A1 Ring Austria preview

Eurosport Super Racing Weekend - Round 7 A1 Ring Austria - August 24th - 26th, 2001 After the summer break, the Eurosport Super Racing Weekends resume for the seventh round, which will be held at the picturesque Austrian A1 Ring. The track is ...

Eurosport Super Racing Weekend - Round 7
A1 Ring Austria - August 24th - 26th, 2001

After the summer break, the Eurosport Super Racing Weekends resume for the seventh round, which will be held at the picturesque Austrian A1 Ring. The track is situated near the town of Spielberg, 90 km north-west of Graz and 190 km south west of Vienna. Set in the Austrian countryside, the changes of elevation and mix of corners present an interesting challenge for drivers and cars alike.

The FIA GT Championship has visited the A1 Ring every year except for 1999. Last year, Carsport Holland took a commanding win, when Tom Coronel made his first appearance in the Championship, alongside Mike Hezemans. This year, the team from the Netherlands will be trying to do one better, with their two Chrysler Vipers going up against the leading Larbre Competition Viper.

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP

Championship Rundown

With four races still to run, the first of the 2001 titles was settled at the seventh round of the Championship, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Larbre Competition Chéreau's one-two in the endurance race gave Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc an unassailable lead in the GT Drivers Classification. Larbre also has a significant lead in the GT Teams classification, with Carsport Holland, Paul Belmondo Racing and Lister Storm Racing in a close battle for second place. RWS Motorsport's win in the N-GT category at Spa saw the German team regain the advantage in their class, leading JMB Competition by 14 points, the Ferrari having failed to finish. RWS's Luca Riccitelli also leads the Drivers classification, with his team-mate Dieter Quester now in second place ahead of JMB's Terrien and Pescatori.

GT CHAMPIONSHIP

Larbre Competition Chéreau (1st, 80 pts) looking to secure Teams title

Larbre Competition has had a busy time since Spa. "We finished rebuilding the nr 7 Chrysler Viper on Sunday, after working non-stop," team manager Jack Leconte said. The team also had to work on the nr 50 Porsche 996 GT3-R, which will be driven by the usual team of Patrice Goueslard and Sebastien Dumez. "Our main aim now is to score the points we need to secure the Teams Championship. Once we've got that, we'll really let go ! However, with 100 kg penalty weight, it's going to be difficult in Austria." Larbre will also be concentrating on their Porsche, running in the N-GT class. "We'd really like to get one win in the N-GT class before the end of the year."

Team Carsport Holland (2nd, 31 pts) aim to fight for second place

"We've been busy rebuilding the cars," Mike Hezemans explained, after their nr 3 car went out of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa close to the end. "A bracket broke on the power steering, and the distribution belt came off. That was all– the gearbox was still as good as new after 22 hours." The Carsport Chrysler Viper GTS-R took a resounding victory at the A1 Ring last year, but Mike does not think a repeat win is likely. "We didn't have so many kilos last year. But you never know. It should be an interesting race. The Championship has effectively gone, but we'd like to win as often as possible and get second place– although it's not the same as fighting for first."

Paul Belmondo Racing (3rd, 30 pts) : busy weekend for Kumpen

After a fifth-place finish in the GT class at Spa, Anthony Kumpen is planning a busy weekend. As well as driving in the FIA GT race, he will be taking part in the 24 Hours of Zolder. "I don't think it will be a big problem, as long as we get the logistical things sorted out," the 22-year old driver said. "Although I don't think we can challenge for a top championship place in the FIA GT anymore, I still want to win a race outright." With one of their Chrysler Vipers still being rebuilt after crashing in Spa, Paul Belmondo Racing will only enter two cars in Austria. Boris Derichebourg and Vincent Vosse will share one car, while Kumpen and Defourny will drive the other.

Lister Storm Racing (4th, 28 pts) back in the battle

"We've decided we're going to win !" Jamie Campbell-Walter said. "The Championship has gone, so we've nothing to gain, nothing to lose. We'll go flat out and try to win as many races as we can for the rest of the season. It will be good for our sponsors and good preparation for next season. I feel we've fallen a bit behind the Carsport Viper and the Ferrari in straight line speed, so we've got some work to do there ; it'll be productive." Jamie and Tom will be in the nr 1 Storm, with Springer and Bailey in the nr 2 car. "We had three days testing at Dijon, which was very productive, especially for Nicolaus," Jamie continued. "He improved his personal time by over a second." Also testing at Dijon was British GT Championship leader Mike Jordan, who will replace Tom Coronel for the Nürburgring round.

Lister Storm for Team ART

French team ART will have a different car at the A1 Ring, having swapped their Chrysler Viper GTS-R for a Lister Storm. The car, driven in 2000 by FIA GT Champions Bailey and Campbell-Walter, has been leased from Lister on a race-by-race basis, and will be run by a joint operation between the two teams. Laurence Pearce will oversee the car, with assistance from the ART mechanics, using ART's own equipment. Jean-Pierre Jarier tried the car at the French track of Dijon-Prenois. "It's a true racing car, with a very efficient engine at high revs. You need to know its limits to get the most out of it. Although we'll have to wait for Austria to know more, I think it will give us a significant increase in performance," the former Formula One driver said.

Three to four Ferrari 550s in Austria

For the first time, Ferrari 550 Maranello cars from three different teams will line up on the FIA GT grid in Austria. The Wieth Ferrari 550 Maranello, driven by father and son combination Nico and Franz Wieth, will be joined by the Prodrive and one or two Rafanelli cars.

