Maserati has won the latest round of the FIA GT World Championship with the Brazilian crowd cheering home local hero Xandi Negrao as he took the chequred flag in the Maserati MC12 at the legendary Interlagos track in Brazil at the weekend (28 November 2010).
“I have no words to describe how I’m feeling,” said Negrao at the end of the race. “It was an amazing weekend. Since the day that Michael (Bartels) called me to do this race. I’m glad that after two years Michael remembered me! Today we had a good strategy saving the new tyres for the end. Towards the end I saw that the Aston was struggling a bit more with the tyres than me so I was waiting for the time to go ahead. Unfortunately we don’t have the same engine as them so I had to overtake a bit too aggressively but sometimes you have to go for it. I’m glad we were able to help the team to maybe win the team championship and help Michael and Andrea to win again the championship of drivers.”
With one round to go, on Sunday 5 December in Argentina, Maserati have a comfortable lead in the team title chase and the Manufacturers Trophy while Drivers’ Championship leaders Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels finished in 9th in their Maserati MC12 and now lead the title race by 28 points from Enge and Turner.
“We had a good race,” said Maserati driver Bartels after the race. “We just tried to make the best of what we could with 40kg of weight and do the best job we could in our performance window. Andrea and I drove well and we didn’t make any mistakes and we picked up points to help with our championship lead. To be honest we didn’t expect to win the (drivers) championship here. If it was a tennis match, I guess you could say we have two match points as we travel to San Luis. As for our Brazilian team-mates, if I was making a movie I would make it so that the local hero Xandi Negrao makes the pass from second position to win the race near the end. We sent Xandi away for a couple of years and now we bring him back he shows us what he has learned! Their win helps us in the team championship. For the team, it was the sweetest victory and I like sweet things.”
It was Tomas Enge who held the lead from pole position as the 22 car grid thundered along the main straight into the first corner. Everyone made it around the Senna S, with Peter Dumbreck in the nr 23 Sumo Power Nissan holding onto the rear of the leading Aston Martin, while Clivio Piccione in the no10 Hexis Aston Martin was being pressurised by the nr2 Vitaphone Maserati of Enrique Bernoldi, with the Brazilian sweeping into 3rd place on lap 2.
Starting from the back of the grid the nr5 Matech Ford of Richard Westbrook was on the move early on, moving up four places in the first three laps and a further three places by lap 9 in his attempt to get ahead of the nr1 Vitaphone Maserati of Andrea Bertolini. Bertolini was holding a points scoring position in 9th place, which became 10th when he was passed by the Triple H Team Hegersport Maserati of Daniel Serra.
As the pit window opened the leaders all came into the pits to hand over to their co-drivers. Darren Turner retained Enge's lead but it was Xandi Negrao who emerged in 2nd place as the nr23 Sumo Power Nissan of Michael Krumm dropped from 2nd to 5th behind the Margaritis in the Phoenix Corvette and Hirschi in the Hexis Aston Martin.
Turner's rear mirrors were filled by the Vitaphone Maserati as Negrao tried every trick in the book to get past the leading Aston Martin. On lap 29 Negrao saw Turner leave the door open in the twisty section of the Interlagos circuit and the Brazilian fans cheered as Negrao pushed the nose of the Maserati into the gap and barged his way past the Aston Martin. Both cars continued with the Maserati opening up a two second gap within the next three laps. Darren Turner held a two second gap to the third placed Corvette and which the top 3 cars maintained as the clock counted down.
At the chequered flag it was Xandi Negrao who scored the first win for the nr2 Maserati in front of his home crowd. Second place was good enough to keep Darren Turner and Tomas Enge in the championship battle, but with an extra 30kg of success ballast to add to the 10kg the Aston Martin was carrying in Brazil, the pair admitted that their championship hopes were slim. Maserati Vitaphone Racing hold a comfortable 47 point lead in the Team Championship over Reiter with a maximum of 58 points available in Argentina.