Ford Marc VDS Racing's Maxime Martin and Frederic Makowiecki claimed a hard-earned victory in today's qualifying race, resisting heavy pressure from the No. 22 Nissan JRM to triumph in the first race of the season.
Racing together for the first time, the duo started from second and held position until the pitlane opened, when an excellent stop by the Marc VDS team allowed them to jump into the lead.
They came under severe pressure for the duration of the second half of the race, but remained composed throughout and held on to claim a maiden GT1 win. Nissan meanwhile celebrated as it occupied the next three slots, with the No. 23 JRM and No. 20 Sumo Power GT-Rs following the No. 22 JRM home.
"This is our first race together, so it's a fantastic result," Maxime Martin said. "The team did a very good job in the pit stops, and we are very happy with this result."
There was drama at the start of the race as the No. 7 Aston Martin Young Driver car of Tomas Enge and Alex Muller missed its breaking point and tapped the inside of the No. 41 Ford, before spinning on the exit of turn one.
That caused a chain reaction in the field as first the No. 37 All-Inkl car - demoted five places from the pole Nicky Pastorelli and Dominik Schwager claimed in qualifying - and then the No. 47 Corvette DKR made contact with Enge's Aston Martin, ruling all three cars out of the race.
As the field reassembled it was the No. 8 Aston Martin Young Driver of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner which set about establishing an early lead, with the No. 41 Ford Marc DVS second and the No. 22 Nissan JRM in third.
The order remained consistent at the front until the pit stop window opened on lap 12, when disaster befell the No. 8 Aston Martin as a slow pit stop dropped them behind the Ford GT, before a problem with the left-front tyre caused them to retire completely from the race.
The No. 22 Nissan meanwhile had opted to stay out one lap longer, and the move almost paid dividends as it rejoined the track side by side with the No. 41 Ford Marc VDS. A frantic battle for position ensued over the next series of corners, with Maxime Martin eventually emerging in the lead but under severe pressure in the Ford.
That pressure remained for the duration of the race, with the gap between the lead two cars only exceeding one second on the penultimate lap.
There were similarly enthralling battles throughout the field, particularly at the start as a five way battle for fourth raged between Nissan, Corvette and Lamborghini. The No. 20 and No. 23 Nissan GT-Rs eventually came to the fore, but there was late drama as Lucas Luhr and Michael Krumm in the No. 23 dived down the inside to snatch third from their sister car of Enrique Bernoldi and Ricardo Zonta.
Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp finished fifth in the No. 9 Aston Martin Young Driver, ahead of Lamborghini All-Inkl's Markus Winkelhock and Marc Basseng and Corvette DKR's Mike Hezemans and Nicky Catsburg - who completed an impressive 360 spin when fighting for position in the early stages of the race.
Eighth meanwhile went to the No. 21 Nissan Sumo Power GT-R of David Brabham and Jamie Campbell-Walter, the duo fighting back from problems at their pit stop to make up two places in the final seven laps.
Source: FIA GT1