THE FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP - A LOOK BACK AT 2005
Mr Max Mosley, President of the FIA, spoke first on the Championship: "I think that the 2005 season of the FIA GT Championship has been a huge success, and that has very much is a result of the work of the GT Bureau. The biggest problem we have had in GT racing probably for the last 50 years, is that it has been impossible to have the great and the famous marques of cars competing against each other. Being basically built for the road, some of them would always have inherent advantages over others. This was really a big experiment, to see whether it was possible to equalise performances, so that these famous makes could race against each other. I think it has been a huge success, as the wins have been divided very equally between some of the most famous names in the motoring world, and on top of that we have a situation where the last race saw three cars absolutely together, and now we have the final decision to be reached in the FIA Court of Appeal.
"This is not ideal, in fact it is something we prefer not to happen, but we must recognise that the dispute is all about a third of a litre of fuel. So if that tiny quantity of fuel can decide the outcome of the Championship, as that is what is going to happen, then the work of equalising the performance has been remarkably successful. I believe this concept will go on from strength to strength, as I believe the public, the sponsors, everybody who follows racing, never understood previously why the cars which are the most exciting cars on the road can't race against each other. Well, now they can - very successfully, very competitively. I think that is a remarkable achievement for Stephane, for this series and for the Bureau which does the equalisation work. For my part, I can only congratulate them on this success."
Stephane Ratel agreed. "I can only be delighted with the 2005 season. After Maserati scored a powerful one-two in Zhuhai at the end of the 2004 season, everybody said GT racing was dead, and that Maserati with the MC 12 had killed it. We had a lot of debates and discussions with the FIA and with President Mosley, and we proved that the MC 12 has killed nothing. It may have won more races than the other cars, but when you consider that we had four Maserati victories, three Ferrari victories, two Aston Martin victories and two Corvette victories, it has been a fantastic season. We had a number of races decided in the very last lap, Dubai was just unbelievable. We have a fantastic product.
"We don't have the big star drivers yet, but we have some good names, we have the most amazing cars, and the story is good. And like a movie - if you have a good story, eventually it will find its audience. I am very confident that we are on the right track. GT Racing is long-distance racing, and will remain long-distance races, so we will stay at 500 kilometres. We also wanted to reduce costs, by reducing the duration of the weekend. We will keep the same free practice, but will reduce the qualifying session to 20 minutes - you don't need more than that. It will be very exciting to have all drivers on the track at the same time, and the technical people will have all the time to look at the cars very closely after qualifying."
THE 2005 FIA GT2 CHAMPIONS : MARC LIEB AND MIKE ROCKENFELLER!
So how does it feel to have won the FIA GT2 Drivers Title?
Mike Rockenfeller: "It feels good. We won the title quite early, which made it a lot easier for us. It's hard if you have all the pressure in the last race, if it is really close. We finished every race until we won the Championship - the last race, in Dubai, was the first we did not finish. I have to say that the crew did a perfect job. Our car was always well prepared, we had no DNFs, which was the key to winning so early, while Spa was the other key race, as the team's other car had an accident and we were able to build up a big lead in the Championship. For me, to win the title as the youngest driver, is good - although it's a shame that all the coverage is all about GT1. It was a good fight throughout the year between our car and the nr 88 car. We would have liked to have more competition, but it's not our fault that there are no other cars pushing us. And it was really hard to beat the other car, driven by Sugden and Collard. Most of the time we had more weight in the car, so we had to push really hard. It might have looked easy from the outside, and people might say 'they have only one competitor', but you have to push as hard as if you have ten rivals, as that one rival is at the very same level."
Marc Lieb: "When I first won the title, with Stephane Ortelli back in 2003, that was the perfect season. The battle was Porsche versus Ferrari, and there were about six cars which could win every race. It was all decided in the last race, even though we had a good lead after Spa. It was really tough compared to 2005. However, in the end, I have to say that a Championship is always hard to win, you still have to push 100%, whether you are up against one car or ten. I think this year, we were really well prepared, and we got closer after every race. At the start, everything was brand new. Mike and I had only done two or three races together before the season, although we did know each other. The whole team, engineers, the working together in a group got better through the season, with the best work coming at the end of the season."
Mike Rockenfeller: "If you compare the times to the results of the Freisinger cars last year, we were a lot quicker, despite a smaller restrictor and more weight for most of the time. In Dubai, we were over two seconds quicker than last year's best Porsche time. The team did a great job, and the two of us did as well. There were no team orders, it was a real fight and very open."
Marc Lieb: "In Istanbul, for example, the other car made a strategy call, and was lucky with the safety car - these are things we did not cover in a briefing before the race. They were like a real competitor, which just happened to be in the same garage and with the same car. Dubai was perfect, when we were fighting nose-to-tail for nearly an hour. We had mostly more weight than the other car; we were on the same weight twice, but here in Bahrain, this is the first time we have had less weight than the nr 88 car. But I am really pleased with how we managed to finish the season, as our performance was really good. It might not seem, from the outside, that we did such a good job, but we know what we've achieved."
Mike Rockenfeller: "We didn't crash, we didn't spin, we didn't flat spot a tyre during the whole season. We always set a good pace. And it's a great title to have on your CV. It's always good to be able to say you won the FIA GT2 Championship."
Marc Lieb: "We never put a foot wrong. We just had one crash in Spa, and we went out in the gravel in free practice once. I'm very pleased to win the title again. It has been a great season - especially with the LMES title as well, to have won Spa, to have won Le Mans - both of us had phenomenal seasons."
So which was your favourite race?
Mike Rockenfeller: "I really liked the first race in Monza. It was really close; I was coming down the pit straight, and Tim was pulling out of the pits - it was really good. But there were many good races."
Marc Lieb: "Apart from the results, I think Istanbul was our best performance. We were a lot quicker than the nr 88 car, it was close at the end - but we didn't win. We had to make up the equivalent of a pit stop, and we nearly managed to do it. I think we had our best car of the year in Istanbul. It was definitely a good experience, and the track is beautiful."
And what about your plans for next year?
Mike Rockenfeller: "I think I will stay with Porsche and they will decide what I drive. It's hard to say with the new rules. It might be nice to try a different Championship instead of defending the title. But I've heard there might be a number of Ferrari cars joining, so if there is a good competition again, like back in 2003, it will be a completely different story."
Marc Lieb: "For me it is a different story. I'm back at University, studying engineering, so I doubt if I can do a full season, especially in the FIA GT, as it would just be too busy, with the travel. But my biggest focus at the moment is my studies. I hope to be back for one or two races at least, and definitely to race at Spa."
Mike Rockenfeller: "I really enjoyed this year, and I really enjoyed racing with Marc. I would love to win again." Marc Lieb : "We were a perfect team. We had fun all season, with no arguments. . Kenny Chen has done a really good job putting this team together. I have never seen a better customer team than GruppeM. It's the best private team I've ever been with. Everything is professional, organised, and they all want to win."