Report: Race 1 Report, Algarve 2011

BMW Rule the Roost with 1-2-3 in Portugal

It was a BMW podium lockout for the opening race of the 2011 FIA GT3 European Championship at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal with Edward Sandtroem and Abdulaziz Al Faisal taking the chequered flag in the Need for Speed Team Schubert BMW Z4.  While this is Sandstroem's second FIA GT3 victory, adding this to his first winners trophy in round 11 at Zolder last year, it means Abdulaziz Al Faisal becomes the first Saudi Arabian driver to win an FIA GT3 race.  It was double joy for Team Schubert when the nr7 BMW Z4 of Csaba Walter and Caludia Huertgen was promoted into second place when the nr3 Graff Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG of Philippe Giaque and Mike Parisy was penalised after taking the chequered flag for not taking a stop and go penalty for a pitstop infringement.  

On their FIA GT3 debut the nr35 Faster Racing by DB Motorsport BMW Z4 of Jeroen Den Boer and Hoevert Vos found themselves on the third step of the podium and it was smiles all round for the Dutch team.

The nr50 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Francesco Castellacci, which was supposed to be on pole position, was absent from the grid due to the damage it sustained in the earlier qualifying session and the Italian had to watch the race from the sidelines.  The nr6 Need for Speed Team Schubert BMW Z4 of Edward Sandstroem was promoted to the front of the field but at the start the Swede was swamped by the pack as they swarmed into the first corner.  The nr33 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 of Enzo Ide was in the lad, closely followed by the nr4 Graff Racing Mercedes of Joakim Lambotte and the nr25 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo of Nikolaus Meyr-Melnhof.

There was a lot of bumping and scrapping of door panels in the first few corners and the nr20 MTECH Ferrari of Paul Rees was hit a few times, as was the Mercedes-Benz SLS of Roger Green, who found himself facing the wrong way after the bonnet of the nr20 Ferrari flew off and his the windcreen of the Mercedes.  THe nr20 Ferrari pulled off the track on the run down to T6 but the stricken car was hit again as the nr44 Heico Motorsport Mercedes was squeezed onto the grass on the run down to T6 and spun across the track into the barriers, their race finished on lap 3.  This brought out the Safety Car to allow the Marshals to recover both cars safely.

At the restart the nr33 Audi was overtaken by the nr4 Mercedes, the recovering nr6 BMW and the nr51 AF Corse Ferrari of Dan Brown.  A lap later Sandstroem got a good run out of the last corner and got alongside Lambotte's Mercedes and swept into the lead at the first corner.  On the same lap the nr25 Lamborghini became the next casualty when teh suspension broke on Meyr-Melnhof's car.

Sandstroem then set about opening up a gap to Lambotte and this had grown to five seconds as the pit window opened.  Sandstroem stayed out as long as he could as the other cars pitted and teh Swede handed the Schubert BMW to Al Faisel and the Saudi driver regained the track just as the nr4 Graff Mercedes, now driven by Gary Hirsch, entered the first turn.  The BMW got ahead of the Mercedes and then kept the lead as Hirsch tried to gain an advantage over his rival.

However everything changed when the nr4 Graff Racing Mercedes was given a drive through penalty for a pitlane violation.  This gave Al Faisel some breathing room to the nr3 Graff Racing Mercedes of Mike Parisy and the nr7 Need for Speed Team Schubert BMW of Claudia Huertgen.  Several other cars were given stop go penalties for pitlane violations, including the second placed nr3 Mercedes.  For lap after lap the gap was maintained with the nr35 Faster Racing by DB MOTORSPORT BMW Z4 of Jeroen den Boer catching the nr7 BMW in third place. However the positions were held as the chequered flag was displayed.

At the end of the race the nr3 Graff Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was given a 33 second penalty for not taking dropping Parisy and Giaque to 4th.  This promoted Claudia Huertgen and Csaba Walter to second, giving the Need for Speed Team Schubert a 1-2, with the Faster Racing by DB MOTORSPORT  BMW Z4 of Hoevert Vos and Jereon den Boer into 3rd place.

CLICK HERE for the result of Round 1  

CLICK HERE for the Race Facts

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