Another Maserati MC12 win that perpetuates the legend
Spectacular conclusion to the 61st 24 Hours here at Spa Francorchamps. The great Ardennes classic has given Maserati and the Vitaphone Racing Team a fabulous double win and the third victory after its fourth participation in this race. Three MC12s ended up among the first four places, almost attaining an incredible triple win.
The long Belgian marathon started at 4pm on Saturday under grey skies. After the first valid marker to assign the first set of points after six hours, MC12 no. 1, driven by the great Andrea Bertolini, Michael Bartels, Stephane Sarrazin and Eric van de Poele team took first place and earned its first 5 points, shadowed only the 1"848 of Maserati no. 2 with Alessandro Pier Guidi, Miguel Ramos, Alexandre Negraõ and Stephane Lemeret. A bit later, at the 152nd lap, two of the most dangerous competitors, Mike Hezemans on the Corvette and Karl Wendlinger (Aston Martin) collided and ended up in the gravel in Les Combes. During the night the two green Maserati's sped confidently and when points were assigned the second time after 12 hours, Andrea Bertolini was first with a one-lap advantage over the second Maserati.
In the end Belgian Eric van de Poele drove the MC12 through the finish line in front of everyone and followed by the second Maserati driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, while the third MC12, driven by JMB's gentlemen drivers Ben Aucott, Stéphane Daoudi and Alain Ferté secured a spectacular 4th place, thus completing a glorious day. It was only right that Eric should be the driver to take the chequered flag, as last year the team were cruelly robbed of certain victory when he spun on the slippery surface during an especially heavy downpour when leading by a lap just 58 minutes from the end.
Bertolini and Bartels remain solidly on top in the Championship while the Vitaphone Racing Team leads the Team's classification. It is an extremely important victory that is added to the 2005 and 2006 wins, creating a cycle that places the Tridente as a benchmark car make in the world's GT competitions.
The next challenge will come up on 24 August along Bucharest's city circuit.
Andrea BERTOLINI (Vitaphone Racing- Maserati MC12 #1): "It was an incredible victory, easy only if analyzed superficially because up to the middle of the race we fought against fast, aggressive adversaries. I can't tell you if this success is better than the one in 2006, all that matters is that my name is in this race's honor's list. I thank the team and Maserati for the opportunity I was given and I dedicate this success to Roberto Ronchi, who is leaving Maserati, and I welcome Harald Wester who is joining us now."
Michael BARTELS (Vitaphone Racing- Maserati MC12 #1): "It's difficult to find the words to comment such a result. Nevertheless I'd like to say that we made all the right choices in this 24 Hours, starting with the drivers that were brought here, and then the hard work preparing the vehicles in Germany and in Modena, Italy, after the Oschersleben race. We've won three times in four years with the MC12, and this means that the team works well together and knows how to face great competitions."
Stephane SARRAZIN (Vitaphone Racing- Maserati MC12 #1): "I believe I did a good job during the night stints when we had to catch up with Maserati no. 2. I felt immediately at home with the car and the team. I have to say that to me, winning the 24 Hours is a dream and I have to thank Bartels for calling me and the team for their great work."
Eric van de POELE (Vitaphone Racing- Maserati MC12 #1): "This victory effectively blots out last's year's bad memories, when I threw away certain victory.
Being the driver who has had the greatest number of victories here at Spa 24 Hours (5) gives me great satisfaction. I was able to achieve this thanks to Bartels and to the work of the entire team. I want to dedicate this victory to Paul Frère, a great driver and reporter who passed away in February. He could be considered the spiritual father of all Belgian drivers."