D'Ansembourg fends off Cantillon to win first Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at the ‘Ring

Christophe d’Ansembourg took a hard-fought win in the first Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends at the Oldtimer Grand Prix event, the Belgian’s Lola Aston Martin DBR1-2 deciding a race-long battle with Mike Cantillon’s Pescarolo-Judd 01 as just six tenths separated the pair on the line.

“Yeah, it was hard”, said d’Ansembourg. “Mike’s really fast. During the race I was really managing, he was fighting for the lead – a different mindset. But at the end, it was stressful to contain him!”

“I knew I had to do a very good stint in the first half, as I had a five-second penalty at the stops”, said Cantillon. “After the pitstop, the team told me he was in the lead. In the end I was closing but it wasn’t close enough. Was it sixth tenths? Wow, that’s good. It was good racing!”

An equally tense battle for P2 class glory came to an end two minutes from the finish when Mike Newton had to abort his attack on Keith Frieser’s lead in the ORECA-Nissan 03. Newton’s MG-Lola EX257 had been leading the class in the opening phase but Frieser managed to get ahead at the stops and defended a two-second lead when Newton’s MG-Lola disappeared from Frieser’s mirrors.

“It was very good!” said Frieser about his race. “Mike got a gap at the start, but I gained eight seconds at the stops – I got a great in and out lap. Then at the end, I saw him get on the grass, and then he was gone.”

Behind the two invitational Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 cars that in the hands of Oliver Mathai and Timo Scheibner ran home fifth and sixth, Dominik Roschmann (Ferrari 458 GTC) came out on top of a thrilling GT battle with the 458 GTEs of Ulrich Schuhmacher and Tina Kok.

“Not so bad!” said Roschmann about his race. “Tina spun just ahead of the stops, and that’s what gave me the lead.”

At the start, d’Ansembourg got away cleanly to lead Cantillon and Newton but Ditting had got ahead of Frieser’s ORECA, with Mathai up next. On lap 2, however, Frieser got back up to fourth to let Ditting drop back into Mathai’s clutches, the two Aston Martins indeed swapping places on lap 4.

Ten minutes into the race, Cantillon was keeping d’Ansembourg honest, the Pescarolo never further away than half a second. Newton ran a lonely third, 10 second down on the leading pair but 12 seconds clear of class rival Frieser. Behind Mathai and Ditting, Timo Scheibner in the second invitational Vantage V12 GT3 was having a fight with Tina Kok’s Ferrari 458 GTE, Kok leaping ahead on lap 2 but losing the place on the next tour. Similarly, Dominik Roschmann in the 458 GTC was fighting Ulrich Schuhmacher in another 458 GTE, the former getting past on lap 3.

Meanwhile at the front, Cantillon had powered past d’Ansembourg and promptly began setting fastest laps of the race. On lap 9, the Pescarolo held a three-second lead on the Lola-Aston Martin. Newton was now trailing by 26 seconds and saw Frieser narrow down his deficit from 12 to six seconds on lap 10. Mathai was alone in fifth, as Ditting had to make an unscheduled stop to resume in tenth, and was soon back in again. Kok was now the effective leader in the GT class.

On lap 11, Cantillon came into the pits for his mandatory stop, d’Ansembourg following him on the next lap, joined by Newton. On lap 13, Frieser was the last of the frontrunners to pit. After the stops had panned out, d’Ansembourg was back in the lead and setting fastest lap times, while Frieser had pipped Newton at the stops. Scheibner and Mathai were fifth and sixth in their GT3 Astons, but the order in the fight for GT class glory had significantly changed – now Roschmann was leading ahead of Schuhmacher and Kok. Peter Schleifer in the Norma M2000-2 had moved up into the top-ten.

With ten minutes still remaining, the fight was still on, as Cantillon began closing on the leader again, having cut d’Ansembourg’s advantage to three seconds. Frieser nursed a five-second gap to Newton, but that was coming down too. Five minutes later, it was game on, Cantillon now within a second of the Belgian in the lead while Newton had closed to within two seconds.

In the dying minutes, however, Newton’s MG-Lola came crawling into the pits, prematurely deciding the P2 lead battle. He would still be classified fourth ahead of all the GTs. At the front, d’Ansembourg just held on for the win, as seven tenths were all that remained of his lead. In third, Frieser finished 1.11 down on the victorious Lola-Aston.

In GTs, the order remained almost unchanged until the chequered flags, the two V12 Astons of Mathai and Scheibner running home fifth and sixth, with Mathai passing his countryman two laps from the end. Both GT3 machines were ineligible for GT prizes, so it was Dominik Roschmann whose Ferrari 458 GTC took the spoils, with the 458 GTEs of Schuhmacher and Kok taking second and third in class.