Zolder: Vitaphone Maserati Takes the Win and the Team's Title

It was a good day for Vitaphone Maserati

The sun shone on Zolder today, bringing out the crowds and providing a fine backdrop for the penultimate round of the 2008 FIA GT Championship. Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels, in the Vitaphone Racing Team’s nr 1 Maserati, came back from a big crash in qualifying to take a fine win, and clinch their fourth consecutive Teams title. Hezemans and Gollin finished second, seven seconds behind, to keep the Drivers Championship open until the final round in Argentina. Wendlinger and Sharp finished third in the Jetalliance Aston Martin DBR9.

In GT2, AF Corse’s Bruni and Vilander celebrated the title they secured in Nogaro with a fifth win of the season; they finished ahead of BMS Scuderia Italia’s Ferrari of Malucelli and Ruberti, who strengthened their runner-up position in the points. Third went to Prospeed Competition and the Porsche of Lieb and Palttala, on the team’s home race.


Zolder saw one of the closest races of the season. Wendlinger led from the start, in the nr 33 Jetalliance Aston Martin, and very gradually pulled away from the nr 6 Phoenix and the nr 3 SRT Corvettes, leading until his first pit stop. However, the pack of GT1cars remained nose to tail for much of the first hour. Mechanical problems for the nr 3 SRT Corvette and the nr 4 PK Saleen took them out of contention, but the battle continued.

A small excursion off-track for Sharp saw the Aston drop back, but he immediately began climbing back up the field. During the middle stint, Phoenix Carsport was in control with both cars in the lead, followed by the nr 1 Maserati. The last to pit, the Maserati pulled out a good lead and made a lightening pit stop, to emerge in the lead. At this point, the top five GT1 cars were separated by just 15 seconds ! But Bertolini survived the pressure from the nr 6 Corvette and nr 33 Aston to take the chequered flag and secure the Teams title.

The Gigawave Aston Martin made a fine recovery from a ten-place grid penalty; Simonsen was fighting hard in the final moments to overtake Wendlinger’s Aston Martin, but eventually had to settle for fourth, crossing the line just four tenths of a second behind the other Aston. Fässler and Deletraz took the points for fifth position, but this was not enough to keep their team in contention for the Teams title. Sixth went to the Nogaro-winning nr 2 Vitaphone Maserati, the heaviest GT1 car this weekend. Larbre Competition, which had also been relegated by ten places on the grid, finished seventh, with new Team Vitasystems taking the final point for eighth.

The start was a little chaotic


Four in a row ! German team Vitaphone set a new record today, securing their fourth consecutive GT1 Teams Championship with first and sixth places for their two Maserati MC 12 cars. The previous best was three titles in a row for Larbre Competition between 2000 and 2002, and three for Freisinger Motorsport between 2002 and 2004.

Michael Bartels commented : “We are very happy with the fourth Championship win, but in this case we also have to thank Miguel Ramos and Alexandre Negrao, who scored a lot of points towards the Championship Teams title. It was a good day after a shocking moment yesterday, and I’m happy Andrea is in good health today. We now have an eight-point lead and we have to stay focused. With the first three cars in 10 seconds after two hours, it is great racing and I hope we go all out to Argentina in a nice, fair atmosphere, and we’ll look forward to finishing the FIA GT season there.”

Despite victory for Bartels and Bertolini today, the GT1 Drivers Championship battle will go on until the final round of the season in San Luis, Argentina. Second place for Hezemans and Gollin kept them in contention, although the Vitaphone drivers have a comfortable eight point lead going into the final race. “Our team and Vitaphone’s team prepare the cars so well , they hardly ever break down. Anything could happen, but it’s a long shot,” Hezemans commented.

AF Corse took another win


AF Corse duo Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni proved again that they are the team to beat this year, steering their nr 50 Ferrari 430 GT2 to a fifth win, confirming the 2008 title they secured at Nogaro two weeks ago. “Nogaro was good because we had the Championship in our pocket. It was nice, but not the best way to celebrate. Here it was a different story !” Bruni said.

With the GT2 cars in the thick of the action at the first lap, casualties including the pole setting nr 56 CR Scuderia Ferrari and the second AF Corse Ferrari, both of whom ended their race in the gravel at the first corner. The nr 61 Prospeed Porsche took control of the class, and looked as if it was heading for a second consecutive victory. However, shortly into the second hour, the car was being chased down by the nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari.

An overtaking manoeuvre saw both cars spin off, for which incident the nr 62 received a drive-through penalty. The nr 77 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari took over the commands, with Bruni taking the lead after the BMS car made its final pit stop, and remaining in control until the chequered flag. The nr 77 finished second, followed by the two Prospeed Porsches, the nr 60 car of Lieb and Palttala ahead of the recovering nr 61 car of Westbrook and Collard.

Fifth went to Russo and Perez-Companc in the nr 95 Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Team car, ahead of CR Scuderia’s Ferrari of Mullen and Sutton. The second BMS car finished seventh, with Scuderia Ecosse taking the final point in eighth.


The fight for second place in the GT2 Drivers Classification goes on to San Luis. In the Teams points table, BMS Scuderia Italia, Prospeed Competition and CR Scuderia are still fighting over the coveted position. In the Drivers points, Ruberti and Malucelli have a 6.5 point lead over Richard Westbrook, who could still aim to finish second…

The Gigawave Aston Martin team raced well after a grid penalty


On Monday morning, the containers will be delivered in Zolder. The teams will pack up their cars and equipment, so that the containers can then be transported to Antwerp and then shipped to South America and the port of Buenos Aires. They will then face a journey of over 700 km before finally reaching San Luis and the new circuit at Portrero de los Funes. The very first FIA GT race in South America will see the 2008 FIA GT1 Champion finally crowned.