Nearly four months after their Silverstone win was taken away from them after they failed scrutineering Tomas Enge and Darren Turner got to keep a win, dominating the Qualifying Race for the FIA GT1 World Championship at the Nurburgring.
The race, the first of two races at the sixth round of the championship, was also the first time the series has raced in the rain, the changeable conditions in the Eifel Mountains adding a new element to the series, though not before the field had delivered its normal fare of contact and close racing.
Enge had started the Young Driver AMR entry from pole position as the team continued the form on the weekend by, however the track's sharp first corner almost brought the dominance to a crashing end.
After an even started Enge was pre-occupied with fighting off the challenge of Christopher Haase in the Reiter Lamborghini and Alex Margaritis – subbing for Mike Hezemans in the Phoenix Corvette – but his biggest challenge was coming from the fourth row of the grid.
As the field fanned out on the rolling start Peter Dumbreck took the Sumo Power Nissan to the far right hand side of the track where a defensive Frank Kechele almost pinned him against the pit wall – a move that drew instant parallels with Michael Schumacher's F1 move in Hungary. From the moment Dumbreck squeezed back into the pack on the extreme inside for the hairpin turn one it was more a case of if, not when, the accident could happen.
Desperate to avoid skittling the leading trio Dumbreck locked up the Nissan's brakes, sliding into the rear of Enge's Aston, pushing him wide. Margaritis jumped into the lead, followed by Michael Bartels in the Vitaphone Maserati. Both Enge and Haase were forced to take to the run-off, as the rest of the field scattered to avoid Dumbreck, who had spun sideways in the middle of the track.
It was a miracle that only two other cars received meaningful damage. Frenchman Yann Clairay was clipped in the no.9 Hexis Aston as he tried to slip around the outside of the stranded Nissan while Maxime Martin was left with no option but to nose into the left hand side of the Nissan as it sat broadside to the field.
All three would retire within the opening laps with damage while Enge – the Young Driver AMR car's only visable damage a series of small dents on the left-rear corner – was unaffected and on a charge back to front.
A lap on from the accident he was past Bartels, and after just three laps Enge had retaken his rightful spot at the front of the race.
It was the last time the lead was ever in doubt. Enge had romped away to a lead of nearly two second within two laps and with Margaritis leading a pack of six cars it was easy to simply pull further and further away.
Through the first corner shuffle the second Young Driver car – started by Stefan Mucke had bounced from eleventh up to fifth, then up to third as the pit crew returned the car, then with Christoffer Nygaard aboard, to the track ahead of both the Bartels Maserati and Haase Lamborghini – taken over by Andrea Bertolini and Peter Kox respectively in the pit window.
Nygaard's stint in the cockpit was, however, to be the only blot on the Young Driver outfit's race. An aggressive move by Bertolini at turn four – the Italian slipping his MC12 to the apex to turn four before sliding wide on an increasingly greasy track, pushing Nygaard wide, allowing Kox to follow through. The Aston man would later spin at turn one, losing more time to finish the race ninth.
The rain began to fall just seconds too late for Enge and Turner. The team had held off pitting the lead car until the least available moment in the ten minute window, hoping to add to their lead by swapping drivers and fitting wet tyres in the same stop, but were forced to put Turner in the car, then pit again for wets as the track grew wetter and wetter.
Nearly the whole field decided to undergo a second pitstop.
Bertolini and Vitaphone thought otherwise.
The decision to remain on slicks could have been inspired, handed a massive lead and racing on a track where a dry line threatened to appear in certain areas, offering the Maserati crew hope of adding another win to their collection.
For a few laps Bertolini was faster than his wet-shod chasers, but when the balance of power shifted – Turner suddenly 17 seconds faster – Bertolini should have humbly pitted. Instead he soldiered on in worsening conditions, falling further down the field below drivers who never would have had the pace to contend with the black-and-turquoise car in the dry.
Still on slicks Bertolini finished a distant tenth, potentially importantly behind the car shared by title rival Thomas Mutsch and Richard Westbrook, the Matech Ford GT fighting back from only finishing 22nd fastest in time trial qualifying.
Enge applauded Turner over the line ten second ahead of the Margaritis/Marc Hennerici Corvette. Peter Kox claimed third for Reiter Engineering, Ricardo Zonta coming through for fourth and to claim the second row of the grid for tomorrow's (Sunday) Championship Race in the name of the Blancpain sponsored cars.