Hart & Pastorelli take stunning victory in wet second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at Spa

David Hart and Nicky Pastorelli took their Maserati MC12 GT1 by the scruff of its neck to grab a stunning overall victory in a very wet second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at the Spa Six Hours meeting. A quick first-lap pitstop for rain tyres and then a searing pace by Pastorelli in the wet proved to be the main ingredients for their win over Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2.

“That first-lap stop was a brilliant decision”, said a beaming Hart. “I brought on Michael Bartels, the original Vitaphone team boss, to handle the car and he made the call. It was a shame I could only do two green laps. Without the safety car, our lead would have been even bigger! And I just love the rain – I’m the rain man…”

“That was really cool”, said a well-satisfied Pastorelli. “The car was fantastic to drive, and racing it in the wet was even better!”

“We changed back to slicks on the grid, that was not a good decision!” said d’Ansembourg. “But I had a good advantage on Kriton and Steve, so I was OK for the championship. I let the Maserati go, as I didn’t want to take any risks.”

Having started out on rain tyres, Markus van Oeynhausen’s invitational Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 car crossed the line in third while Steve Tandy looked to have beaten Kriton Lendoudis to fourth after a tense fight between the Lola-Mazda B12/60 and the Peugeot 90X. Tandy’s pass in the final corner, however, came to be by overshooting the chicane, so the winner of the first race had to give the place back to his Greek rival. Meanwhile, Keith Frieser secured the P2 class win by finishing sixth in the ORECA-Nissan 03.

“I had a good run on Kriton out of Blanchimont”, said Tandy about his failed pass on Lendoudis. “I overshot the Bus-Stop, so I don’t what the result will be.”

“I’m not used to driving this car in the rain”, Lendoudis said, “so I was simply trying to adapt. But it was a good race and I had good fun.”

The second race of the weekend – with Mike Furness’ Courage-Judd LC75 a non-starter – got underway on a damp track, and if tyre choice was critical, it was certainly so when all hell broke loose on the opening lap, with sudden heavy rainfall flooding the track. D’Ansembourg, Lendoudis, Frieser, Gläsel, Ditting, Tandy, Van Hoepen and Watts all came in at once to change to wets before the safety car was dispatched.

On the cars’ out lap, Tandy’s Lola-Mazda B12/60 had spun to drop back to penultimate place in the order, handing the intial advantage to d’Ansembourg in the Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2 and Lendoudis in the Peugeot 90X, while Hart’s Maserati MC12 GT1 was into the pits on the first possible occasion. Van Oeynhausen, Newton, Bloem and Nearburg staying out by having made the right tyre choice gave them the first four positions behind the safety car, though, followed by Hart and d’Ansembourg as the first of the stoppers. They moved up a place when Newton dropped out behind the safety car.

As the green flag was waved on lap 5, the pit window had already opened, and Von Oeynhausen, Hart and d’Ansembourg decided to have it over and done with. This handed a surprising lead to James Davison in Pierre Bruneau’s Pilbeam MP91, followed by Albert Bloem’s Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and Charlie Nearburg in the ORECA-Nissan 03. Ditting in the Aston Martin DBR9 was fourth but a long way back, followed by the fast-closing Lendoudis and Tandy. They, along with Frieser in the other ORECA 03 and Gläsel in the McLaren MP4-12C GT3, pitted on the next lap. Next in were Ditting, Davison and Bloem.

At the front, with less than 15 minutes to go, Nearburg was still in front but having missed the pit window, just like Peter van Hoepen in the Ferrari 430 GT2. Second was d’Ansembourg but chased hard by Nicky Pastorelli in the Maserati started by David Hart. Von Oeynhausen in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 was fourth, well ahead of Bruneau in the Pilbeam. Lendoudis, Tandy and Frieser were far away in sixth, seventh and eighth.

As d’Ansembourg and Pastorelli hunted down Nearburg, their order had changed on lap 8, the Dutchman now ahead of the Belgian and then passing Nearburg for the lead proper on lap 9, despite the time penalty for the Texan still forthcoming. Pastorelli setting a scorching pace in the wet, each time beating his own fastest lap of the race, the Maserati moved further away from the Lola-Aston. When the time penalties for Nearburg and Van Hoepen were announced, the American made his pitstop after all.

And so Pastorelli ran out to a stunning overall win in the GT1 machine, 22 seconds ahead of d’Ansembourg, with Von Oeynhausen in the invitational GT3 Audi in third. Some 52 seconds adrift, Lendoudis and Tandy finished fourth and fifth, Tandy being put back having completed his pass on the Greek by overshooting the chicane. Frieser in sixth took P2 class honours. Sam Hancock brought home Ditting’s Aston Martin GT1 second in class while despite his penalty, Peter van Hoepen’s Ferrari was still the first GT2 car home in 13th overall, 25 seconds ahead of Bloem’s Vantage.