|Xavier Maassen||22nd Jun, 1980|
Bertolini... back at the start !
Over the 13 years of the FIA GT Championship, no-one scored more points than triple Champion Andrea Bertolini. The 2003 'driver of the year' won the GT title in 2006, 2008 and 2009, with Michael Bartels and the Vitaphone Racing Team. After a close fight with long-time points leader Stéphane Ortelli, Bertolini moved into the lead in 2009 - a goal he had been chasing all season !
But although Bertolini has become inextricably linked with the Maserati he helped develop, who remembers what he was driving when he made his FIA GT debut ? It was an Art Engineering Porsche, in 2001. He first came to our attention at Budapest that year, with a fine fourth in qualifying. The qualifying press release stated :
Italian team Art Engineering, who took their first win of the season at Zolder, put their two cars in third and fourth places in the first qualifying session. Fabio Babini was third, just seven-thousandths behind Peter, with Andrea Bertolini making a great improvement to qualify fourth in the #53 Porsche 996 GT3-R. This is Bertolini’s first season in GT cars, the Ferrari factory test driver having previously only raced in karts. He has been making steady improvements throughout the season. “I really like the atmosphere of the championship, which is very professional, with very good drivers,” Bertolini explained. “It was a big step from karts to GT cars, but karting is a good training ground for both the direct confrontation with other drivers, and for the physical preparation.” Bertolini is sharing the car with Jirko Malcharek this weekend, who previously drove for Coca Cola Racing. “We should be better in the race this time, as Malcharek is much closer to my times.”
For the record, his team-mate and co-Champion Michael Bartels also first raced a Porsche in the Championship - a Porsche 911 GT1 from Zakspeed, in 1998 !