16 May 2004
Hockenheim 2004: Bobbi, Gardel inherit win.
The fourth round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship proved to be a breath-taking action-packed race, with some hot racing taking place in bright sunshine at
The lead changed hands many times, with first the Konrad and then the Vitaphone Saleens dominating the race. However, when both S7s suffered mechanical problems, the Ferrari cars took over and, after a short safety-car period had bunched the cars up during the final stint, the GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 575 Maranello looked to be on course to take its first-ever win.
But the drama was not over and, when a puncture interrupted the #11 car's progress, the BMS Scuderia Italia and Care Racing 550 Maranellos found themselves on the podium, having enjoyed a near problem-free race. And, after two early season wins for team-mates Luca Cappellari and Fabrizio Gollin, it was time for reigning champion Matteo Bobbi and new co-driver Gabriele Gardel to take the top step.
An equally fine battle took place in the N-GT category, where the GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena led for much of the race, only for a problem in the pits to give Freisinger Motorsport its third consecutive win. Crossing the line just ahead of the leading Freisinger Yukos Porsche, the Sascha Maassen/Lucas Luhr combination was also joined on the podium by the luckless Ferrari crew.
BMS Scuderia Italia's podium sweep was not the first time the three 550 Maranellos had dominated the top three spots, but it had not happened since Barcelona last year - and appeared unlikely until the closing moments of the Hockenheim event. In a race of ups and downs, the reliability and consistency of the BMS cars, added to careful fuel strategies, won out, while their rivals fell by the wayside.
Second until two laps from the end, the #1 car took the lead when the rival GPC Giesse 575 being driven by Fabio Babini suffered a puncture.
"We were lucky when Babini had a problem with his tyre," Bobbi admitted, "I'm very happy for the team - they did an unbelievable job today. We've worked very well during the whole weekend. It was a hard week for us because we arrived here after we lost our appeal, and our motivation had dropped rather low after that."
After taking the chequered flag in second place on three occasions this year, the Bobbi/Gardel duo finally took their first win of the season, finally breaking the Swiss driver's victory duck in the championship.
"For me, this is a dream come true!" Gardel beamed, "During my stint, it was mostly my job to preserve fuel, because we couldn't push as I would have liked to just to have a 'splash-and-dash' in the last five minutes of the race. I managed to gain two laps in my stint, so I think I did a really, really good job, and I'm really happy."
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