Prodrive and JMB Ferraris win
It was a Ferrari double at the A1 Ring today, with the nr 15 Prodrive Allstars Ferrari 550 Maranello taking their first FIA GT win in only their second race. Rickard Rydell and Peter Kox led for much of the race, gaining time in the pit stops and benefiting from a fire that stopped their number one rival today, the nr 1 Lister Storm of Coronel and Campbell-Walter. Rydell and Kox were joined on the podium by the drivers of both of the Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-Rs, with Mike Hezemans and Jeroen Bleekemolen finishing ahead of Michael and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, meaning five drivers from the Netherlands were on the podium.
In the N-GT class, Christian Pescatori and David Terrien took an unexpected victory, after struggling with power problems all weekend. Their JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena made steady progress after qualifying in 12th position, taking the lead when Luca Riccitelli’s RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R retired due to a cooling liquid leak. The winners were followed by the nr 57 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Ni Amorim and Stephane Ortelli, with the Larbre Competition Chéreau Viper of Patrice Goueslard and Sebastien Dumez third.
Rydell made a good start in the nr 15 Ferrari 550 Marenello, pulling away from Jeroen Bleekemolen in the nr 3 Carsport Holland car. The early laps saw the Listers make good progress, with Bailey overtaking Bleekemolen and starting to haul in Rydell, while Campbell-Walter made his way past Bleekemolen to take third. Bouchut, however, dropped back to sixth place behind the nr 4 Carsport Viper, apparently struggling with the 100 kg penalty weight of his car.
Bailey took the lead of the race on lap 26, and began to pull away from Rydell. The battle continued between former BTCC rivals Bailey and Rydell, with first Rydell closing the gap, then Bailey lapping quicker to open it back up. All the leaders pitted around lap 38, with Peter Kox coming out with a huge gap of 15 seconds, closely chased by Tom Coronel in the nr 1 Lister Storm. As Nicolaus Springer dropped back in the nr 2 Lister, four Dutchmen were leading the race : Kox, Coronel, Bleekemolen and Hezemans. Coronel gradually began to catch the Prodrive Ferrari in, lapping generally between a second and half a second faster than him. The gap stood at 5 seconds when the nr 1 Storm pulled of the track, and suddenly burst into flames. Tom Coronel managed to roll out in time, unhurt. This left Kox with a lead of 1 minute and 20 seconds over the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper of Mike Hezemans, with the second Carsport car close behind in third. Kox came into the pits on lap 71, handing the Ferrari back over to Rydell. Hezemans took the lead briefly, but when he pitted in his turn, Rydell was back in the lead of the race with one hour left to go.
By lap 82, only Jeroen Bleekemolen, in the nr 3 Carsport Viper, was on the same lap as the Prodrive Ferrari. Rydell continued to run faultlessly, eventually lapping the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper, before pitting on lap 103, for fuel only. Rydell came back out with his lead reduced to 49 seconds. He continued comfortably, taking the chequered flag after 115 laps of the A1 Ring, 48 seconds ahead of the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The nr 4 Carsport Viper was third, with Bailey and Springer fourth, their best result of the season in the nr 2 Lister Storm. GT Drivers Champions Bouchut and Belloc were fifth in the Larbre Competition Chereau Chrysler Viper GTS-R, having lost time with a puncture mid-race, with the Paul Belmondo Viper of Gosselin, Belmondo and Kumpen taking the final point.
N-GT Race Story
Riccitelli, in the nr 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R, made an excellent start, building up a comfortable lead right away. Tim Sugden was the star of the first half hour, passing Von Gartzen and Peter and putting his nr 52 EMKA Racing Porsche into second place. Ortelli was the last to pit of the N-GT class, handing over to Amorim on lap 58. This put Austrian veteran Dieter Quester, who had taken over the nr 77 from RWS, back in the lead. The nr 62 JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena, which had struggled with a lack of power throughout qualifying and practice, made steady progress up the field, putting them second in N-GT after the pit stops, but with a deficit of over a minute to Quester. Ni Amorim was third, the nr 57Freisinger Porsche being 17 seconds behind the Ferrari.
Riccitelli took over from Quester in the leading RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R on lap 75, coming out 16 seconds behind Pescatori in the nr 63 Ferrari 360 Modena. Riccitelli immediately began to speed up, lapping 2 seconds faster than the Ferrari, and faster than anyone else in the N-GT class.
Luca Riccitelli caught up with Christian Pescatori on lap 87, retaking the N-GT lead with forty minutes remaining. However, the car suffered a serious leak of cooling liquid, and the car had to retire, half an hour before the end of the race. This put the JMB Ferrari back in the lead, followed by the nr 57 Freisinger Porsche of Ortelli and Amorim, with the Larbre Competition Chéreau of Goueslard and Dumez third.
Pescatori had a trouble-free run after the RWS Motorsport Porsche retired, completing 110 laps in the three hours. Ortelli and Amorim finished a lap down, with Dumez and Goueslard third in the Larbre Competition Porsche 996 GT3-R. Fourth place went to the EMKA Racing Porsche of Sugden and O’Rourke, with Perspective Racing fifth and the Redolfi Orlando Porsche 996 GT3-R of Peter and Zampedri sixth. JMB’s result meant that Pescatori and Terrien have closed the gap in the N-GT Drivers Championship, the JMB duo now being only four points behind Luca Riccitelli, while RWS Motorsport leads JMB Competition by the same amount.
