Racing Bull: Lamborghini join GT1 winners club at Spa

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Lamborghini joined the list of winners in the FIA GT1 World Championship as the brand took the lead late in the Championship Race at Spa-Francorchamps. However, it was a race the Murcielago 670 R-SVs of Reiter Engineering and Munnich Motorsport should have dominated.

From the very start three of the cars were at the fore of the race. Ricardo Zonta moving into the lead from the outside of the front row. The second Reiter car, started by Peter Kox followed through, both the Blancpain adorned cars beating polesitter Xavier Maassen in the Mad Croc Corvette through the opening corners of La Source and Eau Rouge.

Behind the field improbably squeezed through the famous turns, finding the room to run four wide round La Source before only just avoiding running thre abreast into Eau Rouge, Christoffer Nygaard back out of the middle of the sandwich, Nicky Pastorelli and Bert Longin moving ahead of the Dane in the Young Driver AMR no.8.

Pastorelli's move gave the Munnich Motorsport driver fourth place (the Phoenix/Carsport no.13 which finished the Qualifying Race third had been demoted to the rear of the because of a fuel irregularity) behind the two Reiter cars, now split by Maassen who had re-passed Kox along the Kemmel straight.

Behind Longin, proved a hold-up for those behind, allowing the leading quartet to escape into a clear lead, though Pastorelli never caught up to the rear of the third place man. 2.9 seconds behind on lap four as the Maserati led chasing pack followed 4.5 second further down the track.

On lap five Maassen took the lead, another typical Spa move down the Kemmel Straight towards Les Combes, the Dutchman completing the move early enough to move back ahead of Zonta before committing to the first, right handed element of the following corner. While Kox also moved ahead of Zonta in a (dare the words team orders be mentioned) suspiciously easy move on the sweeps between Stavelot and Blanchimont as Zonta dealt with tyre degradation.

But two laps later the drama was once more at Les Combes.

Maassen's Mad Croc car had suffered a right-rear tyre failure – at Eau Rouge according to the driver – and limped down the Kemmel Straight, losing a second in time, and the lead, to Kox before running wide into the gravel trap at Les Combes.

Maassen was able to crawl around to the pits, but despite his slowness the tyre had completely disintegrated, flailing much of the rear bodywork, and most probably the suspension into pieces.

The Qualifying Race winner retired.

Maassen's exit left a trio of Murcielagos in the lead, though as one challenger to Lamborghini domination departed more arrived.

Pastorelli running wide at the Bus Stop, and Zonta's on-going tyre problems had seen the top three spread out and, now past Longin's Hegersport Maserati rolling roadblock Richard Westbrook in a Matech Ford GT and Enrique Bernoldi had formed a three way battle for third with Pastorelli.

A battle for third became a battle for second, then a fight for the lead as first Zonta peeled in for the compulsory stop (and some sorely needed new tyres) for new driver Frank Kechele, the Kox handed the race leader over to Christopher Haase.

Meanwhile the now leading trio followed each other dutifully around – Westbrook (in a sadly rare foray outside Porsches) and Bernoldi swapping positions for half a lap the only movement. Predictably all three came to pit together, on the final lap of the pit window, and while Matech and Vitaphone pulled off swift stops – the Ford squad's still noticeably better – the All-Inkl squad were struggling, dropping out of the top ten, Pastorelli's replacement Dominik Schwager spinning the tyres angrily at his team as he re-entered the fray.

As the results of the pitstops wound out Reiter must have been fearing the worst, problems for both Kechele and Haase after the stops, and in-fighting on the track, Kechele surviving an enormous lock-up at the chicane were he briefly looked to be smoking towards the rear of Haase's car which was struggling, its headlights flickering on and off, a symptom of a larger problem which ate away at Kox's pre-stop lead.

Gone was the 1-2 running the lead instead falling to Thomas Mutsch in the Matech Ford Westbrook gave up, the Swiss team's pit work resulting in on track benefits (not for the first time this year).

Mutsch held a number of half-hearted attempts from the Lamboghinis before the Safety Car was scrambled, chiefly to allow for the recovery of some debris which had found the racing line at Pif-Paf.

The intervention – slightly ill-handled as the Safety Car took several minutes to pick up the leader – saved Mutsch from nearly eight minutes of pressure from Kechele, Haase finally succumbing to the problems that had dogged his stint.

Once the green flag was out the Kechele quickly returned his Murcielago to the front of the field, Mutsch running wide at La Source, allowing Frank to slip through on the drag down the hill to Eau Rouge. The earlier pace suddenly returned to the Lamborghini, pulling out to a 1.682 second lead in a single lap before Peter Dumbreck and Alex Muller could also pass Mutsch to begin to chase Kechele down. Despite their best attempts, Kechele's lead only grew in the handful of remaining lap, winning by a margin of over three seconds to start celebrations centred around Ricardo Zonta and team owner Hans Reiter.

Muller, making his debut for Alfred Heger's Maserati team, risked stealing the show from the victorious Lamborghini's he and Heger bringing the car from 12th on the grid to sixth when the safety car pulled in.

In the remaining 13 minutes Muller – a veteran for FIA GT campaigns with Vitaphone – overhauled the no.9 Hexis AMR, before passing Miguel Ramos in the Vitaphone Maserati on the Kemmel Straight. Finally he was handed second when Peter Dumbreck pulled the Sumo Power Nissan off the track only a few laps before the end of the race.

Thomas Mutsch, who held off Ramos for third was rewarded with a move to third outright in the driver's championship – Matech decision to juggle their driving line-up splitting he and Romain Grosjean for the weekend.

Aston Martin's took fifth and sixth – Hexis leading the Darren Turner/Tomas Enge Young Driver entry. The championship leading no.1 Maserati salvaged seventh having retired early in the Qualifying race. The second Hegersport MC12, the recovering All-Inkl Murcielago and the other Hexis AMR team completed the points paying positions.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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