The 2009 FIA GT Championship started in earnest with the opening round held at Silverstone Circuit on 3rd May. 2009 will be the final year of the current regulations as in 2010 the Championship will return with a new generation of cars and if all goes to plan a Worldwide GT1 project. 2009 sees the 13th season of the FIA GT Championship and it promises to be a spectacular battle between the Vitaphone teams Maserati MC10 cars, four Corvette Z06's and 4 Saleen S7R's. fia gt championshipJoining the foray this season will be three cars built to the new 2010 regulations, the Ford GT and the Nissan GT-R. At the opening round the winners were fighting for the honour of having their names added to the illustrious past winners of the RAC's historic Tourist Trophy. The Tourist Trophy has had a fantastic history since it was first won back in 1905 by John Napier in an Arrol-Johnston on the Isle of Man. Other famous names engraved on the Trophy include Rudolf Carraciola, Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss, and Graham Hill to name just a few. Last years winners Karl Wendlinger and Ryan Sharp are back again this year but have exchanged their Jet Alliance Aston Martin for a Saleen S7R entered by K Plus K Motorsport. Everyone was hoping that this year the British Weather would be a big improvement on last years damp and misty conditions and they were not to be disappointed as the weather stayed dry and bright for the entire weekend. Free practice took place on Friday 1st May and saw the Corvette Z06 of Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen secure the fastest lap hotly pursued by the Vitaphone Maserati's of Miguel Ramos/Alex Muller and Michael Bartels/Andrea Bertolini. Last years winners Wendlinger/Sharp were fourth fastest in the Saleen and were followed by three Corvettes driven by Bert Longin/James Ruffier, Xavier Maassen/Guillaume Moreau and Jos menten/Markus Palttala. Barely a second separated the top six cars. Saturday'sfia gt championship CRS Racing programme for the FIA GT cars was split into a one hour twenty minute morning pre-qualifying session and then in late afternoon a thirty five minute qualifying shoot out. In the final qualifying session during the fifteen minutes reserved for the GT1 cars it was the Vitaphone Maserati that set the initial pace with Bertolini at the wheel, team mate Alex Muller was also driving well having settled into his new team seamlessly. However the moment of glory for the Vitaphone team was to be short lived as Karl Wendlinger took to the track in the K Plus K Motorsport Saleen and immediately outpaced the Maserati's setting a pole position winning lap time of 1m 42.216s giving him an impressive margin of 0.934s over second placed Andrea Bertolini and 1.360s clear of 3rd placed Alex Muller. Mike Hezemans and Guillaume Moreau were fourth and fifth fastest in the Corvette Z06's and Mario Dominguez rounded out the top six in the Saleen S7. Gianmaria Bruni's Ferrari F430GT was the fastest qualifier in GT2 from Frederic Makowiecki's Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Race day dawned with bright and dry weather conditions and saw the Saleen of Wendlinger/Sharp seize the lead immediately from pole position as the pace car pulled into the pit lane. The Saleen steadily built up a useful lead over the Maserati of Bertolini/Bartels and it stayed there until a rear wheel issue befell the sister Maserati of Muller/Ramos following a pit stop. The car came to a halt out on the track approaching Abbey with smoke billowing from around the rear wheel. The safety car was deployed and immediately the Bartels/Bertolini car pitted and emerged in front fia gt championship AF Corseas the pit stops unravelled. The Maserati was overhauled by Sharp who cruised past on the Hangar straight. The Maserati took the lead back after a lightning fast pit stop in the closing stages and looked set for a victory. Wendlinger however had other ideas stalking the leading car and seizing the advantage approaching Club corner as the Maserati became badly boxed in by a gaggle of back markers. It was all that Wendlinger needed and he capitalised on his advantage building a small cushion over the chasing Maserati of 5.499 seconds at the flag. It was the second successive win at Silverstone for the pairing who expressed their delight on the podium as they raised the superb RAC Tourist Trophy. Bertolini and Bartels had put up a valiant fight but said that it would have been almost impossible for them to overcome the superior speed of the Saleen, going on to say that to them it felt like a win. The third place on the GT1 podium went to the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6R of Maassen/Moreau. In GT2 it was a very close and hard fought battle with the Collard/Westbrook Prospeed Competition Porsche 997 GT3 RSR taking the win in the closing stages from the AF Corse Ferrari of Bruni/Vilander after the latter retired from the lead at Luffield with apparent mechanical failure. It was tough for the Ferrari drivers who had led the GT2 category for most of the race. Second place in the GT2 category went to the Pecom Ferrari F430 of Perez-Companc/Russo some twelve seconds adrift. The Pecom drivers had started from 9th place but took advantage of the safety car period to jump up to third. The CRS Racing Ferrari of Bell/Kirkaldy took third place in the GT2 category. It was a great weekend of racing and now the championship heads off to the International raceway at Adria in Italy for the second round.


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