Friday 8 July 2011

FIA GT1: Paul Ricard Hosts Last Euro Round of 2011 Season

Paul Ricard Hosts Last Euro Round of 2011 Season

 FIA GT and FIA GT1 have been racing at Paul Ricard for many years and it is the fitting venue for the final European races before the GT1 World Championship jets off to China and South America for the final three rounds of the 2011 season. Last year Paul Ricard saw a double win for Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini on their way to becoming the inaugural FIA GT1 World Champions but with the Maserati MC12 not on the grid this season the way is open for a crew from another manufacturer to step onto the top step of the podium. The Nissans and Lamborghinis took top 3 finishes last season, while the Corvette, Aston Martin and the Ford were always in the running for a podium finish.

At the last round at Navarra in Spain the Münnich Motorsport Lamborghinis were dominant, taking a 1-2 in qualifying and both races, while Dominik Schwäger and Nicky Pastorelli secured the fastest laps. Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock took the honours in the Qualifying Race ahead of their teammates but in the Championship Race it was Schwäger and Pastorelli who secured their first win of 2011 ahead of Basseng and Winkelhock. The Marc VDS Ford of Bertrand Baguette, who was standing in for Fred Makowiecki, and Maxime Martin took third in the Qualifying Race, while David Brabham and Jamie Campbell-Walter fought their way to third in the Championship Race in the Sumo Power Nissan GT-R.

Aston Martin is represented by French team Hexis AMR and German team Young Driver AMR. Up until the last event the Hexis team were leading the Team Championship after wins for both the cars of Stef Dusseldorf /Clivio Piccione and Christian Hohenadel/Andrea Piccini, however after the dominant showing by the All-Inkl Team in Spain, Hexis are looking to close the 20-point gap to their rivals and retake the lead at their home race at Paul Ricard. The Young Driver AMR team continue to score valuable points with Tomas Enge / Alex Müller taking two 3rd places in Belgium and this was followed by two further top 3 finishes at Silverstone.

The Corvette teams consist of Exim Bank Team China and DKR Engineering. In the Exim Bank Team China Corvette Dutch drivers Mike Hezemans and Nicky Catsburg started the season well with a second place finish in the Qualifying Race and a fighting 5th in the Championship Race at Zolder. Catsburg was replaced by Andreas Zuber for races in Great Britain and resulted in pole position and two top 3 finishes at Silverstone, while Nico Verdonck joined Hezemans in Spain but retirements brought no points for the drivers or the team.

French driver Michael Rossi in the DKR Engineering Corvette has also had a couple of co-driver changes and was joined by Dimitri Enjalbert at Silverstone. Two strong performances in Spain saw the driver pairing collect their first Championship points of the year in Navarra.

Both Ford teams are based in Belgium, with the Marc VDS Racing Team starting the year well with Maxime Martin and Frederic Makowiecki winning the Qualifying Race in Abu Dhabi. Germany also proved to be a good track for Makowiecki and Martin when they added their second Qualifying Race win of the season to their tally. Bertrand Baguette replaced Makowiecki in Spain and he and Martin scored well with a 3rd place in the Qualifying Race followed up by 4th in the Championship Race. Makowiecki will return to the Ford for the rest of the season. The Belgian Racing team is new to GT1 World this year and their two cars run in the black, red and yellow national colours. Two top 10 finishes at Silverstone was their best result of the season so far as the brand new team continues to improve race by race.

The Münnich Motorsport Lamborghini started the year well, with three pole positions in the first five races and was the dominant force in Belgium when the nr38 car of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock which took the chequered flag in both races. A dominant weekend at Navarra gave the drivers one win and a second place each and gave Basseng and Winkelhock a 15-point lead over Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr after six rounds.

Swiss Racing switched to the Italian manufacturer from the Nissans they ran last season. The Swiss Racing team boasts the services of the highly experienced Karl Wendlinger and Peter Kox had their best ever GT1 World Championship finish by finishing 4th in Belgium and then 5th in Portugal, but a first corner accident in the Championship Race in Germany eliminated both of the Swiss Racing Lamborghinis, causing the team to miss the last two rounds in the UK and Spain. The team will be aiming to get back to claiming more points in France and will be aiming for their first podium finish.

2010 team Sumo Power GT are joined by JR Motorsports this season running the Nissan GT-R. JR Motorsports have been strong for most of the season with Germany’s Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr collecting a fighting third in the qualifying race in Yas Marina. They followed this up by stepping onto the top step of the podium in Portugal and Great Britain and while the Navarra weekend was far from the best for the team, Krumm and Luhr took some more points to keep them in the title hunt. British duo Richard Westbrook and Peter Dumbreck had a disappointing outing in Spain with a 7th and 9th in th etwo races and just 2 championship points. 2010 race winner Enrique Bernoldi has been joined by Nicky Catsburg, who moved from the nr11 Corvette to the nr20 Nissan last time out in Spain. Australia’s David Brabham and Britain’s Jamie Campbell-Walter finally tasted the champagne in Portugal with two third place finishes, while in Spain they finished4th in the Qualifying Race and podium finish in the main event in Navarra.

Jeff Carter/ Media Delegate.

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