Beating them was always going to be a long-shot going into the last round here at San Luis in Argentina, but the #1 Vitaphone Maserati pair of Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels did enough to secure the 2010 Drivers' Title with the Championship Race still to go. They didn't make things easy for themselves though: after crossing the line in fourth at the rolling start of the Qualifying Race they collided with a Reiter Lamborghini on the second lap and dropped right to the back. All depended on the opposition: but the only realistic challengers, Tomas Enge and Darren Turner in the #7 Young Driver Aston Martin, started back in 17th and had to finish on the podium at the least to stay in with a chance: they could only manage a 10th place finish, handing the title to Bartels and Bertolini.
The pair might have now crushed the opposition in GT1 for the last three out of four years (and Vitaphone had won the Teams' Championship for the last five years running!), but the MC12 was not the dominant force it once was: they struggled in Abu Dhabi and Silverstone, before coming on strong in the middle of the season and posting up one Qualifying Race win and three Championship Race victories to build up a decent points cushion. Weighed down with ballast, they then struggled to stay up front but still delivered points in pretty much every race: something their rivals usually failed to do. But this is a team that knows who to win championships.
Conditions this weekend were tough: at the finish of the Championship Race the #1 MC12 looked like it had been on the Mille Miglia rather than in a GT event: the Potrero De Los Funes circuit is used so infrequently that it's incredibly dusty. A rain storm during Pre-Qualifying washed enough dirt and debris onto the track to make the event look like it could qualify as a rally!
I thought it was funny that they had already printed up winners t-shirts. That's always risky – it's tempting fate! Just ask Ferrari… Here in Argentina, as the podium erupted in ticker-tape, the ecstatic Vitaphone mechanics in the crowd below went mad, waving flags and popping champagne corks, spraying everyone with fizz – even us photographers up on the platform opposite the podium! Another sign of Vitaphone efficiency: they'd wheeled a four-foot long crate into the middle of the crowd – and it was full of champagne and beer! See, that's how organised they are. As the podium finished, the party moved into the Vitaphone tent and then out onto the track! As I was downloading my last batch of GT1 photos for the year the two MC12s were doing burn-outs and donuts up and down the main straight. Sadly, the party had to end: everyone leaves tonight, so everything has to be repacked back into the containers, ready for shipping back to Europe. Me? I'm shipping back tonight, so I've got to run! I've got a couple more stories to post as soon as I get back – in the meantime, make sure you check out the race coverage via Speedhunters!