Sunday 8 May 2011

FIA GT3: Audi Takes Advantage of Safety Car to Score First Win of 2011

Audi Takes Advantage of Safety Car to Score First Win of 2011

Enzo Ide took the chequered flag in the Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS to score a surprise win from 14th on the grid in Round 2 of the FIA GT3 European Championship. The Safety Car was deployed for an accident and Ide's co-driver Greg Franchi was able to dive into the pits a lap earlier than most of the grid as the pitlane opened just as he passed the pit entrance. This catapulted Ide to the front of the field, a position he held until the chequered flag, despite some intense pressure from Francesco Castellacci in nr50 AF Corse Ferrari 458. Castellacci, and co-driver Federico Leo were able to take their first podium place after the car was repaired overnight after the crash in qualifying. Third place went to the Heico Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG of Brice Bosi and Dominik Baumann when Baumann overtook Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof in the Reiter Lamborghini twos lap from home.

With the nr20 MTECH Ferrari 458 of Luca Pirri and Paul Rees and the nr36 DB Motorsport BMW Z4 of Harrie Kolen and Nicky Catsburg the only cars absent from the grid due to damage sustained earlier in the weekend, 26 cars lined up to take the start with the nr3 Graff Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG of Mike Parisy on pole position. At the start the nr9 Team LMP Aston Martin of Maxime Martin made up one place from 4th by passing the nr50 AF Corse Ferrari of Federico Leo. The nr 25 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo of Albert von Thurn und Taxis was another car that fell back on the first lap from 5th to 13th after a spin.

Parisy led the way from the nr21 MTECH Ferrari 458 of Matt Griffin, who was closely followed by Martin in the Team LMP Aston. The 4th placed car of Tomas Kostka, the nr11 Gravity-Charouz Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS landed in the gravel at T9, promoting the nr44 Heico Motorsport Mercedes of Brice Bosi to 4th, which was closely followed by Leo in the AF Corse Ferrari.

On lap 12, Round 1 winner Abdulaziz Al Faisel was making up some places from 18th on the grid and was challenging the nr4 Graff Racing Mercedes of Gary Hirsch. Hirsch overtook the struggling nr 13 Fischer Racing Ford GT of Markus Palttala in T1 and Al Faisel tried to overtake the Ford into T4. Al Faisel and Hirsch collided, with both cars damaged beyond recovery. The safety car was deployed to recover the stricken cars. The FIA Stewards penalised Al Faisel after the race for the incident and will have to take a five grid position drop at the next event.

With the Safety Car on track the field lined up behind. As the train passed the pit entrance the Pitlane Window opened and, in a move that changed the race completely, Reiter Engineering and Belgian Racing Club called von Thurn und Taxis and Greg Franci in for their mandatory stops as they passed the entrance to the pitlane while the rest of the field continued to circulate behind the Safety Car. At the end of the next lap all but one car came into the pits and rejoined behind the nr33 Audi, now with Enzo Ide behind the wheel and the nr25 Reiter Lamborghini of Nikolaus Meyr-Melnhof.

The race resumed on lap 18 with Meyr-Melnhof coming under pressure from Dominik Baumann in the nr44 Heico Mercedes, who in turn was being caught by Francesco Castellacci in the nr50 AF Corse Ferrari. Castellacci moved ahead of the Mercedes on lap 22 and then two laps later passed the Lamborghini for 2nd at the first corner. Castellacci then set off after the leading Audi and within two laps was less than a second behind. The Reiter Lamborghini was also under pressure from the Heico Mercedes and two laps from home Baumann overtook Meyr-Melnhof to secure the final podium slot.

At the front Enzo Ide soaked up the pressure and defended his lead at every turn from the attentions of Castellacci's Ferrari. The Belgian driver took the chequered flag to take his first international race win in only his second full season of racing.

After finishing second in Round 1, ten championship points for 5th place was enough to give Csaba Walter and Claudia Huertgen a one point Championship lead over Enzo Ide and Greg Franchi in the Driver’s Championship and help give the Need for Speed Team Schubert a healthy 22 point lead over the Belgian Audi Club team in the FIA GT3 Team Championship.

