24 Hour of Spa: a Maserati one-two!
The 60th edition of the Belgian classic was celebrated by Maserati with an amazing Vitaphone Racing team one-two. JMB Racing finished in fourth.
The Bertolini/Bartels/Van de Poele/Sarrazin crew cruised to victory in the 24 Hour of Spa to cross the line ahead of their team mates Ramos/Negraõ/Pier Guidi/Lemeret. The two MC12s fielded by the German outfit took command just as the six hour mark came up, the first of the three stages where championship points are awarded. Before that, the race had not been an easy one but the Maserati pace left the sensation that a night time attack was on the cards. The light but troublesome rain would have disrupted these plans as the weather prevented the drivers from mounting wets but made the cars hard to control on slicks.
But courtesy of a spot on strategy of a splash&go for Bertolini, and a refuel and tyre change for Negraõ, the Bertolini/Bartels crew, ably assisted by Stephane Sarrazin and Eric Van de Poele, managed to take the lead and extend their advantage in the Drivers standings. The MC12 crew also benefited from the retirement of Wendlinger/Sharp/Muller/Lichtner and the problems suffered by Deletraz/Hezemans/Gollin/Fassler.
This part of the race was significant and, thanks to the skill of its drivers, the number 1 MC12 built a big lead over the pack, tracked all the way by its twin car with which it had a close duel. From the ninth to the eighteenth hour, the two cars swapped the lead. All the while, the JMB Racing MC12 climbed to fourth thanks to Aucott/Ferte/Daoudi steady drive.
The tense struggle between the two leading Maseratis would have continued to excite the public had the number 2 MC12 not been forced into an unexpected pit stop. Up until that point, the duel had been a close one.
So, when the chequered flag was shown 24 hours after the start, the Vitaphone Racing Team had a few reasons to celebrate. Thanks to the fact that points awarded in the Belgian classic are worth double, Bertolini/Bartels stetch their lead in the Drivers championship to a commanding 13 points over their team mates, Ramos/Negraõ. The German squad now has 75 points in the Team standings with Phoenix Carsport Racing, their closest pursuers, on 42.5.
Eric Van de Poele can take particular pleasure from topping the podium at the 24 Hours of Spa: in his long career, he has done so five times. No one before him can boast this record.
For Maserati, the special bond between the MC12 and the Ardenne track goes on. The famous one-two from 2005 was followed by the 2006 victory. Then came the show of strength in 2007 when four MC12s finished in the top seven. Last year, the win was snatched away just an hour from the end of the race. With today triumph, the Modenese GTs have got back to winning ways at Spa.