Victory puts Vita4One Racing BMW duo top of the pile
The Vita4One Racing BMW No.18 of Yelmer Buurman (NLD) and Michael Bartels (DEU) won the Championship Race courtesy of rapid work by their pit crew at the Slovakia Ring.
Second was the No.1 Hexis Racing McLaren MP4-12C of Frederic Makowiecki (FRA) and DutchmanStef Dusseldorp.
The German duo of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock in the No.38 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG were third.
The victory moved Buurman and Bartels to the top of the drivers’ championship standings with 70 points – ahead of the leaders entering round four, Makowiecki and Dusseldorp, on 64.
Bartels paid tribute to the Vita4One Racing crew. “The pit stop was super, there is a really strong spirit in the team. The guys have had a tough weekend with no sleep but hopefully this makes it all worth it,” he said.
“Now we can relax a little bit in the summer break, do some homework and hope to come strong again at Portimao for the next round.
“These GT3 cars are very sensitive to condition changes. Five to 10 degrees of atmosphere can make a huge difference to performance.
“After a year out (of the FIA GT1 World Championship), we are back and finding the right rhythm for challenging for the title.
The team bossalso had high praise for team-mate Buurman. “Yelmer proved again today that he is an extremely quick driver in all conditions. This makes the difference with car performance because the McLaren was flying at the start.”
The No.1 McLaren had led until the pit window open but the race lead swung on a lightning pit stop by the Vita4One Racing crew which enabled Bartels to re-join in the lead.
By contrast, the Hexis Racing stop for the No.1 car was sluggish by the French team’s high standards. Their cause was not helped by having to wait for the Exim Bank Team China Porsche of Matt Halliday (NZL) to pass down the pit lane before exiting.
Dusseldorp admitted that the delay was costly. “I lost about two to three seconds at the pit stop because I had to wait for the Porsche,” he said. “Up until then the pace was good. Anyway it was a good result for the team to be on the podium.
“Our guys worked until four in the morning doing engine changes.”
The Vita4One Racing team was pipped by the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport crew for the fastest stop of the day – an area that Basseng said they had been concentrating on. The German team’s time was 47.065 compared to the BMW outfit’s 47.153.
“We have been working hard on improving our stops as we need to find as many gains we cangiven that we are down on straight line speed with the Mercedes,” he said. Today’s result was the maximum we could achieve.”
The race began in dry conditions under grey cloud cover. The heavy rain which spiced up yesterday’s Qualifying Race and hung around during the morning Warm-Up stayed away for the main event.
The pole-sitters, Toni Vilander (FIN) and Filip Salaquarda (CZE) in the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia No.3 Salaquarda finished fourth.
The best of the Audis was the No.33 R8 LMS ultra of Frank Stippler (DEU) and Oliver Jarvis (GBR) in fifth place.
Tomas Enge (CZE), the star of yesterday’s Qualifying Race in was forced to retire the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo No.24, on lap two after contact with the Ford GT No.10 of Milos Pavlovic (SRB) at turn three.
Enge says the incident added up to a chance missed for the pair. “The car felt really good and after yesterday’s result it’s a real shame because we could have scored great points here.”
The Ford GT pitted to have a punctured tyre replaced and after rejoining Pavlovic peeled off some quick laps in an effort to move up the order but struggled to 12th place.
Slovakian Stefan Rosina and team-mate Darryl O’Young (CHN) in the second Reiter Lamborghini No.25 were forced to pit just before the pit window opened after a punctured left front tyre and were eventually 11th.
The Exim BankTeam China Porsche No.8 of Andreas Zuber (AUT) and Benjamin Lariche (FRA), which had a troubled weekend, did not make the start due to mechanical problems.
The fifth round of the championship takes place at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve in Portugal from 6-8 July.