Silverstone 'Supercar Showdown'
Round one of this year's FIA GT series saw a relatively straightforward win for the Vitaphone Maserati MC12 team. Despite a 6 car entry, and constant pursuit of the leading cars, the best Aston Martin could do was third overall, just a over a minute down on the winning car.
Competing for the prestigious Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy (won seven times by Sir Stirling Moss, present at the 2006 running), the combined GT1 and GT2 (less modified cars) race over some 500 kms of the grand prix circuit saw an excellent entry from the world's supercar manufacturers, fully justifying the organisers' strapline 'Silverstone Supercar Showdown'. And even better subscribed were the two separate one hour races for GT3 (even less modified) cars run on both days.
The meeting commenced on Friday with a police-escorted run of supercars from St James's Square, Pall Mall, to Silverstone with the Tourist Trophy itself transported in an an Aston Martin Vanquish S driven by no less than Marek Reichman, Aston's Director of Design, accompanied by Stephen Hammerton, Chairman of the RAC's Motoring Committee. You will be able to read a full report on the 'Supercar Run' from the driving seat of a Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT elsewhere on Classic Driver.
Come the main race it was the Modenese car that beat off the challenge of Bert-Janis's Saleen S7R and the Aston Martin DBR9 driven by Gollin-Babini. The other Maserati fielded by the Vitaphone Racing Team, and driven by Jamie Davies and Thomas Biagi was fifth.
The race began in uncertain weather so the teams had to fit intermediate tyres. Starting from second and fourth place on the grid, Bertolini and Davies attacked from the start and immediately gained two places. On lap three, Bertolini moved into second place while Davies, following a spin, slipped down to fifteenth spot. After half an hour of racing, Bertolini's MC12 took the lead and Davies climbed to third. The track began to dry out and, forty minutes in, Bertolini came into the pits to switch to slicks and refuel. Davies mirrored the move two laps later. This strategy proved to be a winning one. After their stops, Bertolini and Davies came back onto the track in 5th and 7th place. An hour into the event, Bertolini had climbed to third and, by setting the best lap times, closed in on Janis' Saleen and Piccini in the Aston Martin, first and second respectively. Davies, despite some visibility problems, held fourth place. During lap 35, Bertolini claimed top spot with his team mate Davies in third.
By the end of the second hour the driver changes had been made (between laps 51 and 53). With Michael Bartels and Thomas Biagi in the driving seats the two MC12s were second and fourth. The mandatory pit stops over, Bartels took the lead and steadily increased his advantage over his pursuer Janis (Saleen) to 60 seconds. Eighteen minutes from the chequered flag, Bartels came in for his final fuel stop after an earlier tyre change, but the lead he had built allowed him to come back onto the track in first place and cruise to the finish line.
No works cars from Aston Martin (they'll be at Houston this weekend racing in the American Le Mans Series) this year but the Italian BMS Scuderia Italia DBR9 finished a good third on the team's debut with the British cars, with the sister BMS car finishing in seventh. The Cirtek DBR9 narrowly missed a podium finish in fourth place, with the Phoenix Racing DBR9 finishing sixth after leading in the early stages
The two 60 minute GT3 races saw very strong performances from Ferrari's latest 430 Challenge GT3 car in a superb grid that included the European debut of the Aston Martin DBRS9 (6 cars entered! Three from Barwell Motorsport and three from BMS Scuderia Italia), Lamborghini Gallardo GT3s, Dodge Vipers, Corvettes and of course the evergreen Porsche 911, here in 997 GT3 Cup guise. The Lester/Simonsen pairing won Saturday's race for Ferrari while on Sunday, in more mixed weather, the same pair were second, just a little behind Livio/Ceccato in a Dodge Viper Coupe.
Also at the meeting were rounds of the Trofeo Audemars Piguet Maserati Europe series for identical Maserati GranSports, and the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli for F430 Challenge cars. Both the events proved exciting, and a special commendation must be made to the official British dealer team for an all-nighter ensuring the race damage sustained by Ross Kaiser in Ferrari GB's car number 27 in the second race on Saturday was repaired in time for an excellent third place in the opening round on Sunday morning.
Both series (Ferrari and Maserati) are ideal for the enthusiastic 'Gentleman Driver' who wants to compete on proper (including many Grand Prix) circuits across Europe while enjoying the luxury of Italian hospitality and lifestyle on an 'arrive and drive' basis.
The next round of the FIA GT Series for GT1, GT2 and GT3 is on 28th May at Brno, Czechoslovakia.
Text: Classic Driver
Photos: DPPI/FIA GT/Maserati/Ferrari GB
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