D'Ansembourg doubles up at the Ring with second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends win

Christophe d’Ansembourg made it two out of two at the Oldtimer Grand Prix event by also winning the second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at the Nürburgring. The Belgian was chased to the line by Mike Cantillon whose Pescarolo-Judd 01 cut a 24-second deficit after the stops to half a second at the chequered flag.

“Mike was driving hard in the beginning, but I was holding him”, said d’Ansembourg. “I think I pitted at the right moment with the safety car [just ahead of the pit window]. Afterwards I just had to manage, there was no reason to take any risks. So with the backmarkers, I really waited to be sure – I really didn’t want to trip over one of them like I did at Silverstone.”

Mike Newton won a tense P2-class fight with Keith Frieser, his MG-Lola EX257 crossing the line four tenths ahead of the Canadian’s ORECA-Nissan 03, the pair having swapped places twice during the race.

“It was a good battle all the way through, Keith is a great driver to drive against”, said Newton. “He got the drop on me at the pitstops but I got him straight back. Then I managed the gap as far as traffic would allow me to…”

The GT class saw a storming drive from the back of the grid by Nikolaus Ditting to finish fifth overall in his Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 machine. Denmark’s Tina Kok took a strong second place in class with her Ferrari 458 GTE, while Marc Devis grabbed third in his Porsche 996 GT3 RS.

“It was only my second time in the car, so I’m really happy to be on the podium”, said a delighted Devis. “I enjoyed it very much, it was fun!”

The first ten minutes of the race were about d’Ansembourg’s being unable to shake off Cantillon, who kept within a second of the Belgian, and about Mike Newton catching and passing Frieser for third on lap 2. Among the GTs, Marco Werner was out on his own in Oliver Mathai’s Aston GT3 but the big drive came from Nikolaus Ditting bouncing back from his retirement in race one to storm up to sixth place in the space within two laps. Meanwhile, race one GT winner Dominik Roschmann was the first retirement of the race, the German returning his Ferrari 430 GTC to the pits at the end of lap 2.

Behind Ditting, a fierce Ferrari fight had been developing on between Ulrich Schuhmacher (458 GTE) and Tina Kok (458 GTE), the Danish lady driver making her way past the German on lap 3. All the while, Alexander Lienau in the second Vantage GT3 and Marc Devis in the Porsche 996 GT3 RS were right on Schuhmacher’s tail.

The four-way GT battle came to grief on lap 7 when Schuhmacher and Lienau tangled, requiring the dispatch of the safety car just minutes ahead of the pit window. This logically meant that all the leaders came in at the first opportunity. D’Ansembourg profited hugely, now leading the Pescarolo by 24 seconds, the Irishman in fact now hounded by the two P2 machines of Frieser (who like in race one had jumped his rival at the stops) and Newton. Ditting had moved up into fifth to lead the GT class ahead of Kok, Mathai in the Vantage started by Werner, Devis and Lienau, who had got his Vantage going again after his contact with Schuhmacher.

**“Behind the safety car, I had to sit behind a slower backmarker. There was nothing I could do”, Cantillon told about the 20 seconds he lost ahead of the stops. **

While d’Ansembourg set fastest lap, Cantillon momentarily dropped behind the charging Newton who had also dealt with Frieser, but the Irishman was soon past the MG-Lola again to beat d’Ansembourg’s fastest lap time. 22 seconds down on the Belgian, there was not much more that he could do, though. Behind the prototypes, Ditting had spun away his GT lead, the German now chasing Kok and Mathai. On lap 14, the DBR9 repassed Mathai’s Vantage and then set off afther Kok who was still six seconds up the road. Devis was a safe third in class behind the invitational Vantage, a long way ahead of Franz Wunderlich’s Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and the Olaf Manthey/Ralf Bahr Porsche 993 RSR.

At the front, d’Ansembourg set about managing his lead to Cantillon while Newton eased away from Frieser by a few tenths each lap. On lap 17, Ditting was back up in fifth, helped by a spin by Kok, who was now trailing Mathai again. Having been repassed by Kok, Mathai was soon into the pits, though, handing the place to Devis, who was in turn chased by Peter Scheifer’s Norma M2000-2.

“I had a really nice race”, said Kok, “and the spin was for the audience!”

As the chequered flag dropped, d’Ansembourg won by half a second from the madly chasing Cantillon. Similarly, Newton kept just four tenths in hand on Frieser. Ditting took fifth overall and the GT class win, ahead of Kok and Devis.

After the race, it transpired that Cantillon had finished the race with a broken wheel rim. “I was going into turn 1, a Ferrari was on the left, I was going superfast. It was nobody’s fault, but we touched”, the Irishman explained.