0

Silverstone FIA GT1 Under A Hexis

After a GT3 race which saw them fail to score a point in their role of defending team's champions the Hexis AMR team bounced back in spectacular fashion, with a 1-2 finish in an unpredictable Qualifying Race at Silverstone.

Having started from second the no.9 car, started by Thomas Accary, held on through the opening lap, fending off a start line challenge from the lead Vitaphone Maserati MC12, the no.1 car driven by Michael Bartels. Bartels practically placed his left side wheels on the dirt that currently makes up many of Silverstone's unkempt run-off areas as he looked down the outside on the rolling start before making ducking back in (and onto the track) on the run down to the first corner.

Not so lucky was the other Vitaphone entry, Miguel Ramos forced into evasive action to avoid a spinning Triple H Racing MC12 at Copse, an incident in which the no.8 Young Driver AMR entry picked up a left-rear puncture, the tyre parting company with the car on the Hanger Straight on the first lap, leaving driver Christoffer Nygaard to limp back to the pits.

Their teammates were picking up in the race where the left off in the final part of qualifying, leaping into a 1.6 second lead over Accary, Bartels and the duo of Sumo Power GT Nissans, Peter Dumbreck remaining seemingly glued to the rear bumper of the black and turquoise car ahead through much of the first half of the race.

That lead looked destined only to expand, breaching four seconds after just as many laps as Accary, in his first GT1 start began to gather a train of followers, second through eleventh position following each other closely, whilst battling between themselves – the no.24 Reiter Lamborghini the biggest loser, dropping two places to the back of the train as the found themselves passed by first the no.14 Phoenix/Carsport Corvette then the no.40 Marc VDS Ford GT within half a lap.

It was to be an eventful race for car, shared by German Christopher Haase and Dutchman Peter Kox. They had already been demoted from sixth to eleventh on the grid because of cutting the (soon to very important) white line at pit entry and spent much of the race on the fringes of the top ten only to be assaulted in the closing laps by Enrique Bernoldi in the second Vitaphone car at the chicane at Vale, the Brazilian clattering into the side of the Lamboghini as he aimed for a gap that was never going to exist when he needed it, before clattering over the kerb and damaging the rear bodywork of his own car which then broke lose to become an unwelcome obstacle on the Wellington Straight on the final lap.

The chicane of Vale and Club also saw perhaps the most unwelcome contact of the race, the two Swiss Racing Team Nissan GT-Rs hitting each other, Seiji Ara spinning Karl Wendlinger in an attempt to pass him down the inside.

However, much of the important action happened in the pitlane.

Or rather, just outside it.

Once the pit window was opened 25 minutes into the race there was the normal flurry of activity, Accary the first to stop, passing the car over to the more experienced Fred Makowiecki.

It was when Tomas Enge brought the lead car in that the shuffle began. The pitstop was fluid as ever and the car held position within the pit rotation, however, the Czech had cut the pit entry line, which seems to require a dizzyingly tight exit of Luffield, Peter Dumbreck also falling foul of the rule with his last minute dive into the pits to hand over to Michael Krumm.

With both cars effectively out of the running for race wins the main challenge to the Hexis cars was the no.1 Maserati, a challenge that was largely blunted when Andrea Bertolini lost vital seconds stalling as he got away from their compulsory pitstop.

That left the two Astons comfortably out front, Makowiecki with a six second lead over teammate Jonathan Hirschi, the pair a further three seconds ahead of Bertolini with an ever expanding gap to fourth place.

With those gaps, and points, as well as grid positions for the Championsip Race on offer, the top three settled down for the remainder of the race, the main point of interest being the blistering recovery drive by Darren Turner after a second penalty (this one a stop-go for cutting the pit entry line a second time).

First Turner passed the Sumo Power GT car of Warren Hughes, the pair driving side-by-side through Stowe, the Aston clinging onto the kerb even as every bounce of the suspension strained to pull the Turner wider. That should have given his the unfavoured outside line for the left hander at Vale , and it did, but it was no obstacle, the works Aston driver simply powering around the outside of the Nissan, the GT-Rs resurgent in their own right at the second round of the championship.

Turner would climb as high as fourth, making a more text book move down the inside at Stowe to relegate the Reiter Lamborghini of Jos Menten and Frank Kechele to sixth, as Hughes also found his way past.

“It's incredible for me,” said Accary. “My first race in GT1 and a victory.” “We did the perfect race, the team did the perfect race,” added Makowiecki, also congratulating his driver partner on a fine debut drive.

The Phoenix/Carsport entries, so fast in Abu Dhabi languished in the anonymity of seventh and eleventh, while the Ford GT of Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch continued their disappointing week, Mutsch losing two laps, spinning into the Becketts gravel twenty minutes into the hour long race.