FIA GT race: Labre Viper takes last-gasp win

A late steering failure robbed Jamie Campbell-Walter and Tom Coronel of victory in the fourth round of the FIA GT Championship, handing the win to the Labre Chrysler Viper of Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc, who started 13th on the grid

FIA GT race: Labre Viper takes last-gasp win

Campbell-Walter hit the front on lap two when early leader and pole sitter Mike Hezemans (Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper) pulled off at Club corner with a broken alternator. The second Lister Storm of Julian Bailey moved up to second on lap six when he passed Anthony Kumpen's Belmondo Chrysler Viper at Copse.

Bailey chased down Campbell-Walter, and the Storms were within a second of each other when they dived for the pits on lap 31. Coronel took over the lead car from JC-W, but Nicolaus Springer didn't move an in inch the machine he took over from Bailey as an electrical problem left it stranded in the pits.

Just as the lead Storm was seemingly cruising to victory at half distance, Coronel made an unscheduled, and very unexpected, pit stop after a brush with an N-GT Porsche. Damage appeared limited to the bodywork on the right side of the nose section, but it took longer than usual to swap the right-front wheel, and Coronel reported that the tracking felt like it had been knocked out of kilter.

That promoted Belloc to the lead, but he had to make an extra stop too as the Viper was eating its rear tyres after his charge through the pack, while the Lister's stop also elevated Bleekemolen to third. Lister had the presence of mind to refuel Coronel during his unscheduled stop, so the car only required a splash 'n' dash, during which Campbell-Walter took over. JC-W resumed in the lead, as those ahead had stopped for longer fuel and tyre stops.

Although the Labre Viper was close behind, JC-W had stabilised the gap when he suddenly speared straight on at the exit of the right-hand element of Becketts with a handful of laps remaining. Bouchut immediately took the lead, while Jamie was forced to limp around to the pits. Although he completed a further lap on new tyres, Campbell-Walter was forced to retire as "something sheared in the steering", according to Lister boss Laurence Pearce.

Belloc took the flag 23.6secs ahead of a tremendous late dice between Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Kumpen, which remained in that order despite the Belgian's best efforts.

"I'm very happy," said Belloc. "At the beginning we started 13th, but we did a good, strong race. Our target before the start was a podium, but during the race we realised we could win. We were lucky that the Lister had its problem, but it's a great result for our championship chances."

Bouchut added: "The Lister was quicker than all the other cars this weekend. We had 100 kilos on the car, which was a big handicap in qualifying and the race."

Mimmo Schiatterella suffered a drama when the right-front tyre of his Rafanelli-run Ferrari 550 Maranello blew out as he approached the high-speed Maggotts. After that, they hung in there for fifth place, while the sister car retired with overheating.

In the N-GT class, Fabio Babini (Art Engineering Porsche 996 GT3-R) was a surprise leader when he hit the front by passing the RWS Porsche of Luca Riccitelli at Copse. He led the category for 20 laps until the Magny-Cours winning Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori found a way past.

The Ferrari won the class easily, thanks to its mega fuel consumption rate and single pit stop to the opposition's two, although it pulled off on the slowing down lap with the fuel light glowing. Babini/Luigi Moccia held on to second, while Riccitelli/Johnny Mowlem finished third.

"There was no chance we could beat the Ferrari," said Mowlem. "I could see from early on that Luca was struggling with tyres and I just pushed as hard as I could when I took over. After two or three laps, for some reason, the car became really difficult to drive."

1 Bouchut/Belloc (Chrysler Viper) 93 laps
2 Bleekemolen/Bleekemolen (Chrysler Viper) +23.648s
3 Kumpen/Gosselin (Chrysler Viper) +24.157s
4 Derichebourg/Vosse (Chrysler Viper) +55.258s
5 Schiattarella/Naspetti (Ferrari 550 Maranello) +1 lap
6 Clerico/Defourny (Chrysler Viper) +2 laps

N-GT winner: Pescatori/Terrien (Ferrari 550 Modena) +2 laps

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