A strong strategy, allied to bad luck for the Zakspeed Saleen, allowed Vitaphone Maserati pair Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels to secure victory in the opening round of the FIA GT Championship at Silverstone.
The team elected to not change tyres during the mid-point of the race and it proved to be the correct decision as the MC12 came home less than five seconds ahead of the second placed car to allow Bertolini and Bartels to claim the prestigious Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy.
However had luck been on the side of the Saleen of Jarek Janis and Sascha Bert then things could have been vastly different. Having emerged as the quickest car during practice on Saturday morning, the Saleen started from the front row of the grid although young Czech star Janis found himself struggling during the opening laps on intermediate tyres on the wet track.
Once the tyres were dialled in, he was on the pace and the Saleen ran near the front throughout but shortly after taking over the car from Bert for the final stint, Janis took a trip through the gravel trap after hitting a piece of rubber left on the circuit by another car – the time lost proving to be crucial when the flag dropped as, despite reeling in the Maserati during the final laps, he was 4.7seconds behind at the end.
Third went the way of Aston Martin BMS with Fabrizio Gollin and Fabio Babini securing a podium in the teams new Aston Martin DBR9 – although the pair were a minute behind the Saleen at the end. Although the team launched a protest against the Zakspeed car for an infringement of pit stop regulations – when they alleged that the car was started with an external battery during its second stop – stewards found there was no evidence to support the protest, leaving the Italian team to settle for third.
The fight for third however was a close run thing, with the similar DBR9 of Citrek Motorsport finishing fourth in the hands of David Brabham and Christophe Bouchut just over a second behind although Rob Schirle and his team were left to wonder what might have been had it not been for a 'phantom' Safety Car period during the middle of the race. When the B-Racing RS Line Lamborghini ground to a halt on the exit of Bridge, the Safety Car boards were displayed, with Brabham diving for the pit lane as a result. However the boards were then removed and the Safety Car remained in the pits – meaning the Aston Martin had lost time with its earlier stop.
The second Vitaphone car of Jamie Davies and Thomas Biagi took fifth ahead of the Phoenix Racing Aston Martin – which had scampered away at the start to build a sizable early lead – with the second BMS car seventh and the polesitting Corvette of Anthony Kumpen, Mike Hezemans and Bert Longin forced to settle for eighth. The debuting Saleen of Balfe Motorsport was the only other GT1 car to see the finish, Sahun Balfe, Jamie Derbyshire and Neil Cunningham taking twelfth after a tough first meeting in the premier class.
The expected Ferrari domination of the GT2 category failed to materialise, although it was a 430 GT2 that came out on top as Matteo Bobbi and Jaime Melo claimed class honours in ninth overall.
At the start of the race, it was the similar machine of Scuderia Ecosse that held the early lead with Andrew Kirkaldy mixing it with the GT1 runners during the tricky opening laps before he was forced to retire – a similar problem also claiming the sister car of Tim Mullen and Chris Niarchos later in the race.