It was fitting that on a weekend where German architecture and construction is celebrating a giant leap into the 21st century with the first event at the gorgeous new Lausitzring, a symbol of 20th century German engineering should take a historic victory.

The venerable Freisinger Porsche 911 of Wolfgang Kaufmann/Hubert Haupt scored the marques first outright GT Class win for more than two years as they timed their strategy to perfection and stayed on the track while all around them fell off.

The duo had been on the pace all weekend and were an impressive third on the grid thanks to their Friday time after rain caused final qualifying to be a bit of a non occasion. With the weather looking grey and overcast as the 27 cars took the green flag on Saturday evening.

The expectant German crowd were initially treated to a great scrap for the lead between the pole winning Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper of Mike Hezemans and the Lister Strom of Phillipe Favre which was eventually settled in the favour of the ex-F3000 star on lap twelve. Behind these two Kaufmann had successfully fended off the challenge of Franz Konrad (Konrad 911) and Walter Brun (Chamberlain Viper) and was now defending his third place from rising Championship contenders Vincent Vosse and Julian Bailey.

Vosse had started 17th in the Paul Belmondo owned Viper after missing most of the dry qualifying session on Friday while Bailey had virtually missed the entire Friday session and was mired back in 25th on the grid. However once the race had begun, both simply scythed through the field and were fourth and fifth respectively after a mere dozen laps.

However just prior to the 20 lap mark the heavens opened and the slick shod cars were sent hurtling into either the pits or the nearest gravel trap. With no other option, the safety car was deployed and the leaders were all able to make their first stops with Bailey emerging ahead of Boris Derichebourg, in for Vosse, with the Hezemans car back in third.

As the rain intensified the Carsport machine dropped away and eventually came home in ninth place while others to get caught out in the slippery conditions included Konrad who beached his 911, Toni Seiler who retired the Chamberlain car after 44 laps, and the very cautious Nicolaus Springer who undid Favre's good work with several off course excursions.

Even amongst the drivers that managed to keep their cars on the track there were problems. Bailey suffered a severe misting problem that left him and teammate Jamie Campbell-Walter driving nearly blind while the second Belmondo Viper of Claude-Yves Gosselin/Paul Belmondo looked very twitchy and unstable in the wet.

This left the door open for the leading NGT runners to make their mark on proceedings as the treacherous conditions virtually wiped out their power deficit to the GT machines. While Derichebourg continued to lead from the smooth Haupt, the leading NGT Porsche of Luca Riccitelli/Dieter Quester moved into third place and for a time looked as though it was going to overhaul the leaders.

However the RWS Red Bull machine didn't have it all its own way by any stretch of the imagination and the leading quartet of 996 GT3-R's provided the main point of interest for much of the race. First challengers to Riccitelli was the sister RWS machine of Patrick Huisman/Hans Jorg Hofer which led the early going while in the latter stages of the race it was the Pennzoil G Force car of Magnus Wallinder/Nigel Smith who looked likely class victors. However as the race reached its final stages, both cars fell down the order leaving the Championship leading Labre entry of Christophe Bouchut/Patrice Goueslard the closest challengers to the leading Red Bull machine.

The race took a new twist just prior to the final scheduled stops when the safety car was sent out to allow the marshals to retrieve a number of dangerously placed cars that had deviated from the prepared surface. Taking the initiative, Haupt dived into the pits to give the car back to Kaufmann while Derichebourg elected to stay out. When the pack was unleashed for the final time, Kaufmann was at the back of the queue but was well within striking distance of the still-to-pit leader. When Derichebourg was finally called in, the silver and blue Porsche swept into an unassailable lead.

Despite the dark and rainy conditions, Kaufmann stayed cool and actually increased his advantage to nearly two minutes in the closing stages, taking an emotional win for the German team.

Second place fell to the disappointed Viper crew who had a real tussle with the leading RWS car of Riccitelli in the closing laps. At the end of 79 tours and a full three hours of racing just five seconds separated the two. Despite the RWS crew's absolute delight at scoring the first ever podium for an NGT car, the achievement was soured slightly by Bouchut's fourth place, which assures the Labre team the NGT crown.

Fifth after a brave drive, one lap down on the winner was the Bailey/Campbell-Walter Lister while the G Force Porsche rounded out the top six.

Despite the atrocious conditions only three of the 27 starters were listed as non-finishers, which was a testament not only to the drivers but also to the highly professional course workers who were quick and efficient all day in difficult conditions.

A giant fireworks display greeted the sodden winners but despite the unsightly conditions, the event was one to remember and was one of the most dramatic GT events in recent years.


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