Stephane Ortelli (MON) and Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) in the Belgian Audi No.32 Audi R8 took victory in an entertaining Qualifying Race as the FIA GT1 World Championship brought world-class GT racing to Russia for the first time today.
Mon 03.09.12, 2:02PM
Second was the No.38 All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport Mercedes of German duo Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock and third was the second Audi of Oliver Jarvis (GBR) and Frank Stippler (DEU).
The race was declared wet after light rain fell just before the start and the field lined up behind the Safety Car for the opening two laps.
Once the pack was released in greasy track conditions, there was plenty of action on the first flying lap where the pole-sitting No.2 Hexis McLaren of Gregoire Demoustier (FRA) tangled with the AF Corse Ferrari No.3 of Filip Salaquarda (CZE) at T10.
The Audis gained the jump on the front runners in and then staged a feisty all-Audi battle throughout.
In the closing stages Ortelli and Stippler squabbled over the lead before Ortelli brought the No.32 car home to the chequered flag.
Winkelhock in the No.38 Mercedes got the better of Stippler with six minutes remaining and Stippler was then forced to hold off a strong challenge from Fred Makowiecki (FRA) in the Hexis McLaren No.1 on the last lap to secure the final podium position.
It was Audi’s best result since their double race victory in the opening round at Nogaro, France in April.
Ortelli, who enjoyed the battle with the sister Audi, said: “It is a great result for the team and nice to be back with a win after so long. It was great to have such a competitive race with our team mates.
“The car was pretty good in these conditions. When we had the dry line at the end it got really good which made a big difference, sometimes when this happens you experience a big drop and I was afraid of that but in fact this time it was the opposite, the tyres performed and were consistent.
“The conditions were quite challenging. Laurens (Vanthoor) was on the radio giving me some advice about the right line to take which was very useful.”
Vanthoor, who relied on some local knowledge, added: “The conditions for the start of the race was wet and because it was so cold it took quite a while to dry out so it stayed wet, slippery and greasy. It made our grip quite low so I was aware of that constantly.
“I talked to some friends who have raced here and they told me it takes a long time to dry the track, so I’m sure we took the right decision to stay on wet tyres.
Basseng, the All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport Mercedes team boss, was pleased with a surprising result which strengthens their lead in the teams’ championship.
“It was an unexpected podium for us considering how the weekend has been so far,” he said.
“We struggled in Free Practice and were off the pace because the track does not suit our car very much. I was nervous at the start of the race because of this, especially considering the weather, it was 6 or 7 degrees with light rain. I didn’t quite know what to expect.
“I tried to attack the Audis further into the race and I was close for a while but the tyres started to let go after that so I called for the pit stop. We then changed a couple of things for Markus (Winkelhock) and he went out and did a great job.”
Stippler admitted that a gearbox problem on the No.33 Audi hindered his efforts at the end.
“We had some problems with my stint, the car was quite balanced for the first 4 or 5 laps but soon after we had some tyre drop off in the rear which made the car oversteer a lot. Another problem was the gearbox, it wasn’t shifting down properly which made defending quite difficult so I was very happy to see the finish line.”
The FIA GT3 European Championship joined the grid for the Qualifying Race for Race One of the fifth round of their 2012 season.
The Championship Race starts at 15:15 local time today.