Practice and Entry
On Friday, the non-qualitying practice sessions was on the programme. Each of 80 minutes made it actually the day, the cars were on the track for the longest time of all three race day as the races are really short. The track was adjusted with a chicane before one of the horionts to avoid possible airbones due to high speeds at this part of the track.
One bad thing is that Aston Martins will not start in this race so the number of GT cars in this World Championship event is reduced to only 15 cars. Both sessions saw Ford and then McLarens at the top. Both sessions went well with no major issues or incident but a few off-course excursions.
There was no FIA programme during the weekend but rather various national level races to support the GT1 race. Apart from Porsche Cup, which brought some 6 cars to the track (seven seen in the paddock) mainly from Turkey, and Formula race, where we could follow only 4 Formula 3-like cars officially split into two divisions there were many entrants in the touring car portion of the supporting programme. Officialyl split into over and under 2-liter division, there were also cars from Lotus Cup Eastern Europe and Suzuki Swift Bio Cup. Especially the big division had some great GT cars entered. There was two paid practices on Friday when all those classes were on the track together and it was really impressive to see such a big field with great speed differentials. Ferrari and Porsche performance was much more outstanding and visible than during a pure GT race when a spectator get used to it pretty quickly.
Some of the cars can be found here in the photos. While there were some more quick cars in paid sessions as some of them were just tried and not entered for the point races, there was still plenty of action in the two races. The main race was won by Machánek in Porsche 997 GT3 no.7, ahead of Audi TT DTM, which was fastest in practice and another team Porsche no.8. Of the two Ferraris, which entered the race, one retired and the other finished behind the podium. Less luck had the powerful BMW, which was quicker than any of the Porsches or Ferraris in qualifying but finished the race one lap back.
During the Friday lunch brake there was a nice parade of historic cars of various vintage, size and power. Among mainly road going cars there were also several racing cars, like two pre-war formulas, a BMW CSL or an MGA roadster. In the paddock there was even a Porsche 917K no.22 in its Le Mans coupe form. Also some photos would say more than further descriptions.
It started raining a bit just as the cars were gridded. However the start was delayed due to huge oil leak from the Porsche no.8 while runinng to the grid. It took a lot of time to prepare the track again for racing condition so the start was postponed by 15 minutes. Even though, it was decided that there would be no formation lap but the cars started from the grid behind the Safety Car and the 1-hour limit for the race would already start to count down. In the meantime that ill Porsche was brought to the pits. Thanks to the Safety Car start and delayed start the repaired Porsche was able to leave the pits in the same lap as the leaders. But it did not help anyway, the car was sidelined in the first lap anyway due to some strange sound from the engine. We can already reveal that the car was done for the weekend. No sign of it during Sunday, either warm up or the race.
To our surprise, a negative one, the qualifying race was restared without the safety car after long 18 minutes. Toni Vilander had an excellent start and very quickly moved from fourth to the lead ahead of both McLarens. Bartels with his BMW could not stay on the pole and dropped further back. During the race both McLarens suffered serious problem. One car manage to finish slowly but lost several positions in its final lap and crossed the line without an engine power.
The race however developped into a very exciting battle with two Czech drivers. Tony Vilander gave the leading car to Filip Salaquarda who managed to defend attacks of faster driver and later when it started to rain more, he managed to create a good lead, which was enough to win the race. In the meantime, Tomas Enge, who took his Lamborghini over from Thurn und Taxis, was extremely quick on wet and improved somewhere from the rear through the field, lapping some four seconds faster than anybody else, including Salaquarda, and secured first row for the Czech duo for the Sunday's race.
Apart from McLaren and the oil leaking Porsche team, it was a bad day also for the only local driver, Stefan Rosina from Slovakia, who after a decent drive got a puncture and spun retiring 10 minutes before the end of the race.
Unlike the qualifying race, this one was less dramatic with no signs of rain, no safety cars and no last ten minutes overtaking for positions. But the beginning of the race was almost equally exciting as the end of yesterday's one. Salaquarda maintained the lead during the first lap but it was very close behind. It was Mercedes-Benz no.38 second, the only Ford GT third and Enge, who lost two places at the start, was fourth. Enge soon overtook Pavlovic in the Ford but he then made a mistake, hit Enge's Lamborghini. Both cars spun and when recovered it appeared that Ford could continue but Enge could not. He returned to the pits but the race was over for him. Rear suspension was broken and it this short race format there is no meaning to try to recover cars. A race is usually lost by one off course excursion.
In the meantime Salaquarda kept the lead but it was only a matter of time till more experiences Makowiecki in McLaren no.1 would pass him. It happened in lap 7 when even Buurman in Bartels' BMW made it and thus dropped Salaquarda to third. Winkelhock was running close to Salaquarda but not as quick as the first duo who managed to gain some 10 second advantage before the driver changes. Unfortunately, the differences between the cars after the pitstops were big enough to prevent any direct challenge among the top four. Bartels was in a safe lead depsite being slowest of them. Dusseldorp in the McLaren no.1 kept second and despite that was some chance to erase the gap of about 7 seconds, in the end it appeared to be to much as Bartels was really pushing hard after losing more than a second a lap at the beginning of his stint. Basseng in Mercedes-Benz previously driven by Winkelhock moved to third thanks to quicker pitstop and Vilander who took the Ferrari from Salaquarda gave it up after several very quick laps and settled fourth, probably also thanks to tired tyres - according to his slow times at the end of the race.
The winners Buurman/Bartels now lead the championship with 70 points ahead of Dusseldorp/Makowiecki (64 pts.) and Basseng/Winkelhock (57 pts.). The next round is Portimao, which may well start the second half of the season and there are only 4 confirmed races left. Final race in India is still subject of confirmation, as well as your success on bookmakers.co.uk website.