The race

Oschersleben - germany

Great Victory For Bertolini And Salo

Maserati raced to its first international race victory since 1967 when Mika Salo and Andrea Bertolini won the ninth round of the FIA GT Championship at Oschersleben at the weekend.

The pair overcame difficult conditions to take the victory by more than a lap, but the marque was denied a 1-2 finish by a freak tyre problem that caused Fabrizio de Simone to have an extra pit stop. The cars qualified in fourth and sixth positions, and ran strongly in the opening, wet stages of the race.

The cars were handling well in the conditions, but the time to pit and change from intermediate tyres to slicks came quickly. Johnny Herbert was the first of the two cars to stop, while Andrea Bertolini stayed out for a little longer before pitting for the first time. The two cars emerged in 14th and 15th positions, just before the first of two safety car periods that closed up most of the field. A radio problem between the pits and Bertolini meant that the Italian lost 20 seconds as he did not catch up the pace car, and he had Herbert right behind him and unable to pass! It didn’t look good for the blue cars, 30 seconds behind the leaders and with many cars between them, but they kept driving hard to make up the lost time. Herbert had a long second stint to hand the car to his co-driver in a fantastic position, but de Simone’s stint lasted just one lap before he had to pit again.

Unable to drive it properly, the Italian was forced to pit for a new left rear wheel, losing too much time to recover a podium position. Bertolini and Salo continued their charge back through the field, and moved into the lead when Herbert pitted for the second time. Salo had put in some very fast lap times after the second safety car, moving from seventh to sixth when Uwe Alzen had a long stop after a suspension problem. Salo then passed the RML Saleen for fifth, and the championship-leading Ferrari for fourth in the space of three laps. He then moved to second ahead of the Freisinger Motorsport Porsches which had yet to stop, but behind his team-mate Herbert.

When Herbert pitted, Salo was left with a comfortable 23 second lead, which he steadily extended. He, too, had a radio problem and was unaware even that he was leading until the team hung out a board 20 laps from the end of the race! He had pushed the car hard, the tyres hard, and was glad to be able to back off in the final stages of the race to take a comfortable win.