Zakspeed Racing's Jarek Janis and Sascha Bert dominated the second round of the FIA GT Championship at Brno in the Czech Republic on Sunday.
Their #9 Saleen S7 was fastest in free practice; Janis claimed pole position, as well as the fastest race lap, and last, but by no means least, Bert and Janis won the race, finishing over a minute ahead of their nearest rivals, the Phoenix Racing Aston Martin DBR9. Phoenix was the only other car to lead the race, Andrea Piccini having taken the lead at the start, holding Janis back for the first 13 laps.
"This weekend is a like a dream comes true. I'm really happy to be here in the first place,” said Janis. “At the beginning of the race, Piccini, in the Aston Martin was a little bit quicker then me, I could see that on the straight he had a big advantage, so it was not easy to overtake him. But my tyres were working very well, and then Piccini seemed to have problems on his car. We had a quite a big fight, and I finally found a gap to overtake him. Then Sascha did a great job and we did not have any problems. I would like to thank Michelin because the tyres were very good, and we would like to dedicate this race to Mr. Michelin who unfortunately died this Friday. Anyway, to win my home race is great, I would like to thank my team; we did not have any problems during the whole weekend, they all worked very hard."
Bert was equally delighted. "I'm really happy to be here in this championship, and I'm happy with this result for my sponsors and for the Zakspeed team. During the winter nobody was thinking about us, but I have a great team-mate, Jarek did a great job, and it is fantastic to be here, in this press conference, in the middle of the table! We are leading the championship, so I hope we can carry on and have a good result at the next race. With such a team, and partners, and Michelin tyres, it is possible to have more good results!"
Janis and Bert now lead the GT1 drivers' classification, three points ahead of Silverstone winners Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels, while Zakspeed is now joint second in the GT1 teams' standings. In the manufacturers' vup, Saleen has already scored more points after two races, than they scored in the whole 2005 season! The last Saleen victory in the FIA GT Championship was in Imola 2004, when Vitaphone Racing's duo of Bartels and Alzen claimed the win.
After a gap of over two years, Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz meanwhile returned to podium, with a fine race in their #5 Phoenix Racing Aston Martin DBR9. Also Michelin shod, the car led the race for the first 13 laps. After the first pit-stops, the car lost one place to the #23 Aston Martin, but Piccini regained the lost position 18 laps from the end, and held on to take the runners-up spot, despite a train of cars following closely behind him.
"It is really great for us to be back on the podium. We are really enjoying today because, at the end, we are the first Aston Martin. It is like a victory for us because the Saleen was on another planet, it was not possible to beat the Zakspeed team, but we are really happy to score points for the championship. We received the car only ten days before Silverstone, but the experience of Phoenix Racing is huge and they immediately did a great job and the right choice concerning the car and Michelin also helped us a lot,” said Deletraz.
"I had a good start, we arrived together on the first corner, Janis braked very late, so I went carefully, and finally I was able to pass him on the next corner,” added Piccini. “Then he was pushing very hard, it was difficult to keep him behind, and a few times we were closed to contact but it was a fair and fantastic battle. My tyres were maybe a little more damaged then his, I think his car preserved the tyres more than ours. At the end of the race I could see the others in my mirror, and my team gave me all the information I needed. Everything was under control, we were preserving the fuel and our car in order to finish in second position, the Saleen was too far away anyway, so I was very careful at the end."
The Phoenix car eventually crossed the line two seconds ahead of the #23 Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9, with Fabrizio Gollin and Fabio Babini taking the third podium position.