After qualifying a strong third, the #77 Team Need For Speed BMW Z4 Coupé driven by Claudia Huertgen and Csaba Walter was driven hard to win after an hour of furious racing. Claudia muscled through into second at the first corner after the rolling start, pushing the #16 Corvette wide: she then set off in pursuit of the leading #61 Prospeed Porsche 911.
Claudia kept up the pressure on the Porsche for her entire stint: two laps after co-driver Csaba Walter had taken over the wheel he made a move, got past and edged inexorably away: by the flag he was over 20 seconds to the good! Not only was it the first win for Team Need For Speed, but it was also the win for a woman in GT3, the first win for a Hungarian driver and the first GT3 win for BMW!
Backing up the great result for #77 was the other Team NFS BMW of Patrick Soderlund and Edwards Sandström: after starting in 12th the pair steadily rose up through the order and were eighth at the chequered flag. They could have been higher: after their quickest driver change ever they were then mistakenly held in the pits and lost vital seconds. Fifth place only finished five seconds up the road from our BMW… The results gave the team a real lift after all the travails with the #76 car.
The morning race had looked like being a straight fight between the BMW Alpina and the pole-sitting Lamborghini Gallardo, but the racing gods intervened in a frantic race that no one seemed to be able to win. With only six laps to go the #25 Gallardo was by tapped into a spin by the #101 Corvette; in turn he then slowed with a fuel-pump problem on the final lap, allowing the #4 Audi R8 to sweep through to victory – after starting 15th!
During the first half of Race 1 the BMW and Lamborghini had led from the flag. They swapped positions lap after lap until first the BMW ended up in the T8 gravel trap and then the Lamborghini was tapped into its spin. This then started an almost comical series of pirouettes, as the Gallardo threatened to rotate on driver Giorgio Sanna apparently at every corner – sometimes thanks to other drivers, mostly down to the car looking completely uncontrollable.
There was action right from the start: the #2 Hexis Aston Martin attempted to mount the #5 Sainteloc-Phoenix Audi into the first turn on the fourth lap. Apparently there was a target on the Audi team as 20 seconds later the #6 was then assaulted by the #61 Prospeed Porsche, causing heavy damage to the 911 and meaning the Audi rolled to a halt. Unfortunately the #76 Team NFS challenge ended on lap 10, when the car was retired with a damaged wheel hub and broken toe-link after an earlier spin.
It looked like the majority of the cars were sporting damage by the end, but it didn’t stop the battered #87 Chad Ferrari pulling itself up from 13th at the start to third place at the flag.
There’s nothing like the smell of champagne to cheer everyone up, and with only two weeks until the next round at Paul Ricard, in the south of France, Team Need For Speed will be looking to get both cars to taste success.
What a pair great races! So many different kinds of car, so much action!
EUROPEAN GT3 ROUND 3 RACE 1 RESULT
1: #4 Team Rosberg Audi R8 LMS (Paolo Bonifacio/Michael Ammermueller) 36 laps
2: #101 Callaway Competition Corvette Z06R (Daniel Keilwitz/Christian Hohenadel) +2.168
3: #87 Chad Racing Ferrari 430 Scuderia (Giacomo Petrobelli/Diego Alessi) +5.549s
4: #33 Black Falcon Audi R8 LMS (Sean Breslin/Christer Jöns) +6.261s
5: #60 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3R (Petri Lappalainen/Markus Palttala) +20.456s
EUROPEAN GT3 ROUND 3 RACE 2 RESULT
1: #77 Team Need For Speed BMW Z4 Coupé (Claudia Huertgen/Csaba Walter) 37 laps
2: #61 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3R (Marco Holzer/Paul van Splunteren) +21.984s
3: #6 Sainteloc/Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS (Greg Franchi/Stéphane Lemeret) +37.050s
4: #101 Callaway Competition Corvette Z06R (Daniel Keilwitz/Christian Hohenadel) +37.495s
5: #11 Muelhner Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3R (Gilles Vannelet/Joseph Osbourne) +46.828s