Scottish racer Ryan Sharp and Karl Wendlinger yesterday won the opening round of the FIA GT Championship, and in the process retained the RAC Tourist Trophy, which they held aloft last year. Driving a Saleen S7, Wendlinger brought the no 14 car home to the chequered flag five and a half seconds ahead of the Vitafone Maserati MC 12 of Michel Bartels and Andrea Bertolini.
Sharp was delighted with the win, which baring Stirling Moss's amazing seven wins, only a hand-full of names appear more than once in the famous old trophies 104 year history. "As long as the FIA GT Championship keeps coming here and I can stay with competitive teams, then I'm still young, and if I keep pushing hard, then hopefully I can challenge for a few more wins."
"The Saleen proved that it's a very good car, I think that there are a few improvements that we can make. It was certainly one of the quickest cars out there today. "
"We were pushing absolutely to the limit, trying to give ourselves as good a chance as possible, I don't think that there was any time left in the car at all.. We got caught out by the Safety Car, which was a bit of bad luck, but we were able to recover it."
And he did in some style, as the safety car pulled off, after an incident where the no 2 Vitafone Maserati ended up parked out on the track, Sharp was some 6 seconds behind the Maserati. He sliced through the GT2 traffic between them and was soon baring down on Bartels, after a couple of attempts to line-him-up, the Saleen out-powered the Maserati on the straight and Sharp swiftly shut the door.
Sharp's stunning move could have been in vain, as Vitafone re-took the lead during the final round of pit stops, as Sharp handed back over to Wendlinger. The former F1 pilot now hunted down the Maserati, now with Bertolini at the wheel. As the leading pair were jousting, they came across a GT2 battle, Wendlinger dived for the inside, Bertolini to the outside, where he was slightly hampered by a Ferrari, and Wendlinger emerged into clear air.
Bertolini managed to hold onto the back of the Saleen for a while, but it proved impossible, even for the man who holds the lap records at the Ferrari test track.
"We are a new team and there is still a lot to improve on, but that was fantastic," said Sharp. "It couldn't really have gone any better."