendlinger and Phillip Peter finishing fourth and the leading Aston Martin DBR9 – although there was some very close fighting between the four Aston Martin cars in action, the #33 being followed home by the #23 Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9 and the #5 Phoenix Racing car, which recovered well to finish the race after missing much of Saturday's practice further to a gearbox sensor problem.
Seventh place went to the Spa 24 Hours winner, Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini suffering from 125 kg of ballast in the second of the Vitaphone Maseratis. Both the Maserati and the Zakspeed Saleen had 30 seconds added to their result after avoidable contact – but it wouldn't play a part in the result of the race.
Of the GT1 cars, only the Balfe Saleen and the Red Racing Lister failed to make it to the flag.
Pole position, first and second place and the fastest class race lap saw Scuderia Ecosse sweep the board in GT2 – with the two Ferrari 430s crossing the line in a formation finish as the race drew to a close.
Andrew Kirkaldy and Nathan Kinch emerged as the victors ahead of Tim Mullen and Marino Franchitti – with the victory allowing the reigning British GT champions to close to within eleven points of the championship lead.
Mullen and Franchitti had led in the middle stint, after Kinch briefly went wide, but had to settle for second, as well as setting the fastest lap in GT2, with a time of 2min 00.943secs.
The Ferrari domination was near complete, with the 430 GT2 cars occupying the first six positions at the end. Third place went to JMB-GruppeM, with Tim Sudgen and Iradj Alexander claiming their best result since their Brno win and the two AF Corse Ferrari 430 GT2 cars, both of which were extremely heavy after their excellent results in Spa, finished in fourth and fifth places. This not only maintained their positions at the top of both the teams' and drivers' classifications – where Bobbi and Melo now lead by one point – but also ensured that they will lose some weight for round six in Dijon.
RSV Motorsport, on their second event in the championship, placed the #81 car of Peter Sundberg and Domingo Romero in sixth position, scoring three points, while the best Porsche was the #52 Renauer Motorsport entry of Wolfgang Kaufmann and Luca Moro, in seventh.
After the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe and Aston Martin DBRS9 cars took part in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, it was the turn of the Corvette Z06 and Ferrari 430 GT3 Challenge cars from the FIA GT3 European Championship to take part in the FIA GT Championship. Although JMB's Ferrari GT3 cars suffered from engine misfire problems, the two Riverside Corvette Z06 cars finished the race in 21st and 22nd positions – the longest race to date for the relatively new cars.
Victory in G3 along with the overall win made it an excellent weekend for Corvette – which also moved ahead of Saleen in the manufacturers' cup.
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