17 September 2006
Mugello 2006: Surprise win for Race Alliance.
Aston Martin claimed their first outright victory of the season in the seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, after Karl Wendlinger and Philipp Peter took their Race Alliance DBR9 to a surprise win at Mugello.
Although Aston Martin have claimed the points for a race win by virtue of leading over the first half of the Spa 24Hours, it is the first time this season that the British marque has seen one of their four cars cross the finish line in front.
The win signals something of a resurgence for Austrian duo Wendlinger and Peter, who only claimed their first podium of the season in the previous round two weeks ago at Dijon-Prenois, although they had to thanks the treacherous conditions for eliminating Scuderia Playteam, who had led after the first hour.
Taking part in their home round for the first time, Toni Vilander, partnered by Giambattista Giannoccaro and Alessandro Pierguidi, stalked off into the lead at the start, using their local knowledge to claim the lead, as their rivals struggled.
However, when they hit the wall shortly after their first pit stop, any hopes of a dream win had been denied. Their failure left Wendlinger and Peter to take advantage, overcoming severe aquaplaning early on, to hold onto victory on a drying circuit.
Indeed, despite the difficult conditions, the results proved remarkably close, with just over five seconds covering the top four after three hours of racing.
Nonetheless, it was Maserati who completed the podium, the pole sitting duo of Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini consolidating their championship lead in second, while Dijon winners Thomas Biagi and Jamie Davies used the rain to numb the success ballast around the twisty Italian circuit.
Fourth was claimed by the Zakspeed Saleen of Sascha Bert, Andrea Montermini and Jarek Janis, although the trio will be disappointed to finish just five seconds off the win having been forced down to eighth at the end of the first lap and pit in the final hour for slick tyres.
The BMS Aston Martin of Fabio Babini and Christian Pescatori claimed fifth, ahead of the sister Phoenix DBR9 of Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Delatraz. The final GT1 runner was the GLPK Corvette in seventh place.
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