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A1 Ring race report

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP A1 Ring Round Race Report Sunday 6 August 2000 Weather After torrential rain during the night, Sunday started off quite bright, but by the time the 20-minute warm-up started, light rain had begun to fall. The weather then ...

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
A1 Ring Round
Race Report
Sunday 6 August 2000

Weather
After torrential rain during the night, Sunday started off quite bright, but by the time the 20-minute warm-up started, light rain had begun to fall. The weather then brightened, with the clouds rising above the mountains, meaning that the race started in bright sunshine, which continued despite clouds gathering mid-distance.

Morning Warm-up
The warm-up saw Hezemans and Coronel continue to dominate the field, with their #25 Carsport Holland setting the fastest time of 1:43.195 on a drying track. The #12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper was second. Third fastest was the #5 Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2. "After two days of misfires and no power, we've finally found the problem," Franz Konrad said. "We haven't got a good set-up, but at least it's running, and I hope it carries on for three hours." Similarly, the Pennzoil Quaker State G-Force Porsche 996 GT3-Rs, which struggled yesterday in qualifying, were third and fifth in N-GT, behind the EMKA/ GTC and RWS Red Bull cars. "We're having problems when the track is really wet," Robert Nearn explained. "On the dry-ish conditions we're OK -- we just don't seem to be able to get a good wet set-up. But we've also changed so many bits for this race -- the ride height, the suspension -- so we haven't got our usual base setting." Vincent Vosse, currently lying fourth in the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, will not be rejoining his #12 Paul Belmondo Racing car, which will be shared by Boris Derichebourg and Emmanuel Clerico.

Carsport Holland take second win of the season while Paul Belmondo Racing takes the lead in the GT Teams Classification After two days of rain, the sun shone on the A1-Ring for the seventh round of the FIA GT Championship 2000, bringing a second victory to the #25 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R, driven by Mike Hezemans and Tom Coronel. Fastest throughout the weekend, Hezemans kept the pole advantage at the start, pulling out an impressive lead that he only lost briefly during the first round of pit-stops. He was followed early on by Kaufmann in the Freisinger Porsche 911 GT2, and Boris Derichebourg in the #12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Julian Bailey having made a poor start in the leading Lister Storm and dropping to seventh. Bailey recovered gradually, lying third behind the Carsport and Paul Belmondo Vipers by half distance. Bad luck then struck the British team, with both Storms retiring in close succession, Jamie Campbell-Walter unable to continue after spinning with clutch problems, and the #15 Lister Storm stopping shortly before, with drive problems.

Derichebourg and Clerico, however, were never seriously able to challenge the Carsport Holland car, although they closed to within ten seconds after Clerico made a splash and dash mid-race. When Derichebourg took over the car for the final time, they were a lap down. Hezemans' final fuel stop brought them back to within 50 seconds, but brake problems and their heavier car meant the French team was unable to seriously challenge the Dutchmen, who completed 113 laps in the allotted three hours, only 3 laps off the full 500 km race distance. The Freisinger Porsche finished third, after a steady, relatively problem-free race, with the second Belmondo car in fourth. Franz Konrad and Jurgen von Gartzen were fifth in the #5 Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2, with the Wieth Racing Porsche sixth, giving the father and son team of Franz and Niko Wieth their first point in the Championship. With neither Lister finishing the race, Paul Belmondo Racing have moved into first place in the Teams Championship.

Art Engineering take maiden N-GT win
Italian team Art Engineering took their first class win today, with the #57 Porsche 996 GT3-R of Collini and Mancini finishing an excellent eighth overall. After claiming their first class pole yesterday with Bertuzzi and Masselli in the #55 Porsche, their cars led the class for much of today's race. Their only real competition came from the #77 RWS Red Bull car, driven by Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester, after championship leader Bouchut in the Larbre Competition Porsche lost 12 minutes in the pits early on with a punctured radiator after collision with the # 77 RWS' exhaust. However, the #55 car dropped back with first gearbox and then driveshaft problems, eventually retiring. Riccitelli also retired after 90 laps, following a clash with Bouchut, for which the French N-GT class leader was fined 1000 US $ for not driving in a manner corresponding to the provisions of the International Sporting Code.

With the championship contenders out of contention, Collini and Mancini had a smooth drive to their first podium, while O'Rourke and Sugden, in the #56 EMKA GTC Porsche 996 GT3-R made up for the previous races' problems to come in second. Pirelli have put in some incredible work in both their wet and dry tyres, and it really paid off," O'Rourke said.

The second RWS Red Bull Racing car was third for Hans Willems, Hans-Jorg Hofer and Gunther Blieninger, with the #53 Larbre Porsche fourth and the Bicciato/Frigerio/Neugarten MAC Racing Porsche fifth. Bouchut and Goueslard finished sixth, fifteen laps after the leaders, maintaining their 100% points finish record and their N-GT championship lead. The G-Force cars, which had struggled with set-up all weekend, both went out with transmissions problems. "It's a great shame, because with the way the race went, if we could have stayed out there, we would have had a good chance," Magnus Wallinder said.

Second win for Carsport Holland
Tom Coronel brought luck to the Carsport Holland team on his lucky weekend, the one of the Zandvoort Masters. "I have won a race this weekend every year since 1996," he said after his first FIA GT win. "So I told Hezemans we had to win this weekend." With regular driver David Hart on holiday, the Formula Nippon champion took his place, setting similar speeds to Hezemans throughout the weekend despite never having driven a Viper before. "We were thirty kilos lighter, but it wasn't an easy race," Mike Hezemans added. "The Lister had problems with their penalty weight, which was our luck. And I was impressed with Tom's speed."

Paul Belmondo Racing takes Championship lead
With neither Lister Storm finishing, and Paul Belmondo Racing keeping up their impressive season record of points finishes, the team has moved ahead of the British team for the first time. "We could not push from the start, otherwise we would have lost the brakes," Derichebourg said after finishing second in the #12 Chrysler Viper. Emmanuel Clerico, replacing Vosse, who is driving in the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, made a successful return to the team for which he last drove in 1999. "I had forgotten how hard it is to drive in the Viper with the temperatures, so I stayed too long in the car." Belmondo and Gosselin finished fourth, having closed to within three seconds of the Freisinger Porsche at one point.

Third for Freisinger Motorsport
Wolfgang Kaufmann and his young Austrian team-mate Gottfried Grasser drove a steady race to finish third. "I'm very happy to finish on the podium," Kaufmann said. As for Grasser, he could not believe that he had done so well. "It was very difficult to drive the car, and to drive such a long distance. I must thank Wolfgang for all his help -- I'd love to drive a GT race again."

ART's first win
"We made a good start, and the car was running very well," Collini said after giving ART their first win in the N-GT category with his team-mate in the #57 car, Fabio Mancini. Congratulating his team and the Pirelli tyres, which appeared to make all the difference this weekend, Mancini added that the traffic had been really bad at the beginning of the race. Without the driveshaft problems affecting the second car, a double podium would have been almost certain for the team, who have proved themselves a force to be reckoned with in their class.

Mixed fortunes for RWS / Red Bull Racing and Larbre Competition / Chereau
With their leading cars involved in an escalation of the season-long battle which has raged between Bouchut and Riccitelli, both teams' second cars finished well today. "It's a really good feeling to be on the podium in my home country," Hans-Jorg Hofer said, after battery problems made life difficult for the Austrian driver and his team-mates Hans Willems and Gunther Blieninger. Andre Arhle and Ferdinand de Lesseps survived two off-track incidents, neither of their making, to come in fourth. "Without those problems, we would have been third for sure," Ahrle said.

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