After their magnificent performance in Spa, leading the race during the early stages, Team Rafanelli will be back for the eighth round. "We are trying to put two cars on the grid, but it depends on whether the engines are ready," Gabriele Rafanelli explained. "I'm happy with the car's performance at Spa– until the engine failure, which could not have been foreseen, we were faster than everyone else. But that's life. We'll be back next year, with two cars."

As for the Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello, it will be making its second appearance in the Championship. "After Hungary, we needed to make sure the car was durable, so we did a full race distance at Dijon," team principal George Howard-Chappell said. "We've been working on the engine, the aerodynamics and the general durability, and we're quite happy with the performance. Peter Kox will be driving with Rickard Rydell, as Alain Menu has a clashing race with the DTM. Although we tested at the A1 Ring previously, it was our first real run with the car, which has changed a lot since then, so we do not expect to gain much advantage from that."

N- GT CHAMPIONSHIP

RWS Motorsport (1st, 52 pts) aiming for podium finishes with both cars

Championship leader Luca Riccitelli will share the nr 77 Porsche 996 GT3-R with Dieter Quester in Austria. "I hope to finish the season with him, as he's in good shape now," Luca said. "Our situation is better than before– with a lead of 14 points, it's easier to control the situation, but we cannot say it will be asy to win, or that the fight is over. I think the Porsche will be competitive at the A1 Ring. It's the sort of circuit that suits our car, where you need a lot of acceleration and power, for the slow corners and long straights. It should be a good opportunity to get more points. A lot depends on Austria– if we can win again, the title fight will be a bit easier for the remaining three races." The second RWS car will be driven by Gianni Collini and Fabio Mancini. "They won in Austria last year, for Art Engineering," Luca continued. "They both like the circuit a lot, and should have a good race there– it would be good to have another RWS car between us and the Ferrari. This is a fantastic season, and I'm very happy to be fighting against the JMB Ferrari for the Championship."

JMB Competition (2nd, 38 pts) with a good combination to the top

Terrien and Pescatori lost the lead in the N-GT classification when their Ferrari 360 Modena failed to finish in Spa. "Although it was disappointing to fail four hours before the end, it was still an encouraging long-distance debut for the car," David Terrien said. The team is now determined to regain their advantage. "Our aim is to win the Championship on the car's first full season in competition," Terrien continued. "We are very aware of what we have to do– if we win every race, and RWS finishes second, we'll be ahead– just." Terrien considers that they have three main assets : "Pescatori and I form a very homogenous line-up, the team is excellent in the pits, and the Ferrari Modena's chassis is excellent. We have to make these items make up for the lack of engine power." David will be qualifying the car in Austria. "It's a track I really like; I went really well there in F3000. I especially like the double right-hander before the main straight; it's fast, you take it in fourth or fifth, and you need a lot of mechanical grip, which we have. I also think that if we get pole, the layout of the track means we might be able to hold on to the advantage, which is where we usually lose out."

Freisinger Motorsport (4th, 23 pts) in good shape since Spa

Freisinger Motorsport had a successful weekend at Spa, with two of their cars finishing in second and fourth places in the N-GT category, raising them to fourth in the teams classification. At the A1 Ring, the nr 57 Porsche 996 GT3-R will be driven by Stephane Ortelli and a driver yet to be named. The nr 59 will have its usual team of Russian drivers, Alex Vassiliev and Nicolaj Fomenko. As for the nr 58 Porsche 996 GT3-R, it will be driven by newcomers Christophe Wolff and Olivier Tichy, who hope to run for the whole season next year, with sponsorship from Remus.

JVG Racing enters the Championship

Jürgen von Gartzen, who has raced for both Larbre Competition Chéreau and RWS Motorsport this season, is entering a Porsche 996 GT3-R under his own name for the eighth round of the Championship. Von Gartzen finished in fourth place in Brno, as well as taking the N-GT pole in Monza. He will share the car with Swiss driver Bruno Eichmann, his team-mate in the nr 51 Larbre Porsche earlier this year.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Circuit Length : 4.319 km/ 2.684 miles

On air on Eurosport :
Saturday, 25th August 2001 16:30 - 18:00 : Qualifying - live
Sunday 26th August 2001 18:00 - 20:30 : Races - delayed
Monday 27th August 2001 08.30 - 10.00 : Race - relive
Wednesday 29th August 2001 24:15 - 24:45 : Highlights
Thursday 30th August 2001 12:30 - 13:00 : Highlights repeat
Friday 31st August 2001 10:00 - 10:30 : Highlights repeat

Other races
Renault Formula 2000 Eurocup
FC Euro Series
Formula Volkswagen

Websites :
http://www.fia.com
http://www.gtracing.net
http://www.eurostc.com
http://www.a1ring.at

2000 Results :

FIA GT Championship
GT pole : 1:42.707, Mike Hezemans, Chrysler Viper GTS-R
N-GT pole : 1:45.931, Costantino Bertuzzi, Porsche 996 GT3-R
GT race winners : GT : Hezemans/Coronel (Chrysler Viper GTS-R) - 113 laps in 3 :00:01.811
N-GT race winners : Mancini/Collini (Porsche 996 GT3-R) - 107 laps in 3 :00 :18.191

-Eurosport-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Tom Coronel , Vincent Vosse , Stéphane Ortelli , Peter Kox , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Luca Riccitelli , Christophe Bouchut , David Terrien , Patrice Goueslard , Boris Derichebourg , Dieter Quester , Jean-Pierre Jarier , Paul Belmondo , Sebastien Dumez , Gianni Collini , Bruno Eichmann , Fabio Mancini , Jurgen von Gartzen , Jack Leconte , George Howard-Chappell , Alain Menu
Teams Larbre Competition