Tom Coronel– nr 1 Lister Storm : "It was going really well and I was gaining around a second a lap on Peter Kox. I really wanted to catch up with him, so he could see me in his mirrors, and I could waved and say hello. We’re former team-mates and I see Hezemans and him most days. We train together a lot. However, I had felt some vibrations a few laps before, and the prop shaft broke. As the fuel lines are right beneath it, it broke them too. I could smell fuel, so I stopped, but I was on the hill, and I couldn’t put it in gear. I called a marshal to put a block under the wheels, but suddenly I heard this‘ woof’ sound, and the car was on fire. I pushed the buttons down to stop the fuel injection and jumped out. I hit my elbow and knee, and it felt rather warm on my eyebrows, as my visor flew open. It’s a pity because a nice battle was building up between us and the Prodrive Ferrari, and I think it would have been a good show." Tom explained how the Prodrive car appeared to gain so much time after the first pit stop : "Jamie had put the reserve tank on, and that takes a bit longer to fill, so we lost about 3 seconds there. Then I came out behind the Rafanelli Ferrari, which also lost me a few seconds. But as Prodrive only changed two tyres, and we changed four, I think we actually gained on them."
Mike Hezemans– nr 3 Carsport Viper : "We had a problem with the gear cut, which happened all the time, so our lap times were slow. In the last 20 minutes or so it sorted itself out and we could do 1:31 laps again. But with 70 kg we just had no chance today."
Jeroen Bleekemolen– nr 3 Carsport Viper : "I had a very good start, and it wasn’t too difficult as our car was quick off the line. Then I had some gear-box problems and let three cars pass me. We also had a few fuel worries. I had a good fight with my brother, who caught up with me when I was going slower to save fuel and overtook me, which was difficult for me."
Michael Bleekemolen– nr 4 Carsport Viper : "I’m very proud of my sons, but when they are fighting so close together I am always a bit afraid for them. It was a little bit too hot for me in the car which was about 80° and the pedals got very hot, which burned my feet. But the handling was OK, and I was happy to drive."
Sebastiaan Bleekemolen– nr 4 Carsport Viper : "I had a very fair fight with Jeroen, and I hope we can have more of these fights in the next rounds."
Emanuele Naspetti– nr 5 Rafanelli Ferrari : "It was a transmission failure that took us out of the race. It just wasn’t our race, we could have finished in a good position, but we could never have fought for the win. We know what our problem was, and it’s up to us to solve it, and be ready for the next race. It’s been my worst weekend of the season."
Claude-Yves Gosselin– nr 11 Belmondo Viper : "We didn’t have any particular problems but we just weren’t competitive. There were two categories of GT cars out there today. When the Ferrari came past us, it was just like us when we’re overtaking a car from the N-GT category. The nr 12 car had a gear-box problem– that’s two engines and a gear-box for that car. I really can’t understand it."
Peter Kox– nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari : "It’s fantastic– my win with Prodrive comes two years too late, because I wanted to win in the BTCC with them. But I think Prodrive did a fantastic job, they worked tremendously hard and showed what they are capable of. It’s a dream finish for everyone. We had so many problems but we wanted reliability and we wanted to finish."
Rickard Rydell– nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari : "The team are used to pit-stops from the BTCC and they did a really good job. It’s really nice for the whole team, who have worked really hard through the summer, and the car is a lot more competitive than it was in Hungary. I’m really pleased for the whole team. It was too hot in the car, which is something we’ll have to look at for the next race. Our aim this season was to come here and win hopefully one race, and we’ve already done that, so now we’ll just have to make our car more competitive and stay at the front."
Sebastien Dumez– nr 50 Larbre Porsche : "I’m very happy to be back in the Porsche. We had a very good strategy today, and I had a very good fight with Stephane Ortelli for 40– 45 minutes."
Patrice Goueslard– nr 50 Larbre Porsche : "We had no fuel left at the end of the race and I stopped just after the line. But it’s great to have another podium after Budapest and Spa– we’re in good spirits at the moment."
Stephane Ortelli– nr 57 Freisinger Porsche : "I would like to say congratulations to Ferrari, but I’m getting a little bit tired with second place. We were very conservative at the beginning of the race, to save fuel– we’re not as good as the Ferrari, but we’re improving on our fuel consumption. We were not the quickest Porsche today, but it’s the best result."
Ni Amorim - nr 57 Freisinger Porsche : "This was my first time with the GT3-R, and with Stephane as my team-mate. It was a very difficult race, but a good result, and I hope to be able to do more races this season."
David Terrien– nr 62 JMB Ferrari : " It’s an incredible result for us today, after starting from 26th place on the grid. We had a strategy to push all the way. The Freisinger Porsche had better fuel consumption than us today– they only made one stop, and that would have been totally impossible for us. We did make some improvements in our set-up for the race, but mainly we have three advantages– the good chassis, the fact that we are a very even driver line-up, and the excellent performance of the team in the pits. We didn’t have the engine we needed today, but we won anyway. We did the whole race on one set of tyres, which shows how good the set-up was, and our lap times were continuously close to those we did in qualifying. It’s our most beautiful victory, and our most unexpected one."
Christian Pescatori - nr 62 JMB Ferrari : "Riccitelli was one second a lap quicker than me today. I did my own race because of our engine problems, but he was struck by bad luck. It’s an incredible result for us."
Dieter Quester– nr 77 RWS Porsche : "That was more than a shame. The tube from the rear axle radiator broke– an original Porsche part, that is also used in the road car. I am so disappointed. I don’t think I have ever been quite so disappointed after a race in the past twenty years. It was very important for us to focus on the Championship, as well as being my home race. And I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to continue, so it was very important to me. And Luca was so disappointed– I’ve never seen him like that– he had tears in his eyes. We had absolutely the perfect strategy today. The team sent me out on the old set of tyres, which saved us 45 seconds. It was difficult to drive, but I handled it. And then Luca went out, and he was driving amazingly well. The track was good for us too. We’re still leading the Championship, but our lead is greatly reduced."