18 November 2006
Dubai 2006: Maiden win for Phoenix.
Having already come close to victory on several occasions this year, Phoenix Racing's Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz were finally able to claim their first win of the year at the final time of asking as the 2006 FIA GT Championship drew to a close with a grueling three-hour endurance in Dubai.
Although they have registered maximum points twice this year for leading at the eight and sixteen hour marks of the Spa 24-Hours race earlier in the season, it is nonetheless the first time the Italian-Swiss combination has been able to complete victory.
Indeed, it was a battling performance for the Aston Martin pairing having seen their domination in the practice sessions in the run up to the race come undone in qualifying when a problem saw them complete just three laps, and with it only claim eighth on the grid.
Still, the length of the race and the seeming Michelin tyre advantage they had over a field shod largely in Pirelli rubber, allowed them to gradually move through the field, running behind the GLPK Corvette for much of the race, before moving past when they made a mistake. Pressure from the Belgian run squad ensued but came to nothing when they were forced to make a splash and dash with ten minutes of the race remaining.
The result also means that Piccini and Deletraz secure the runner-up spot in the championship behind Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini, who no doubt breathed a sigh of relief that they had cemented the title in Adria after struggling to eleventh overall around the lengthy Middle Eastern circuit.
Almost 50 seconds off the lead, the GLPK Corvette of Belgian duo Bert Longin and Anthony Kumpen, as well as Dutchman Mike Hezemans, ended up a distant second to bring their rather stunted season to a close on a high, while Maserati made it three different brands in the top three with Jamie Davies and Thomas Biagi.
However, even third in the race was not quite enough for the two-time winners to finish higher than fifth in the championship, the duo losing out to Jarek Janis and Sascha Bert in the final standings.
Indeed, Janis' switch from partnering Bert in the Zakspeed Saleen to the Race Alliance Aston Martin alongside Karl Wendlinger and Philipp Peter proved to be a shrewd move, the Czech driver helping his new co-drivers to fifth in the race.
Fifth place was well ahead of Bert, racing with Andrea Montermini and Jos Menten, who could only manage 22nd overall after problems with their S7R. As a result, it is Janis who finishes third overall in the championship at the end of his first season of sportscar racing, two points up on his more experienced former co-driver.
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