Gripping drama as Porsche pair hold nerve to clinch win
The Exim Bank Team China Porsche duo of Matt Halliday (NZL) and Mike Parisy (FRA) produced a superb drive in challenging wet-dry conditions to secure a narrow victory in the Championship Race at Zolder.
The Porsche pair’s win followed their third place in yesterday’s Qualifying Race and lifted them to second in the drivers’ standings.
The race, declared wet by race control, began on a damp track under threatening skies. Tyre choice, like the previous day, was a lottery with selections varying throughout the grid. The rain arrived as early as the second lap.
In a thrilling contest which saw battles rage right throughout the field for the entire 60 minutes, six different brands were represented in the top six finishing order.
Parisy, who held off a late charge from BMW’s Yelmer Buurman in the closing stages to win by less than a second was overjoyed with the result. “It was one of the best days of my life,” the Frenchman said.
“It was an incredible race. There was a lot of pressure at the end but I just had to keep it tight and not make any mistakes. It’s a great result for Exim Bank Team China. We had the right strategy on tyres and it paid off.”
Halliday added: “To put the Porsche in P1 against this very competitive field is a great feeling. We had to manage our tyres, stop at the right time and make all the right choices – and that’s what we did. We are a young team but this result is a tremendous boost.”
The BMW renaissance continued as Michael Bartels (DEU) and Buurman (NLD) followed their win in the Qualifying Race to finish second in the Vita4One Z4.
Vita4One team boss Bartels, declared the team “back in business” in the championship after scoring just one point in the opening round at Nogaro. The No.18 car picked up 18 precious points today and eight for yesterday’s Qualifying Race win. He and Buurman move to fourth in the drivers’ standings and joined the battle for third in the teams’ table.
“We are now heading in the right direction following the disappointment at Nogaro,” he said. “We are back in business in the championship but we have a lot of homework to do for the next race.
“We have a break now between GT1 events before Navarra and we will concentrate on making less mistakes and improving the set-up of the car.
“The relationship with BMW is still young after so many years with Maserati and we are learning together, finding out about each other but we are definitely heading the right way.”
Third was the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of ToniVilander (FIN) and Filip Salaquarda (CZE) which stormed through the field from 13th on the grid after starting on dry tyres. “I was one of the only guys with slick tyres and I had a pretty hectic 15 minutes with the rain so I had to use my Finnish rally experience a bit,” Vilander said.
“It’s been a difficult weekend with the weather but coming from 13th to third today is an amazing result with this level of drivers. Hopefully we can score some more big points in Navarra.”
In fourth was the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG No.37 of Nicky Pastorelli (NLD) and Thomas Jager (DEU), who had led the race in the early stages.
“I’m happy with the car, and how things went in general but I made a mistake in my stint, with the cold tyres on the damp track, I touched the white line and I went off,” Pastorelli said. “We lost some seconds there and without that we could have finished third.
“We scored points which is important, you have to be consistent throughout the year, and we are improving step-by-step.” The sister Mercedes of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock was ninth.
Hexis Racing McLaren team boss Philippe Dumas was delighted with fifth place for the No.1 MP4-12C of Frederic Makowiecki (FRA) and Stef Dusseldorp (NLD). The No.2 car was seventh.
“We have had some very good moments in this Hexis team since 2008, we won a lot of races, and the Championship, but today is the same feeling as a victory,” he said.
“We worked so hard at the beginning of the year and everybody knows that it is a difficult situation with the McLaren GT. We share a very good relationship with McLaren, we have had a lot of problems in the beginning, but we have fixed it and today is a perfect result for us.
“We are more determined than ever. Before the weekend my briefing with the team was to finish with both cars in both races and try to get around P5. The next step is to stabilize the reliability and get the car on the podium.”
One of the drives of the race came from Maxime Martin in the Valmon Racing Team Russia Aston Martin DBRS9. Starting from ninth on the grid, the Belgian sliced through the field to lead the race by lap 7.
He had held a lead of over 12.6 seconds as the pit window opened but as the dry-shod cars came into their own, notably the Ferrari No.3 of Vilander, the gap had shrunk to three seconds. Martin handed over to Alexej Vasiliev, the Russian finding the going a little tougher with the No.7 car eventually finishing 12th.
The Belgian Audi Club WRT Team chose to start the race on slick tyres but were disadvantaged at the start in the greasy conditions. Stephane Ortelli (Laurens Vanthoor) in the No.32 had a coming together with Oliver Jarvis in the No.33 R8 LMS with 10 minutes left.
Ortelli survived unscathed to finish sixth but the incident cost Jarvis (Frank Stippler) two places at the time and they finished 10th.
“It was a gamble today, we gambled a lot better than yesterday, but in the end we know that we were not fast enough in Zolder in the stop-start layout,” Stippler said.
“I think the choice today was okay, and we might have claimed fourth or fifth, but unfortunately Stephane (Ortelli) crashed into my team-mate, Oliver Jarvis, and that is not the best way to finish the race, but it is part of racing.
“Perhaps it is not the best idea to try and pass on such a wet and oily part of the track, but in the end we are human and mistakes happen. It was perhaps not the best weekend for WRT, we were the heroes in Nogaro, and here it just has not gone very well. We have some points, but it could have been better.”
It was also a tough day at the office for the Reiter Lamborghinis. Tomas Enge (CZE) and Albert von Thurn und Taxis finished eighth while the Peter Kox/Darryl O’Young car was a lowly 13th, a result that did not please Dutchman Kox particularly given the Qualifying performance.
“In the end of the day we are very disappointed. The car was on the pace in practice and I was quite satisfied, we claimed P3 in Qualifying but then I had a jump start, with the penalty and that throws the whole race away, still managing to finish in eight,” he said.
“Today was just unfortunate. You can make the right call or the wrong call, and we made all the wrong calls. We had once of those days. We have really managed to go backwards over the weekend.”
The Sunred Ford GT No.10 of Milos Pavlovic (SRB) and Matteo Cressoni (ITA) started from the rear of the grid after missing the Qualifying Race yesterday with brake issues. They finished 16th.