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2003 season review

GT Drivers Champion : Christophe Bouchut is one of the most successful and longest-serving drivers in the FIA GT Championship. He has taken part in all but 13 of the rounds ever held, driving for Kremer Racing in 1997, Team Persson Motorsport...

GT Drivers Champion : Christophe Bouchut is one of the most successful and longest-serving drivers in the FIA GT Championship. He has taken part in all but 13 of the rounds ever held, driving for Kremer Racing in 1997, Team Persson Motorsport in 1998, and Larbre Competition Chereau since 2000. With three Championship wins, N-GT in 2000 and GT in 2001 and 2002, the 36-year old Frenchman has scored a total of 206 points over the 5 seasons he has competed, with a total of 11 wins, 6 in N-GT and 5 in GT, including two wins in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa.

Winning GT Driver, Christophe Bouchut.
Photo by FIA.

"This was a great success," Bouchut said. "It is relatively rare to have successive Championship wins, especially when the competition is growing steadily stronger. It makes the victory even more important. We were surprised to win in 2001, as we had planned to have a year in which to learn about the category and the car. 2002 was more difficult, as we were up against some extremely competitive cars, such as the Lister and the Ferrari, which we could not beat on terms of pure speed." Bouchut has seen a lot of changes during his time in the FIA GT Championship. "To start with, it was a refuge for me, after leaving single-seaters. I met a multitude of people there who have helped me with my career, starting with Stephane Ratel. I've seen the ups and the downs, although I was sheltered from the worst, driving for a manufacturer in 1998. But since then, the Championship has really found an excellent balance, and as far as I am concerned, the atmosphere there is friendlier and more pleasant than in any other international competition in which I have taken part. After winning in Estoril, the Lister mechanics congratulated me -- and Jamie Campbell-Walter and I shook hands, vowing to continue our battle in 2003. I don't think I could find a better place to race anywhere."

What about his best memory of 2002 ? "Definitely the end of the last race, in Estoril -- deliverance at last ! I did not really believe I would win the Championship, not at any point, not even when I took the lead after Spa. I would hate to go through that race again -- it was very difficult and there were so many factors in play. I still can't quite believe it ! "

Christophe has already signed to drive for Larbre again in 2003. " A lot of things will change. I'll have another new team-mate -- nothing has been signed yet -- and there should be a number of changes to the Chrysler Viper, so that we can fight on equal terms to try and make it three in a row !"

GT Teams Champion : Larbre Competition Chereau
The French-based team entered two Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars in the 2002 season, retaining the title it had won in 2001, this time with a narrow margin of 4.5 points over Lister Storm Racing. Jack Leconte's drivers, Christophe Bouchut, Sebastien Bourdais, Carl Rosenblad, David Terrien and Vincent Vosse, made sure that the team scored points at every race, with both cars regularly finishing in the top six. The team's finest moment came during the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, when the team claimed its second consecutive win in the epic endurance race.

Winning N-GT Driver, St?phane Ortelli.
Photo by FIA.

N-GT Drivers Champion : Stephane Ortelli has also been a regular in the FIA GT Championship since the beginning, taking his first podium was in Helsinki, in 1997, driving a Roock Racing Porsche 911 GT1. He continued to drive for Roock Racing, mainly in the GT2 category, from 1997 to 1999, making a full return to the Championship in 2001, for Freisinger Motorsport, in the N-GT category. With 7 wins this season, with a number of talented co-drivers, the 32-year old from Monaco has had his best season yet.

"This was one of the hardest challenges I have faced," Ortelli explained. "The season was very tough, as we were 20 points behind after the first two races. It took us a long time and a lot of hard work to catch up and finally take the lead - and then we had to defend that lead ! This win is very important, both to me and to the team. It has been very special, working with Manfred Freisinger, and being able to give the team their first class 24-hour victory, at Spa this year, and then the Team and Drivers Championships later in the season."

"I have been involved in the FIA GT Championship since the beginning, so this represents a nice continuity for me," Ortelli continued. "However, this is the first time that I have been able to do a full season, as there were no clashes with the Porsche Supercup. Perhaps it is significant that I proceeded to win both titles ! I really enjoyed competing in the N-GT category; there are some excellent drivers in my class, and we had some very good races. It was also good to win so many races with different co-drivers. It is generally much easier to have one regular team-mate, so that you can build up a good relationship. This year, I had to be a real leader, to compromise, to be confident, to make my team-mates feel part of the team and to work together for our race."

So far, Stephane does not have any fixed plans for 2003. "Nothing is clear yet, but I would like to stay in the Championship and fight to retain my title ! We'll have to see !"

N-GT Teams Champion : Freisinger Motorsport The German team, run by Manfred Freisinger, has competed regularly in the FIA GT Championship since half-way through the 1998 season. Initially running Porsche 911 GT2 cars, the team earned a place in the history books after claiming the last overall victory with that car, at the Lausitzring in 2000. In 2001, the team moved into the N-GT category with two Porsche 996 GT3-R cars. This season, Stephane Ortelli and his team-mates, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, Sascha Maassen and Emmanuel Collard, as well as Bert Longin, Stephane Daoudi and Cyrille Sauvage in the second car, scored a total of 103 points for the team - the highest N-GT team score ever.

-fia-

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