Ryan Sharp and Karl Wendlinger have become the first driving pairing for more than 20 years to defend the Tourist Trophy title after winning the opening round of the new FIA GT Championship at Silverstone.
On their first weekend with the K plus K Motorsport team, the pair held off the challenge of Vitaphone pairing Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini to take victory in the Saleen S7R and the early championship lead.
Sharp and Wendlinger pulled out a solid lead in the early stages, before losing their advantage during a mid-race safety car period. They were fighting throughout with the #1 Maserati, which emerged ahead after an extremely fast final pit stop and driver change. However, Wendlinger kept the pressure on, overtaking the car when they caught up with a gaggle of backmarkers, and maintaining a lead to cross the finish line 5.499 seconds ahead of the chasing Maserati.
“The team put a lot of effort into this race and we've done a lot of testing and preparation,” Wendlinger said. “We weren't expecting to win the first race but we felt competitive.”
With the team's second car of Adam Lacko and Mario Dominguez finishing in a fine fifth position, K plus K Motorsports has taken an early lead in the GT1 Teams Championship.
The crew of the Maserati MC12 was pleased to start the season off with a podium, but admitted they could not catch the Saleen, which they considered to be in another class.
“It's been a really good start and we delivered our best today and it still feels like a victory for us,” Bertolini said. “We did a perfect stint and had a good strategy, but honestly for us it was impossible to win. I think this'll be a really difficult season for us,”
The second Vitaphone Maserati, which qualified third after a fine performance from Alex Müller, stopped on the track shortly after the first pit stop with a wheel problem, while it had been lying third, bringing out the safety car.
Third across the line, and making it three makes in the top three places, was the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6R of Xavier Maassen and Guillaume Moreau. The #4 PK Carsport Corvette of Hezemans and Kumpen was fourth, the car having suffered from understeer throughout. With the second K plus K Saleen fifth, a further two Corvettes were sixth and seventh, with Longin and Ruffier taking three points for SRT, finishing ahead of Menten and Palttala for DKR Engineering.