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Maserati takes back-to back victories at Spa 24 Hours

Spa - The demanding 24 Hour of Spa-Francorchamps concluded today, Sunday 30 July, at 16.00. After an entire day’s racing, the Maserati MC12 fielded by Vitaphone Racing Team and with Andrea Bertolini-Michael Bartels-Eric Van de Poele in the driving seat, claimed the win. The victory was obtained in the final 45 minutes of racing.

This after 589 laps and a close battle with the Aston Martin DBR9 driven by Piccini-Deletraz-Lemeret-Fassler that finished 1´41'452 off the pace. In third, and ten laps down, was the Corvette C6R with Longin-Kumpen-Hezemans-Mollekens on board. Having started from third on the grid, the MC12 was always challenging for first in a duel that lasted the whole race.

The decisive moment came two hours from the end when rain began to fall on almost the whole of the seven kilometre circuit. The strategy for the final two pit stops proved crucial as the Maserati managed to close the gap of around a minute to the Aston Martin before overtaking it in the last half hour to claim a second consecutive win in this famous old race. With one hour and forty five minutes of racing, the second Maserati, driven by Vosse-Davies-Biagi, was forced to retire when Thomas Biagi was in the lead.

A water leak that led to liquid coming into contact with oil caused the car to catch fire when it came into the pits. The damage caused by the flames ruled the car out of the race.

At the green light, the two Maserati MC12s maintained their positions with Jamie Davies in second and Andrea Bertolini in third. By the end of lap two, the Tridents were in the lead after they had overtaken Lemeret-Deletraz-Piccini-Fassler's Aston Martin. After three hours of racing and many changes of position owing to the pit stops, a duel for first place began between the Maserati MC12, with Van de Poele-Bartels-Bertolini on board, and Lemeret-Deletraz-Piccini-Fassler's Aston Martin.

The fight became a battle between three when Longin-Kumpen-Hezemans-Mollekens' Corvette joined in. The positions did not change much during the night even if the pace was very high. Two incidents characterised the night session for the Maserati MC12. The first came on lap 171 when, as it made its way back to the track following a pit stop, the entry of the safety car slowed its comeback.

The second, between the eleventh and twelfth hours, on lap 274, it suffered a puncture on the home straight. The car was forced to run an entire lap with a flat left rear tyre before coming into the pits. This incident had a big effect on the Trident's race. During the first daylight hours, the MC12 continued its comeback and gained further precious seconds. On lap 465, a little before 11, Lemeret-Deletraz-Piccini-Fassler's Aston Martin spun on a patch of oil.

Van de Poele, at the wheel of the Maserati MC12, did not have any problems, and managed to reduce the gap to only 9 seconds. This reopened the race five hours from the finish. An hour later, on lap 490, Bertolini - who had replaced Van de Poele - retook the lead with an advantage of more than twenty seconds over the Aston Martin.

The pit stop on lap 500, three and a half hours from the end, was decisive: the positions were swapped once more and the closing stages of the race proved to be thrilling.The rain began to fall just over two hours from the end of the race and the change in the weather affected all the teams. Once more the Maserati strategy won the day. The Trident made its stop on lap 550, one and a half hours from the end.

When he came back onto the track, Van de Poele had only a 10 second lead over Piccini but, lap after lap, this was shortened. By lap 557, it was down to only a second. The final stop was the decisive one. Michael Bartels substituted an exhausted Van de Poele and drove onto the track with a decisive lead over the Aston Martin with Fassler at the wheel.

In the final 45 minutes, Bartels managed the led that he held over his pursuers, one that at the chequered flag was timed at 1´41'452. In third was Longin-Kumpen-Hezemans-Mollekens’ Corvette C6R, ten laps down.

This second success at 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps confirms, another time, the Maserati’s performances in endurance races.

In the FIA GT Championship view, at the end, the victory of the 24 Hours fourth round of the season gave a lot of points to Maserati, Vitaphone and its drivers.