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FIA GT1 Zolder: Qualifying Race Report

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After a podium place in Abu Dhabi Marc Basseng and Marcus Winkelhock continued the early season good form of the Lamborghini squad by winning the FIA GT1 Qualifying Race at Zolder. It was the Munnich Motorsport run team's first GT1 race win.

Basseng, taking the no.38 car to the finish, assumed the lead three laps from the after a move on the Hexis AMR entry of Christian Hohenadel. On the approach of the final corner – one of many chicanes on the Belgian circuit – Basseng probed down the outside of the Aston. Under braking the briefest of slides was enough for the Lamborghini to hit the right-rear corner of the DBRS9.

Though initially innocuous when Hohenadel – the reigning FIA GT3 champion – had made it through the left-right chicane he emerged on the main straight, his car crabbing awkwardly as the result of result of suspension damage.

The incident was an unsatisfactory and early to end to what could have been a great battle to the flag, but it was a, perhaps, unsurprising finale in a race where contact had been common.

It all began at the first corner.

Nicky Pastorelli and Dominic Schwager had again qualified on pole position – a feat they also accomplished in Abu Dhabi, though they were later penalized, but just like Abu Dhabi their race was to last barely a corner.

After starting on the outside of the front row Stefan Mucke had pulled slightly ahead going into the first corner, only for Pastorelli to thump into the side of the Aston. While Mucke, after a spin, straightened up to bump across the gravel on the outside of the track Pastorelli span in the middle of the track as the chasing field fought to avoid the stricken car.

Those who went to the inside – the popular choice – only found more trouble, the no.41 Marc VDS car and Richard Westbrook's no.22 JR Motorsport Nissan both victims of the scramble.

Cornversely, those who picked to escape around the outside found a clear run. Nicky Catsburg swept the Exim Bank Corvette into the lead ahead of the other Marc VDS Ford GT and the Winkelhock, who had started from twelfth in third as they blasted pass the ensuing mess on the inside.

All four cars that received damage in the opening corner accident retired after – at best – a handful of laps, but there was still damage to come.

On lap 10 the two Belgian Racing Ford GT's came together at the turn eight. Though Martin Matzke on the no.10 car would insist it was a racing incident, replays showed he hit Vanina Ickx in the sister car behind the rear wheel, spinning her around. The Czech driver then made an already embarrassing situation worse, when he neatly clipped the rear wings off both cars as he drove around Ickx, knocking both cars out the race on their home track.

Up front Catsburg was impressing, holding off Fred Makowiecki in the no.41 despite the Corvette's brakes deteriorating throughout the stint. Makowiecki's pressure (and brake fade) finally proved too much for the leader just before the half way point in the 60 minute race, the Frenchman taking what was destined to be a short lived lead.

Though he stayed out longer than anyone else in the field before making his mandatory pitstop, the Marc VDS crew encountered a problem with a wheel socket that dropped the car, and second driver Maxime Martin out of contention for the lead.

Exactly the opposite was true for the Hexis no.4. Andrea Piccini was running sixth when the pit window opened, but when Hohenadel returned to track after taking over the car he was second, which quickly became first when he passed Mike Hezemans, adapting to the braking of the Exim Back Z06.

Hezemans fell back to third late in the race behind Basseng, only to retake the place when Hohenadel was forced to retire. Alex Muller and Tomas Enge completed the podium for Young Driver AMR, holding off Swiss Racing's Karl Wendlinger and Martin for third. Abu Dhabi winners Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp completed the points scorers in sixth.

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