The Callaway Z06.R Corvettes have been cutting a wide swath through a variety of European racing events, including the Dutch Belcar, the FIA GT3, and the German ADAC GT Masters series. The GT Masters format matches the FIA GT3 rules, with one-hour races, mandatory pit stops with driver changes, and GT3-spec cars.
The final two races of the ADAC season were held at the famous Hockenheim Ring in southern Germany. Over 140,000 spectators attended this event, which featured the popular DTM (German Tour Car) series. The GT Masters contests were added to the main DTM race as a supporting event.
The Martini-Callaway team tapped its two top FIA GT3 drivers, Klaus Ludwig and Jff,rgen von Gartzen, to drive the No. 26 Nicola Bulgari-owned Z06.R. Because they did not compete in the ADAC series on a full-time basis, the drivers were listed as guest entries and were not eligible to receive GT Masters championship points.
Regular ADAC GT Masters competitors Toni Seiler and Patrick Gerling entered their No. 25 Cosmopolitan-sponsored Z06.R. Rounding out the Martini-Callaway contingent was the No. 24 MM Racing Z06.R, driven by ADAC GT regulars Jiri Skula and Martin Matzke. Incredibly, Skula and Matzke, who hail from the Czech Republic, had only recently turned 17, and neither one had a regular driver's license. All of the Corvettes were carrying an added 110 pounds of "reward weight" in the passenger compartment. Their top rivals, the Kessel Racing Ferrari 430s, were carrying no such extra weight.
Thirty cars competed for the pole positions for Races One and Two. The pole winner for Race One was another FIA GT3 regular driving a Kessel Ferrari. Second was a Lamborghini Gallardo, and in third-just 0.129 seconds behind the Ferrari-was von Gartzen. Skula/Matzke were tenth and Seiler/Gerling were fourteenth. Ludwig won the pole position for Race Two, with Skula/Matzke in ninth and Seiler/Gerling last due to an engine problem.
The green flag fell for Race One under cool, sunny skies Saturday afternoon. The secondplace Lamborghini quickly fell out of the race with a blown engine, allowing von Gartzen to take his place behind the leading Ferrari. The Ferrari slowly opened up a 5-second lead, while the rest of the field slowly fell behind the two front-runners. Von Gartzen was fighting the extra 110 pounds, which upset the Corvette's handling and punished its brakes. The Seiler/Gerling Z06.R, meanwhile, was spun out by an Aston Martin, pushing the yellow Corvette to the back of the field. Farther back, the Skula/Matzke Vette was slowly moving up the order.
With the driver changes complete, the leading Ferrari found itself only four seconds ahead of a hard-charging Ludwig. Ludwig quickly closed the gap to 0.2 second and made several attempts to pass the 430. Finally, near the end of the long straight, Ludwig made the pass stick, but the Ferrari squeezed by to retake the lead. With three minutes to go, Ludwig suddenly pulled off the track with a broken halfshaft, ending the exciting duel. The Skula/Matzke car finished Fourth, while the Seiler/Gerling Vette moved up to take Eighth.
In Race Two on Sunday, Ludwig quickly pulled out to a sizable lead over two Lamborghinis and a Ferrari. Matzke was on the move and was soon holding down fourth after one of the Lambos fell out with mechanical problems. Soon, the second Lamborghini's engine expired, making the order Corvette, Ferrari, Corvette. At the same time, the Seiler/Gerling Z06.R was moving rapidly through the field from its last-place starting position.
GT Masters rules require that all competitors make a 70-second pit stop, timed from the entry point to the exit of pit lane. Missing this mark brings a 30-second penalty. Ludwig brought the silver Corvette into the pits with a commanding lead. Von Gartzen resumed the race and maintained that lead, with the Ferrari second and the Skula/Matzke Corvette third. Unfortunately, even though von Gartzen took the checkered flag at the head of the field, the team was assessed a 30-second penalty for pitting two seconds too quickly.
This would have put the Ferrari at the top of the podium, but because the team was not a regular ADAC Masters GT competitor, Skula and Matzke got the nod. The young Czechs were overwhelmed with their surprise victory, proudly drinking champagne from their trophies as the rest of the Martini-Callaway team joined in the celebration. The Seiler/Gerling Corvette finished a remarkable Fifth overall after making a dash from last place at the start.