18 May 2008
Monza 2008: Sweet success for SRT.
Three-time series champion Christophe Bouchut returned to winning ways at the second round of the 2008 FIA GT campaign, partnering Dutch team-mate Xavier Maassen to victory at Monza.
The pair, driving Belgian team SRT's Corvette C6-R converted second on the grid to a maiden success together, taking the lead from the pole-sitting Jetalliance Aston Martin at the first round of pit-stops and never looking back. The win was a first for both SRT and Renault World Series convert Maassen, but marked veteran Bouchut's 14th trip to the top step - his eighth overall - and allowed the Frenchman to win with a fourth different car, adding the Corvette to previous successes in the Chrysler Viper, Aston Martin DBR9 and Lamborghini Murciélago.
Jetalliance's Alex Müller led from the pole, but the Aston Martin eventually joined the list of retirements following a clash with the Phoenix Racing Corvette of Jean-Denis Deletraz and Marcel Fässler, allowing Vitaphone Racing to come through and claim another podium spot. Having finished second in Silverstone with Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels, however, it was the turn of the team's second Maserati MC12 to enjoy the champagne, as Miguel Ramos - who also finished second at Monza in 2007 - guided GT newcomer Xandi Negrão to runners-up honours in just the Brazilian's second outing since switching from GP2.
Allan Simonsen and Philipp Peter ensured that Aston Martin was at least represented on the podium, taking the #10 Gigawave-run example to third, just as they had at Silverstone. Circumstances were quite different this time around, however, as a fine recovery drive after an early off-track excursion replaced the loss of P1 at the British circuit.
Three different makes filled the top three, but fourth place was taken by the #6 Phoenix Racing Corvette of Fabrizio Gollin and Mike Hezemans, giving the German team some measure of success, while Bertolini and Bartels claimed fifth after a puncture scuppered their recovery drive from 16th on the grid.
The leading Saleen S7R was the PK Carsport car of Anthony Kumpen and Bert Longin, who delighted in the car's improved performance by coming through to sixth from the very back of the grid. The Larbre Competition Saleen also finished in the points, with Vincent Vosse and Greg Franchi finishing eighth on a very good day for Belgium.
Last year's Monza winners, Karl Wendlinger and Ryan Sharp, also started from the back of the grid, after a tyre failure in qualifying, but had climbed through to fourth only to suffer heartbreak at the final round of pit-stops, as the Jetalliance Aston's ECU unit failed and the car would not restart. The pair lost three minutes, and any hope of the podium, eventually finishing seventh.
Belgian success appeared to have continued into GT2, with Prospeed Competition crossing the line first with the #61 Porsche 997 GT3 RSR piloted by Emmanuel Collard and Richard Westbrook. However, when the Porsche was later excluded for to a pit-lane infringement, the two AF Corse Ferrari 430s, with Silverstone winners Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander ahead of Thomas Biagi and Christian Montanari, assumed a 1-2 result.
The #62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari moved up to third to take its first points of the season, followed by the two BMS Scuderia Italia Ferraris, giving the 'home' marque a great result, especially as the two CR Scuderia cars came in sixth and seventh, ahead of Argentine drivers Russo and Perez-Companc, who claimed the first point for Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Team.
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