Hexis Aston Martin drivers Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp claimed victory in the main event at the Abu Dhabi FIA GT1 World Championship season opener.
Dusseldorp had to withstand pressure from JR Motorsports Nissan driver Richard Westbrook over the final laps to win the championship race on Saturday night. The British driver had overturned a seven-second deficit over the previous nine and a half laps, but was unable to find a way past the the 20-year-old Dutch driver.
The key to the French Hexis team's victory was a super-fast pitstop that vaulted the Aston DBR9 into the lead from fifth place.
Piccione said: "A big thank you to the team; they made this win possible with an amazing pitstop."
Westbrook paid tribute to GT debutant Dusseldorp after the race.
"If I'd had another 20 laps, I wouldn't have got past him," Westbrook said. "He didn't put a foot wrong."
The All-Inkl Lamborghini team scored its first FIA GT1 podium with third place for series debutant Markus Winkelhock and Marc Basseng. Team manager Basseng described the result as "unbelievable" after a torrid weekend during which the German squad suffered two gearbox failures, saw its other car lose pole position for a procedural infringement and had to undertake major repairs after a first-corner accident in the opening race.
Sumo Power Nissan driver Enrique Bernoldi had stormed into the lead from the second row at the start and held off Peter Dumbreck, Westbrook's team-mate, and then Marc VDS Ford driver Maxime Martin until the mandatory pitstops.
The Ford GT and the Nissan, now driven by Frederic Makowiecki and Ricardo Zonta respectively, collided in the pits, ending the victory challenges for both. The Ford was penalised, while the Nissan sustained a puncture.
Championship race - 31 laps: Pos Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Piccione/Dusseldorp Hexis Aston Martin 1h00m02.053s 2. Dumbreck/Westbrook JR Nissan + 0.474s 3. Winkelhock/Basseng All-Inkl Lamborghini + 14.539s 4. Hohenadel/Piccini Hexis Aston Martin + 15.296s 5. Mucke/Turner Young Driver Aston + 15.934s 6. Muller/Enge Young Driver Aston + 16.713s 7. Wendlinger/Kox Swiss Lamborghini + 17.277s 8. Martin/Makowiecki Marc VDS Ford + 22.053s 9. Brabham/Campbell-Walter Sumo Power Nissan + 32.952s 10. Hezemans/Catsburg Exim Corvette + 39.805s 11. Pastorelli/Schwager All-Inkl Lamborghini + 46.478s 12. Matzke/Pavlovic Belgian Ford + 1m23.319s 13. Rossi/Camara DKR Corvette + 1m38.366s 14. Luhr/Krumm JR Nissan + 1 lap Retirements: Nilsson/Janak Swiss Lamborghini 24 laps Bernoldi/Zonta Sumo PowerNissan 21 laps Leclerc/Giroix Belgian Ford 16 laps Hennerici/Leinders Marc VDS Ford 0 laps