The #50 AF Corse crew of Francesco Castellacci and Federico Leo held onto their Drivers’ Championship lead at the end of the final FIA European GT3 race of the 2011 season, taking fourth position as the flag dropped at the end of 35 laps of the Zandvoort track – enough to clinch the championship for the Italian driver pairing. It hadn’t been easy though: they started only sixth, soon dropped to seventh and were under pressure to make up places for the whole race. Frederick put in a big effort in the closing stages to make up three places and gain valuable extra points.
Finishing just in front of them on the road was their nearest challenger in the title battle, Mike Parisy in the #3 Graff Racing Mercedes SLS, but the podium position wasn’t enough to overhaul Castellacci and Leo.
Enzo Ide claimed the race victory after the #33 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS took the rolling start from pole position and established a lead that they never lost – he shared the Audi with Christopher Haase this weekend, who started the car – and in the process jumped up the points table to take third place in the Drivers’ Championship. The win also meant three victories in 2011 for Enzo – more than any other driver. It’s a great result for the young Belgian in his first full season at this level.
Second place for the #44 Heico Mercedes also moved them up in the final reckoning – they claimed fourth overall in the championship. The #45 sister car finished a strong sixth, and their combined points were more than enough to catch and pass Team Need For Speed in the Teams’ Championship, who at least still achieved a fine second place, clear of the Faster Racing BMW squad.
Of the other title contenders, the #9 Aston Martin was the first to fall: a clash with another car put them out at the start – and the oil spewing from the stricken car covered the cars behind. That included Abdulaziz in the #6 BMW: a windscreen full of oil made a difficult task almost impossible, and despite making up places during his stint – and Edward putting in another stellar stint to bring the car home – there just weren’t enough laps to make up the necessary places.
Following the wash-out in qualifying from multiple red flags, points were always going to be difficult – and points were the only guarantee of retaining the Team NFS lead in the Teams’ Championship. All through the race both cars could be seen fighting like crazy to make up places, but despite the best efforts of ATF and Edward, 13th was the best result they could achieve; Claudia Hurtgen and Csaba Walter managed 10th for a single point but that just wasn’t enough. The team were massively disappointed – but could take heart in a strong season.
18,000 fans turned up to watch a great weekend of racing (as we know from the queues to get out!), which was the perfect end to a fantastic season of racing. Team NFS came so close to winning, but all the teams put on a great show all year. So, now there’s plenty of time to catch up with the streaming video of the Zandvoort races if you haven’t watched them already, and I’ve uploaded a pack of desktops to celebrate the end of another great year of racing in GT3 – grab them from the Desktops section.
2011 FIA European GT3 Drivers’ Championship final positions
1: #50 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (Francesco Castellacci/Federico Leo) 111 points
2: #3 Graff Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (Mike Parisy) 102
3: #33 Belgian Audi Club R8 LMS (Enzo Ide) 100
4: #44 Heico Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (Brice Bosi/Dominik Baumann) 95
5: #4 Graff Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (Philippe Giauque) 93
2011 FIA European GT3 Teams’ Championship final positions
1: Heico Motorsport 167
2: Team Need For Speed By Schubert 159 points
3: Faster Racing by DB Motorsport 151
4: Graff Racing 149
5: AF Corse 131