The race

Imola - italy

Podium for championship leaders Babini/Biagi

Imola - It was an exciting fourth round of the FIA GT Championship held this weekend at Imola.

It was widely known that the Vitaphone Racing Team’s MC12 would have a difficult time with the 80kg of ballast in addition to the 10kg imposed at the start of the season. Bertolini/Wendlinger (JMB Racing) would similarly struggle with their 70kg of extra weight as well as the 10kg. The teams were obliged to adopt a three stop strategy, one more than their rivals, in order to race with a lighter fuel load and so maintain a high tempo.

Nonetheless, the effect of the ballast took its toll in the form of an extra second and a half per lap compared to the other leading cars. The heavier cars also meant that the brakes came under greater stress. Also, having to use a smaller rear wing resulted in less aerodynamic download in the curves, a crucial factor at a technically demanding circuit like Imola.Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi claimed an extremely important third place at the end of a closely fought race.

The result means that they hold on to the lead in the drivers’ championship. The Italian crew were truly superb as they displayed extraordinary courage in finishing on the podium. The duo hounded the Corvette early on and, in the closing stages, closed in on Labre’s 550, cars that finished in second and third respectively.

Michael Bartels and Timo Scheider had an unlucky time of it. Having performed well in qualifying, they got off to a good start and were among the leading cars. However, a problem with the gearbox spelled the end of their race. The only plus point of this retirement is the fact the ballast will be reduced for the next race at Brno.

Still, the Vitaphone Racing Team maintain the lead in the team championship while Maserati lead the Constructors’ Cup.Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger had to come from behind in a car that suffered from oversteer and that had little aerodynamic download towards the rear end. After clipping another car immediately after the start, the two drivers raced at a consistent pace that allowed them to climb the field and finish in fourth spot. They are now second overall, just a point down on Babini/Biagi.

The other JMB Racing MC12 also fought hard throughout. The crew of Philippe Peter, Chris Buncombe and Roman Rusinov lined up in third on the grid but gained a position at the start. Despite the additional pit stop after the gear lever failed and a penalty for overtaking when the yellow flag was being flown, they maintained a good rhythm throughout and finished in fifth.

Buncombe and Rusinov were able to familiarise themselves with the car even though they missed yesterday afternoon’s qualifying session after an engine change.The Pirelli tyres performed excellently despite the high temperatures at Imola.

The squads were able to make use of the P Zero Racing tyres, ones already tested at Silverstone in a soft compound.