Monday, April 19, 2010
Used with written permission from the FIA GT1 World Championship:
The first championship race of the FIA GT1 World Championship was won by Thomas Mutsch and Romain Grosjean in the nr5 Matech Competition Ford GT. Mutsch had to battle hard in the early part of the race to hold a slender lead over Andrea Bertolini in the Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC12 but Grosjean, who celebrates his 24th birthday today, pulled away from the rest of the field to take the chequered flag over 20 seconds ahead of Qualifying Race winner Marc Hennerici in the nr13 Phoenix Racing / Carsport Corvette Z06. It was a double celebration for the Corvette team when Andrea Piccini took the final podium position after his partner Mike Hezemans started from the back of the grid.
From pole position Thomas Mutsch had to defend his position from the 2009 FIA GT Champion Andrea Bertolini while behind them Andreas Zuber was already moving up the grid finishing the opening 7 places higher than his 11th grid spot. There were a few collisions in the midfield, with cars spinning and the nr8 Young Driver AMR Aston Martin DB9 of Christopher Nygaard pulled off the track into retirement. The nr 4 Swiss Racing Team Nissan GT-R returned to the pits to also retire.
Meanwhile back at the front Mutsch and Bertolini were fighting for the lead with the Ford GT holding back the Maserati at almost every turn with the nr 25 Reiter Lamborghini of Ricardo Zonta coming under pressure from Zuber's Corvette, the Austrian sweeping into 3rd on lap 3.
The leading two cars soon became three as Zuber latched onto the battle for the top spot and fo r the next five laps the top 3 were nose to tail at almost every turn.
The pit window opened on lap 12 and Mutsch was the first car in to hand over the car to Romain Grosjean just after Zuber had found a way around the nr1 Maserati to take the lead. Bertolini pulled into the pits on the next lap to hand over to Michael Bartels while Zuber continued to circulate around the Yas Marina circuit. The lead Corvette pitted on lap 14, handing over to Marc Hennerici, and emerged from the pit lane tunnel to see Romain Grosjean in the nr5 Matech Ford GT sweep past into the lead.
Meanwhile the Nr14 Corvette of Mike Hezemans was also moving up the order and after handing over to Andrea Piccini, the second yellow Corvette was in 4th place and closing rapidly on Bartels in the nr1 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC12. On lap 23 Piccini put the nose of the Corvette down the inside of the Maserati and moved into 3rd place under braking for Turn 8. At the front of the field Grosjean's Ford was pulling away from Hennerici's Corvette and in teh closing stages was a very comfortable 20 seconds in front while Piccini was closing the gap to his teammate.
However the chequered flag came out to end the first Championship Race in the FIA GT1 World Championship with Romain Grosjean celebrating his birthday in style.