Circuit: Terlaemen, Zolder
Date: 22 April 2012
The Exim Bank Team China Porsche duo of Matt Halliday and Mike Parisy under the able guidance of Bernhard Mühlner, produced a superb drive in challenging conditions to secure a narrow victory in the Championship Race at Zolder. The Porsche pair’s win followed their third place in the Qualifying Race the previous day and lifted them to second in the drivers’ standings.
The race, declared wet by race control, began on a damp track. As the field set off, the circuit though was still completely dry – it did not start to rain until the second lap. Mühlner’s risky call on the grid was a correct one, despite a fully dry start to the race. Those cars which had started on slicks either pitted or fell a long way back.
Before the opening of the pit stop window, the sector times showed that some of the cars which had stayed on slicks and were now at the back, were starting to lap more quickly and Bernhard Mühlner took the second risky decision of the race in deciding to bring Halliday in right at the start of the pit stop window and send Parisy out on slicks, notwithstanding the fact that the circuit was still damp.
The competition waited a few laps for the circuit to dry out more by the time all the stops had been completed, Parisy was in the lead as he had been much quicker early on using slicks. The final 10 laps, Parisy had to defend hard against the heavy attacks of BMW’s Yelmer Buurman competitor but held him off brilliantly to bring home the win.
Series promoter Stephane Ratel brought the components together: Exim Bank China is the sponsor of the ambitious project, Mühlner Motorsport is the team running it, supplying the cars and equipment and responsible for all technical and strategy issues, and the drivers.
Vita4One team boss Bartels, declared the team “back in business” as Michael Bartels and Buurman followed their win in the Qualifying Race to finish second in the Vita4One Z4 No.18 car picking up 18 precious points.
Toni Vilander / Filip Salaquarda duo in the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia finished third having stormed through the field from 13th on the grid after starting on dry tyres.
Piloting the throaty No. 37 SLS AMG GT3, Nicky Pastorelli and Thomas Jager driving for the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team finished fourth. Pastorelli lost a few seconds after a spin when the cold tyres touched the white line on the damp track. If not for that incident, the team could have very well finished third.
The team at Riot Engine has been waiting with bated breath for the MP4-12C which makes its racing debut this year to prove its capabilities. While the last round at Norago didn’t do much for the Hexis Racing team which has fielded the McLaren car this year, having raced with the Aston Martin DB9RS last year, Zolder was a delight with the No.1 MP4-12C of Frederic Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp finishing fifth.The No.2 car was seventh.
Maxime Martin in the Valmon Racing Team Russia Aston Martin DBRS9. Starting from ninth on the grid, the Belgian sliced through the field to lead the race by lap 7. He had held a lead of over 12.6 seconds as the pit window opened but as the dry-shod cars came into their own, notably the Ferrari No.3 of Vilander, the gap had shrunk to three seconds. Martin handed over to Alexej Vasiliev, the Russian finding the going a little tougher with the No.7 car eventually finishing 12th.
The stars of the last round at Norago, the Belgian Audi Club WRT Team chose to start the race on slick tyres but were disadvantaged at the start in the greasy conditions. Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor in the No.32 had a scrape with Oliver Jarvis in the No.33 R8 LMS with 10 minutes left. Ortelli survived unscathed to finish sixth but the incident cost Jarvis and Frank Stippler two places at the time and they finished 10th.
Reiter Engineering’s Lamborghini LP600 finshed 8th and 13th, while the Valmon Racing Team Russia Aston Martins finished 12th and 15th.
While the Exim Bank Team China and Vita4One took one slot each on the favoured end of the standings, the other Porsche took last place finishing 17th and the other Z4 finished 14th.
The Ford GT fielded by Sunred finished 16th.
Parisy, who held off a late charge from BMW’s Yelmer Buurman in the closing stages to win by less than a second was overjoyed with the result. “It was one of the best days of my life,” the Frenchman said. “It was an incredible race. There was a lot of pressure at the end but I just had to keep it tight and not make any mistakes. It’s a great result for Exim Bank Team China. We had the right strategy on tyres and it paid off.”
Halliday added: “To put the Porsche in P1 against this very competitive field is a great feeling. We had to manage our tyres, stop at the right time and make all the right choices – and that’s what we did. We are a young team but this result is a tremendous boost.”
“We are now heading in the right direction following the disappointment at Nogaro,” said Vita4One team boss Bartels. “We are back in business in the championship but we have a lot of homework to do for the next race.“We have a break now between GT1 events before Navarra and we will concentrate on making less mistakes and improving the set-up of the car. The relationship with BMW is still young after so many years with Maserati and we are learning together, finding out about each other but we are definitely heading the right way.”
“I was one of the only guys with slick tyres and I had a pretty hectic 15 minutes with the rain so I had to use my Finnish rally experience a bit,” Toni Vilander driving for AF Corse said.
“I’m happy with the car, and how things went in general but I made a mistake in my stint, with the cold tyres on the damp track, I touched the white line and I went off,” ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Pastorelli said. “We lost some seconds there and without that we could have finished third.“We scored points which is important, you have to be consistent throughout the year, and we are improving step-by-step.” said Marc Basseng.
Hexis Racing McLaren team boss Philippe Dumas was delighted with fifth place for the No.1 MP4-12C of Frederic Makowiecki (FRA) and Stef Dusseldorp (NLD). The No.2 car was seventh.“We have had some very good moments in this Hexis team since 2008, we won a lot of races, and the Championship, but today is the same feeling as a victory,” he said.“We worked so hard at the beginning of the year and everybody knows that it is a difficult situation with the McLaren GT. We share a very good relationship with McLaren, we have had a lot of problems in the beginning, but we have fixed it and today is a perfect result for us.“We are more determined than ever. Before the weekend my briefing with the team was to finish with both cars in both races and try to get around P5. The next step is to stabilize the reliability and get the car on the podium.”
Belgian Audi Club WRT Team Frank Stippler said “I think the choice today was okay, and we might have claimed fourth or fifth, but unfortunately Stephane (Ortelli) crashed into my team-mate, Oliver Jarvis, and that is not the best way to finish the race, but it is part of racing. “Perhaps it is not the best idea to try and pass on such a wet and oily part of the track, but in the end we are human and mistakes happen. It was perhaps not the best weekend for WRT, we were the heroes in Nogaro, and here it just has not gone very well. We have some points, but it could have been better.”