Coronel and Hezemans win at the A1 Ring

Mike Hezemans and Tom Coronel, after dominating every practice and qualifying session at the Austrian A1 Ring this weekend, took a decisive win in the seventh round of the FIA GT championship on Sunday, completing 113 laps of the 4.32km circuit in the maximum three hours.

Coronel and Hezemans win at the A1 Ring

Returning to the first step of the podium for the first time since Monza, the all-Dutch team were never seriously challenged around the picturesque circuit, and their Chrysler Viper took the chequered flag with a 38 second lead.

It had rained continuously on both practice days, but the skies cleared by the time the race started.

Hezemans immediately pulled out a healthy lead, followed by the Paul Belmondo Racing Viper driven by Boris Derichebourg and Emmanuel Clérico, and Wolfgang Kaufmann and young Austrian driver Gottfried Grasser in the Freisinger Porsche 911 GT2.

Despite various changes due to pit-stops and varying strategies, the three cars were to finish in the same order.

Julian Bailey made a poor start in the #14 Lister Storm, but gradually recovered, and after the first pit-stop, was lying in third place. However, clutch problems meant that the rear of the car, which had been handling better than all weekend, was locking up. Hitting some water by the side of the track, Campbell-Walter spun, and was unable to get going again. Unfortunately, the second Lister Storm, which had been lying seventh, stopped at almost the same time, with transmission failure.

Although Bailey and Campbell-Walter retained their lead in the Drivers Championship, they have lost the lead in the Teams Championship to Paul Belmondo Racing, whose cars finished second and fourth.

With victory in his first ever FIA GT championship, Tom Coronel maintained his five-year tradition of winning on the weekend of the Zandvoort Masters.

The N-GT class saw the Pirelli-shod teams leading the race, ending the usual Michelin domination. "They have put in some amazing work and money," Steve O'Rourke said after coming in second in the EMKA GTC Porsche 996 GT3-R he shares with Tim Sugden.

The class was won by the Italian Art Engineering team, whose cars had taken the first two places on the N-GT grid in yesterday's wet qualifying session. With the team's leading car, driven by Bertuzzi/Masselli, failing to finish after gearbox and driveshaft problems, Mancini and Collini went on to give the team their first FIA GT win. Third place went to the RWS car of Willems, Hofer and Blieninger.

Larbre Competition, leading the N-GT category since the beginning of the year, had a difficult race, with Christophe Bouchut and RWS's Luca Riccitelli escalating their season-long battle. With two collisions between the two cars on the first lap, Bouchut had to spend 12 minutes in the pits repairing his radiator. In the closing stages, however, another coming together saw Riccitelli retire, and Bouchut get a $1000 fine for unsportsmanlike behaviour. With sixth place, however, Bouchut and Goueslard maintained their 100% points finish, and still have a comfortable lead in both the team and driver's championship.

FIA GT Championship Round 7 - A1 Ring, Austria Results
GT Hezemans/Coronel Carsport Chry. Viper 113 laps
GT Derichebourg/Clérico Belmondo Chry Viper 113 laps
2 GT Kaufmann/Grasser Freisinger Porsche GT2 112 laps
GT Gosselin/Belmondo Belmondo Chry Viper 112 laps
GT Konrad/von Gartzen Konrad Porsche GT2 112 laps
GT Wieth/Wieth Wieth Porsche GT2 109 laps
GT Felbermayr/Felbermayr Chamberlain Chry.Viper 109 laps
NGT Colloni/Mancini ART Porsche GT3 107 laps
NGT O'Rourke/Sugden EMKA GTC Porsche GT3 107 laps
GT Sabatini/Spinelli/Jurasz Orlando Porsche GT2 105 laps
NGT Höfer/Willems/Blieniger RWS Porsche 996 104 laps
NGT De Lesseps/Arhle Larbre Porsche GT3 103 laps
NGT Bicciato/Frigerio/Neugarten MAC Porsche GT3 102 laps
NGT Bouchut/Goueslard Larbre Porsche GT3 98 laps

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