Matech Competition, with drivers Thomas Mutsch and Romain Grosjean, put any memory of their disappointing Silverstone weekend into the past, taking advantage of fortunately timed safety car with quick pitstop to take their second win of the season in the FIA GT1 World Championship.
The duo, who had lost their championship lead only the day before after title rivals Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini won the Qualifying Race, had endured a torrid weekend at the previous round, with a straight line speed disadvantage, and though some hint of the deficit remained around Brno the Czech track gave their Ford GT enough chance to show it's prowess through the corners to hold off the Young Driver AMR car for Tomas Enge and Darren Turner to take the checkered flag.
The race had not started well for either team, in fact rather disastrously for the Aston Martin, with Tomas Enge taking the start in his home country.
As the field headed turned out of the final corner to take the rolling start most of the 22 car field – devoid of one Phoenix Corvette and the Kox/Haase Reiter Lamborghini – Enge had pulled to the extreme side of the track on driver's left as much of the pack streamed by the car on the way to turn one. It was, so Enge would claim, mix up between lights and race controller, with one signalling the start had been aborted, while another seemed to be starting the race.
The lights on the gantry certainly went green, but Enge believed the start had been aborted. He was, in something that can be seen as a indictment of his choice, the only driver not to accelerate away as normal.
Enge's misjudgement left the Bertolini with an unchallenged lead into turn one with the Sumo Power GT Nissan of Michael Krumm able to take second place, behind there was the normal traditional first corner shuffling, with Grosjean dropping back on the start from sixth and being the biggest loser when the two Hexis AMR cars touched, sending Fred Makowiecki's no.9 car shimmying sideways into Grosjean's charge, dropping the Frenchman back to eighth.
The French/Swiss was soon able to make it by the Aston, using the Ford's cornering to cut inside in the final chicane, but Matech's weekend was about to take another hit, with Rahel Frey being spun into the gravel by Stefan Mucke, the Ford dipping it's rear wheels playfully into the gravel, standing Frey, making her debut in relief of injured Natacha Gachnang in the series.
The beached car saw the safety car scrambled, closing up the field, but the restart was to see nore drama when Bertolini was handed a stop-go penalty for what race directors called “a violation of speed” at the start and it was not to be long before the safety car made it's decisive appearance.
The first restart had put Makowiecki – saddled with success ballast after Silverstone – the two Tripe H Maseratis and the Marc VDS Ford of Bas Leinders on track together, all battling over the same places. As is often the case in such scenarios a failed overtaking attempt by one car can present an opportunity for another. The unlucky man in the middles was Maserati pilot Alex Margaritis, who saw an chance to overtake the Aston only end in Leinders nipping past. The Belgian's stay in the place was not to last long, Margaritis trying a move that can only be described as 'optimistic' at the left-handed turn 13.
Leinders' unaware of the Greek's over-eager manoeuvre turned towards the apex only to be pushed into the gravel, where Margaritis would join him. Leinders was not happy, furiously gesticulating once out of the car and storming back to the pits, branding his aggressor and “idiot” in a colourful interview with the pitlane reporter.
Retrieval of the cars saw the safety car once more, just as the pit window was being cracked open.
What followed was more a scene from NASCAR.
Nearly the whole field – all bar about half-a-dozen cars – diving into the pits at once. Quite how what happened actually happened is unknown. Having come into the pits from fourth and tenth the Matech Ford and Young Driver AMR entry emerged first and second from the pits – with Thomas Mutsch and Darren Turner relieving Grosjean and Enge. The Sumo Power Nissan, which had briefly led after the Bertolini served his penalty shuffled back to third.
From the top three didn't change – Turner made a few half-hearted looks at taking the lead by Mutsch was always just far enough to stay ahead, or just enough of Turner's attention was taken by Peter Dumbreck behind him. The three teams pulling gradually away from Monegasque Clivio Piccione in the no.10 Hexis car in fourth, the leaders rubber stamping their place as the early pace-setters in the series, along with the rapid but luckless Vitaphone cars.
The black and turquoise cars were making their way up through the field in tandem, both making it past the all.inkl.com Lamborghini of Dominik Schwager within two corners, though the German was able to hold onto seventh in the car he shared with Nicky Pastorelli to claim the team's first points after a sluggish start to the year.
The solo Phoenix Corvette finished eighth, one-time F1 and WRC driver bringing the no.9 Hexis car home ninth and Karl Wendlinger and Henri Moser conspired to bring their SRT Nissan home for the final point in tenth.
Mutsch and Grosjean now sit on 56 points in the standings, 12 clear of Bartels and Bertolini, who salvaged their weekend with fifth, shadowing Piccione across the line as the top-five were covered by less than two seconds.