Up against Wendlinger/Sharp's Saleen, the only thing that could have put the Maseratis in with a chance was a perfect strategy. On paper, there was too big a performance gap between the MC12 and the American GTs as the Saleen's larger restrictors meant an equal fight was out of the question. This could easily be seen by comparing the fastest lap times: 1.44.687 for Wendlinger/Sharp, 1.45.986 by the reigning champions and the 1.46.139 clocked by Müller/Ramos.
So, race strategy was the Vitaphone Racing Team's only weapon. Unfortunately, a problem with the left rear wheel on Miguel Ramos' MC12 compromised these plans. Ramos had just taken over from a superb Alex Müller when the hitch forced him to pull up at the side of the track. The safety car was called for and the team made the most of the situation by radioing Bertolini back into the pit lane for the driver change. Thanks to the timing of the call, when Bartels came back out he was in first spot.
The German did his best to hold off Ryan Sharp knowing that Vitaphone Racing still had an ace up its sleeve: the final pit stop. As at Zolder in 2008, the Italo-German pairing made the tricky switch in record time and the precious seconds saved gave Andrea Bertolini the final twenty minutes to battle with Wendlinger for the win. As things turned out, the dream of lifting the Tourist Trophy vanished as a back marker made it easier for the Saleen to overtake the reigning champion. Wendlinger then went on to take the chequered flag by 5.499 seconds.
It was an interesting start to the year and one full of talking points such as Michael Bartels' concern about the chances of holding onto the title given the Saleen's display
|07||Menten/Palttala||+ 1 LAP|
|08||Mutsch/Biagi||+ 1 LAP|
|09||Hines/Lemeret||+ 1 LAP|
|10||Leinders/Kuppens||+ 2 LAPS|