GT1 World: Bartels/Buurman Take Dramatic Zolder Win

Yelmer Buurman and Michael Bartels have won the FIA GT1 World Championship Qualifying Race on the Zolder circuit in Belgium. The Vita4One Racing Team BMW Z4 GT3 started the race from sixth place, but finished first in a truly dramatic race.

Things went wrong even before the race as Peter Kox in the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo passed the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS on the formation lap. The Dutchman did not give the position back and was given a drive-through for jumping the start later in the race. Kox did however lead the pack into the first corner.

Mike Parisy lost a couple of positions at the start, but soon he managed to pass the Mercedes of Nicky Pastorelli and with Tomas Enge retiring with gearbox issues he was back in sixth place. Yelmer Buurman had already passed Enge before his problems and was now chasing the Merces-Benz of Pastorelli’s teammate Marc Basseng.

On lap 15 Kox came in to serve his drive-through penalty, which allowed Oliver Jarvis in the Audi R8 LMS ultra to move up into the lead, followed closely by Basseng in the Mereces. Even though the pit window opened the top five stayed out until lap 19, waiting for the track to dry and make the switch to slicks. Most teams opted for slicks but the WRT Audi’s remained on wets. It turned out to be a dramatic decision as the two Audi’s were forced to make an extra pit stop to switch to slicks, dropping them down to tenth and eleventh. Markus Winkelhock inherited the lead as a result of the mistake of the Belgian squad.

Exim Bank Team China lost some time in the pit as well and that resulted in Matt Halliday having to start his race from outside the top 6. The set-up of the Porsche, the choice to switch to slicks and a strong stint by the driver from New Zealand meant that he was back in fifth place just three laps after his pit stop, followed by Fred Makowiecki in the Hexis-McLaren. Michael Bartels closed the gap to Winkelhock and with just five laps remaining the gap between the BMW and the Mercedes was down to 1.642 seconds, with the second Mercedes just a few tenths behind.

But with only a couple of minutes left there was drama onboard the leading Mercedes as Winkelhock suddenly slowed down. Bartels passed the troubled Mercedes and Jäger moved into second position. The Mercedes was quicker than the BMW, but Jäger was unable to pass Bartels in the remaining laps and finished in second place behind Bartels.

Halliday also managed to pass Winkelhock and moved into third place, Fred Makowiecki did all he could to finish the race on the podium, but the Hexis driver was unable to pass Halliday and finished in fourth place.

(Image: Gerlach Delissen)