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The 2005 FIA GT Championship g

The 2005 FIA GT Championship got off to a breathtaking start with an opening round at Monza that swung between various potential winners and, perhaps more importantly for the series, various different marques.

Speculation that the Maserati MC12, now in private hands, would dominate proved unfounded, despite its pace in qualifying and, in one of the closest FIA GT races ever, the three leading cars crossed the finish line separated by just 1.456secs after 87 laps of out-and-out war around the 5.793km grand prix circuit.

From pole, it was the Red Bull JMB Maserati that led through to the opening pit-stops, Philipp Peter consolidating the slight advantage that he had earned in the timed sessions. However, the Austrian was not without company, for both the Vitaphone MC12s and the surprising Russian Age Ferrari kept pace with the blue machine early on.

The Larbre Ferrari, Reiter Lamborghini and GLPK/Carsport Corvette were also in touching distance of the lead, although Peter Kox spun away the Murcielago's chances of making a successful return to the series, and the others had the second JMB car mixing it in the hunt for points.

When Peter finally stopped, Michael Bartels' Vitaphone Maserati took over at the front, and appeared the class of the field, save for the moment it was muscled aside by stable-mate Fabio Babini in the second black-and-aqua MC12. The rest of the field gradually whittled itself down to a handful of challengers, with Andrea Bertolini's Maserati losing time having a replacement door fitted following a collision at the Lesmos, the lead JMB car losing time with its second and third drivers at the wheel and the Russian Age entry being forced into retirement.

That left the two Vitaphone cars dicing with the Larbre 550 Maranello of Pedro Lamy and Gabriele Gardel, with the unexpected presence of the Corvette threatening to spring a surprise. Anthony Kumpen was charging in the US musclecar, and was looking good for a podium finish when an oil line failed ten laps from home, momentarily spewing flame from the C5-R's underside and forcing the Dutchman back to the pits.

With the Corvette continuing Carsport's frustrating reliability record from the past few years, an all-Italian battle remained out front, with Maserati attempting to fend off the supposedly old technology Ferrari in the battle for honours. Larbre and Lamy, however, had things under control, having preserved their rubber better than Bartels and Timo Scheider had in the German-entered MC12.

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