FIA GT Championship 2007
Round 2 Silverstone May 4th-6th
The FIA GT Championship arrived at Silverstone on 4,5,6th May for the second round of the 2007 calendar. 2007 marks the eleventh year of the FIA GT Championship and the ninth visit to Silverstone. However the winners of the Silverstone round were driving to get their hands on the prestigious RAC Tourist Trophy in addition to claiming points for the title race. The Tourist Trophy has a long and illustrious history with the first ever race run on the Isle of Man in 1905 with John Napier taking the honours. Over the years some legendary drivers have won the race which first came to Silverstone in 1970. The past winners include Rudolf Carraciola, Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, and Derek Bell to name a few. The elegant trophy was delivered to Silverstone from the RAC headquarters in London by a convoy of exotic supercars, including the fastest road car ever built, the Bugatti Veyron with a top speed of 253mph. The opening round in 2007 at Zhuhai in China produced a first win for Lamborghini with the Christophe Bouchut/Stephan Mucke Murcielago R-GT of All-Inkl.com Racing taking the honours. It was a close race with 4 marques finishing on the same lap after 2 hours of racing. The winners were chased home by the Corvettes of Luke Hines / Phillip Peter and Anthony Kumpen / Burt Longin in 2nd and 3rd, the Aston Martin DBR9 of Jamie Davies / Fabio Babini in 4th, the Corvette of Mike Hezemans / Jean Denis Deletraz in 5th, and the two Maserati MC12 GT1's of Michael Bartels / Thomas Biagi and Miguel Ramos / Christian Montanari in 6th and 7th. The FIA GT series is split into 2 classes GT1 and GT2. Both classes require the car to be based on perfectly legal road going versions but adapted for track use. Performance of the cars is balanced by the FIA with ballast in the form of handicap weight up to a maximum of 100kg being added to the top 3 finishers in the GT1 category and a maximum of 50kg in GT2. In addition GT2 cars receive an additional penalty if they are piloted by professional drivers. Points are allocated for the first 8 cars finishing each race according to the scale 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. In an effort to manage costs the FIA has imposed restrictions on the number of engines, gearboxes and brakes used during the season and no more than three sets of tyres can be used per event. The series consists of races at some spectacular and historic venues including Zhuhai, Silverstone, Spa Franchorchamps for a 24 hour race, and a street race at Bucharest. The FIA GT series is ably supported by the brand new FIA GT3 series for the latest GT production models providing affordable racing for non professional drivers. The inaugural race for GT3 took place at Silverstone on 2006. The Vitaphone Maserati MC12 driven by Bartels and Bertolini won the GT1 title in 2006 with the AF Corse Ferrari 430 GT2 of Jaime Melo taking the GT2 title. This years race at Silverstone had the added dimension of none other than ex F1 world champion Nigel Mansell making his FIA GT debut in the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2 alongside Chris Niarchos. Mansell has always been a big favourite at Silverstone and in his heyday always built a very strong rapport with his many fans. Although those days are long gone Nigel still pulled a good crowd, attracting the interest of photographers, media and fans in large numbers. The Ferrari 430 GT2 with it's hefty rollcage in place is not an easy car to get in and out of even for drivers of slight build that have had plenty of practice. Nigel does not fit into either of these categories and it was interesting to see Scuderia Ecosse putting him and co-driver Chris Niarchos through their paces as they practiced the pit stop driver change routine over and over again to try and shave off a few more crucial seconds. For Nigel it was the first time in his career that he had had to share his car with another driver, having spent most of his racing days in single seaters. He was also wary of the weather, not having had a chance to get any track time in the wet, as luck had it he need not have worried as it stayed dry for the weekend, but only just!. The FIA GT cars had two free practice sessions of 1 hour 20 minutes each on Saturday giving them a good opportunity to set the cars up and get familiar with the circuit prior to the all important but short single qualifying session of just 30 minutes in late afternoon. To put even more pressure on the teams and drivers this session was split into two 15 minute parts the first for GT2 cars and the latter for GT1. The pacesetters in the first two free practice sessions were Karl Wendlinger in the Jet Alliance Aston Martin DBR9 in session 1, and the PK Carsport Corvette C5R of Burt Longin and Anthony Kumpen in session 2. At this stage the fastest Maserati MC12 GT1 was that of Mika Salo and Thomas Biagi in the Vitaphone Racing liveried car. The GT2 cars came out onto the circuit and immediately found the pace with the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2 with Andrew Kircaldy at the wheel taking his 9th pole position with the car in just two seasons. Second fastest in this category was the AF Corse Motorola car of Gianmaria Bruni and Jaime Melo. Almost as soon as the track had been cleared of the GT2 cars the GT1's were out, all anxious to get some fast laps in early as with just 15 minutes to make their mark, time was of the essence. It was the Carsport Holland Corvette C6R of Mike Hezemans and Jean-Denis Deletraz with Hezemans scoring his tenth pole in the category that emerged triumphant. Karl Wendlinger in the Jet Alliance Aston Martin was 2nd fastest a mere 2 tenths adrift, with Thomas Biagi bringing the Vitaphone racing Maserati MC12 round in the third fastest time. Race day dawned dry and the cars took their place on the grid with an air of eager anticipation. The cars got away safely with a rolling start and the Wendlinger / Sharp Aston Martin, Hezemans / Deletraz Corvette and Salo / Biagi Maserati made the pace for the first half of the two hour race. With old tyres on the car and Deletraz at the wheel the Corvette spun down into third place with the Vitaphone Racing Maserati of Salo and Biagi taking command at the front. The Corvette recovered and had a strong run to the finish with Hezemans regaining second place but unable to reel in the Maserati of Biagi before the flag dropped. Hezemans did however secure the fastest lap in 1 min 46.253 seconds at a speed of 153.91 kph. It was a narrow win in the end for the Maserati drivers who suffered a 30 second penalty for a yellow flag infingement, leaving them ahead by just 7.465 seconds after two hours of racing. The Corvette C5R of Kumpen / Longin came home in 3rd place with early pacesetters Wendlinger and Sharp bringing home the Aston Martin DBR9 home in 4th. In the GT2 category it was a Ferrari 1-2-3 with the Muller / Vilander car winning the class from Ruberti / Pasini and Cressoni / Rugolo. Nigel Mansell was unable to recreate his Silverstone glory days as the Scuderia Ecosse team suffered handling problems with Mansell / Niarchos eventually finishing 7th and Kircaldy / Mullen 5th.
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