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2007 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy - FIA GTs at Silverstone

Even with its new two-hour format, allowing entrants to run flat-out for longer periods, the FIA GT round at Silverstone saw the 2006 winning team victorious again as the Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 beat the two pursuing Chevrolet Corvettes by a margin of over 30 seconds. The highest Aston Martin DBR9 of Austrian Jetalliance Racing, with drivers Karl Wendlinger and Ryan Sharp, finished in fourth position, on the same lap but 1:14.268 secs behind the winners.

Now in its 102nd year, the United Kingdom’s oldest motor race was started in characteristic style on Friday morning by the convoy of supercars leaving the Royal Automobile Club’s Pall Mall address in a police-escorted convoy to Silverstone. The Club’s Chairman, Tim Keown, travelled with the famous trophy in a Jaguar XKR convertible, arriving at the home of the British Grand Prix at lunchtime, by way of nearby Towcester race course where the 30+ cars (including a Spyker and Bugatti Veyron) lined up for a photo-call.

Practice had seen eventual second-place men Hezemans/Deletraz and their Corvette C6R take pole position, ahead of ex-Formula One driver Karl Wendlinger in the blue and white Aston Martin, closely followed by the Salo/Biago MC12 and the Scuderia Italia DBR9 of Babini/Davies.

In GT2, it was the Ferrari F430 GT of Scuderia Ecosse that took pole, but not the car of ex-World Champion Nigel Mansell; Mullen/Kirkaldy just beating Bruni/Melo similarly-mounted for AF Corse.

2007 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy - FIA GTs at Silverstone 2007 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy - FIA GTs at Silverstone

When the Dodge pace car pulled off at 12.00 on Sunday it was Aston Martin all the way as the JetAlliance DBR9 comfortably led the following Corvette and Maserati, giving cheer to the owners of the incredible collection of over 90 Aston Martin Vanquish motor cars parked nearby, owners that had been specially invited by Astons to celebrate the final year of model production at Newport Pagnell.

The British manufacturer’s hopes of a repeat of its 2005 success at the TT fell within 20 minutes or so as first the yellow Corvette and then the blue and green Maserati caught and passed the DBR9. The rest of the race was an ongoing battle between the Vitaphone and Scuderia Playteam Sarafree MC12s, the two Corvettes and various DBR9s. The opening race’s winners, the German Lamborghini Murciélago of the team, were never really on the pace, the leading car finishing 9th overall.

At the finish, it was a fairly comfortable win for the Vitaphone MC12, although the Corvettes proved once again what a strong package they are and how Aston Martin will have to be at the peak of its game at Le Mans this year when it comes up against the ‘works’ all-yellow cars.

One of the highlights of the GT1 race was the Playteam Sarafree MC12 of Bertolini/Piccini, a pairing that made an extraordinary comeback after a drive-through on lap one costing them around forty seconds. Bertolini , Maserati's official test driver, climbed from twentieth to seventh place before handing over to Andrea Piccini and garnering an eventual finish in 5th place, on the same lap as the winners.

2007 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy - FIA GTs at Silverstone 2007 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy - FIA GTs at Silverstone

The GT2 class saw the eagerly-anticipated return by Mansell, the hero of so many British Grands Prix in the 80s and 90s, produced a typical gritty performance but he didn’t, in reality, challenge for the class lead despite being in one of the top cars. It was a Ferrari F430 GT benefit in GT2 with the AF Corse car of Vilander/Muller taking the class ahead of the Team Edil Cris duo of Ruberti/Pasini.

As usual in European FIA GT events, the main race was supported by two one-hour GT3 rounds and, at Silverstone, the first of a new GT4 European Cup series that saw the British debut of Aston Martin’s N24 V8 Vantage GT car, the two yellow cars finishing on the podium in both races.

The GT3 race had a bumper entry of over 50 cars and the surprise of the meeting was the speed of the Swiss-prepared Matech Racing Ford GTs, gaining pole for the first race and running strongly in both legs although not finishing highly in either, both rounds won by the Kessel Racing Ferrari F430 Challenge duo of Henri Moser and Gilles Vannelet. Sunday’s race proved particularly exciting as the bright red Ferrari was pushed all the way by the number 15 S-Berg Racing Lamborghini Gallardo driven by Erik Janis, who finished just 0.5 second adrift.

Overall Results -

1. Biagi/Salo Maserati MC12 GT1 2:00:57.020
2. Hezemans/Deletraz Corvette C6R + 37.465
3. Kumpen/Longin Corvette C5R + 1:04.259
4. Wendlinger/Sharp Aston Martin DBR9 + 1:14.268
5. Bertolini/Piccini Maserati MC12 GT1 + 1:18.710
6. Ramos/Montanari Maserati MC12 GT1 + 1 lap

2007 FIA GT Calendar -

20/05 Romania - Bucharest
24/06 Italy - Monza
08/07 Germany - Oschersleben
29/07 Belgium - Spa-Francorchamps
08/09 Italy - Adria
23/09 Czech - Republic Brno
30/09 France - Nogaro
21/10 Belgium - Zolder

Editor's Note: I was able to sample the weekend’s action from behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Carrera for the Supercar Tour, and at the controls of the Aston Martin Works Service converted manual transmission Vanquish for the Vanquish Celebration Day on Sunday.

Both superb occasions that we will be covering in further detail this week on Classic Driver.

Story: Steve Wakefield
Photos: FIA GT - Strictly Copyright

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