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 M?ller, 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.

Rounding off the top ten was the first of the new generation GT1 cars, the Matech GT Racing Ford GT of Thomas Mutsch and Thomas Biagi.

"It's been unbelievable," Mutsch said. "The team have been doing a lot of work over these last four months; we had all the development to do with the new car, so we had two cars built at the end of March and had the third one rolled out in April in Magny Cours, and one went directly to Paul Ricard, and now we're here.

"In these past four weeks, we've found a lot of things we've had to change, but we're really happy with the amount we've managed to improve between Paul Ricard, Magny Cours and here. I'm really happy and we haven't had the time to do long runs before, so this was the first time that the car ran for two hours in a row and I'm really happy and pleased that everything went so well."

GT2 saw an exceptionally close race, and a rather unusual one, as none of the cars in the top three over the finish line were in the top three in qualifying. After a hard fight with the AF Corse Ferrari of Vilander and Bruni, which had led for much of the race, Westbrook and Collard were closing the gap in the #60 Prospeed Competition Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, when the #50 AF Corse car went off at Luffield, after a wheel appeared to lock. This was the first time that triple Champions AF Corse had finished off the podium since Spa 2007.

The Porsche was left with a relatively easy run to the chequered flag, with all-Argentine team Pecom Racing finishing 12 seconds behind them, after a fine performance from Matias Russo and Luis Perez-Companc, who also won the Citation Cup. Their Ferrari had qualified ninth and started eighth, but they opted to pit late and were therefore able to make the most of the safety car period.

"This result was very unexpected," Westbrook said. "We were feeling a bit down after yesterday. We just couldn't get a hang of the car and qualified down in seventh. It's a really tight field this year and the restrictions and penalties have really closed things up. We had a great car today that worked over a full stint. Everything worked and the team gave us a great car. It's a good finish and a great start to the season. We were saying that we'd be happy if we got fourth, so this is great, a hard fought victory."

Third went to Bell and Kirkaldy in the #56 CRS Racing Ferrari; like Collard and Westbrook they are carrying 50 kg crew handicap ballast, due to being two professional drivers, and struggled in qualifying. In the race, however, they came to the fore and took another Silverstone podium.

BMS Scuderia Italia finished fourth with Malucelli and Ruberti, ahead of AF Corse's second car with newcomers Alvaro Barba Lopez and Niki Cadei. Sixth went to the second Prospeed Competition Porsche of O'Young and Holzer, giving Prospeed a healthy early lead in the Teams classification.

The Aston Martin Vantage V8 claimed its first GT2 points, with a seventh place finish for Hexis Racing AMR and the duo of Stefan M?cke and Fr?d?ric Makowiecki, who had to start from the back of the grid after losing their qualifying times due to ride height problems. The final point went to fellow newcomers Brixia Racing, with the Porsche of Luigi Lucchini and Martin Ragginger.



Loading Comments...