The next event is at Silverstone in the UK when Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2011 FIA GT3 European Championship will be held on 4th/5th June.

CLICK HERE for the result of Round 2

CLICK HERE for the Race Facts

CLICK HERE for Championship Positions after Round 2

1st nr33 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS

Gregory Franchi: “It wasn’t a good start, I lost 6 or 8 places after the safety car. The team took the decision to be one of the first to go into the pit lane, and Enzo managed to leave in first position, and after that, Enzo drove really well. Thanks to the team, thanks to Enzo, winning the race is a very good result. Thanks to all the team, all the mechanics. For me, this is one of my top 3 tracks. Normally we have a bit of a problem with the breaking on the Audi, but with this track, we’ve got a good feeling for the braking zones.”

Enzo Ide: “I was surprised to be in the front. I think we had luck with the safety car, then I just had to manage the rest of the race, but it wasn’t this simple with the Ferrari that was so close to me and the tyres were getting very worn, and the car was moving a lot, but I managed to stay in front of the Ferrari. For me it’s a great achievement. For me, this is my second season in motorsport. I never thought we would win here, and for me, this is unbelievable. Thanks to the team and everybody for this win.”

2nd nr50 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia

Federico Leo: “We are very happy, the whole team and the drivers, that after yesterday’s race that we couldn’t do, to get second place today. Congrats to the Audi to keep the first position, because I thought that Francesco could take him and get first position. The Audi did a very good job in the last laps. I had a few problems at the start. I had a very good start, but in the first corner, a car closed in on me and I lost a lot of positions. The car was okay, we had a few problems with the setup, but it was fine after yesterday. During the safety car, we followed the car in front of us into the pits; we couldn’t enter later as we would lose a lot of places, so we followed them.”

Francesco Castellacci: “Congratulations to Audi, they did a good job. And to Federico. It was tough, because as soon as I was in the car, we were in 5th position, and there was enough of the race remaining, so I tried to take everything easy and use the edge a lot to not make any mistakes, as the important thing today was to finish and get as many points as possible, because we couldn’t participate in the race yesterday. I want to thank the entire team because they did a great job all last night to repair it. The pieces arrived just at the last moment to fix the car, so Ferrari did a great job. At the end, it was good to finish in 2nd position and gain our first points of the year, and the first podium for the Ferrari 458, which is important as the car is brand new. I’m really happy about it. The circuit is really nice; this is my first time here, and I’m looking forward to Silverstone.”

3rd nr44 Heico Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3

Brice Bosi: “First of all, I was pretty angry at myself, because yesterday I messed up qualifying a bit because I made a big mistake on the peak of my tyres and we ended up 13th. That’s not the result we expected to have. Therefore, I focused all on my start this morning, which was pretty good. I just ran in the middle, through the other cars, and ended up 5th or 6th by the end of the first lap, which was pretty good. Luck was with me. There were one or two accidents in front of me, and then I could give Dominick the car in 4th position, which makes me very happy. It’s quite tricky to overtake. There are a few places you can, but as we saw yesterday with Dominik’s crash, it’s not that easy to do, but it’s possible. The new Mercedes is a good car. We are very happy to be the first ones on the FIA GT3 podium with that car. We have to learn and improve the car and study all the regulations on the car, but there is potential and we just have to use it.”

Dominik Baumann: “The car was perfect, Brice gave me a perfect car. The tyres were okay so the Ferrari came a bit too fast, and then I couldn’t block him, so I was forced to let him past, but I knew it wasn’t the finish, so I continued to push, and the Lamborghini did some mistakes, so I saw the gap and I headed for it. Now we’re in 3rd place and everything’s fine. The first podium for the team and the Mercedes in GT3. Before we thought we had some problems with the tyres at the end of the race, but we’ve made it to 3rd and everything’s possible.”

Info: Jeff Carter/Media Delegate.

Fotos: DPPI.

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