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Barcelona: Round one race report

A good day for Ferrari. BMS Scuderia Italia and JMB Racing win in Barcelona. It was definitely a Ferrari day in Barcelona today, for the first round of the 2003 FIA GT Championship. With one of the largest and most varied grids for many...

A good day for Ferrari. BMS Scuderia Italia and JMB Racing win in Barcelona.

It was definitely a Ferrari day in Barcelona today, for the first round of the 2003 FIA GT Championship. With one of the largest and most varied grids for many years, the race was action-packed and full of excitement, a good augur for the season to come. The sun shone, and 18000 spectators came to the Circuit de Catalunya to watch a thrilling race.

Victory in the GT category went to BMS Scuderia Italia, with the nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello of young Italian drivers Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi taking the chequered flag on their first visit to the Championship. Their nr 23 Ferrari crossed the line 15.663 seconds ahead of their team-mates, Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari, in the nr 22 car. The two Italians have moved to BMS Scuderia Italia after a year with a Chrysler Viper. Third place was taken by the nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, also run by BMS Scuderia Italia, and which was driven by Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Stefano Livio.

In the N-GT category, JMB Racing's nr 52 Ferrari 360 Modena Andrea Bertolini and Fabrizio De Simone gave the team its first victory since Silverstone last year, with a fine race for the two Italians. They took the lead when the nr 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 550 Maranello suffered a puncture in the late stages of the race. Second place went to the nr 88 Ferrari 360 Modena of Jamie Davies and Tim Mullen, while the nr 89 car of Kelvin Burt and Darren Turner, which had started from the back of the grid, recovered from their puncture to take third place.

"I am very happy with this result," Thomas Biagi said after his win. "The race was very long, but the drivers are all professionals and it went well. I am very glad that the team believed in me despite not knowing me." His young team-mate Matteo Bobbi was equally delighted. "I am looking forward to the next races."

For Andrea Bertolini, who has competed in the Championship for a number of years now, this was an excellent result. "This is a very special day for me, my first victory. We did a lot of work on Friday to balance the car, and it paid off in the race, when the tyres were consistent."

GT STORY : LISTER RACING LEADS AT THE START

Starting from pole position, Jamie Campbell-Walter made an excellent start in the nr 14 Lister, and although he was closely followed by the nr 22 and 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, he kept the lead until lap 27, when Gollin took advantage of overtaking backmarkers to take the lead.

However, shortly afterwards, Gollin was unable to avoid a front splitter, which had fallen off the nr 4 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The debris damaged his own car, before flying up and landing squarely on the Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter, tearing off the roof and damaging the windscreen. From this point onwards, the Lister was out of contention, and although Campbell-Walter and Kinch continued to race, the car was undriveable and they retired.

After the first pit stops, Biagi and Bobbi in the nr 23 Ferrari took the lead, and kept it until the end. Although damaged, the Ferrari 550 of Gollin and Cappellari remained in contention, but were unable to challenge for the lead, finishing comfortably ahead of the Care Racing car.

Fourth place went to Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz, in the second Lister Storm. A minor collision at the start with the nr 7 Saleen meant that Piccini had to come back to the pits to sort out slight damage to one wheel. After that, they had to fight back up the grid. "We were trying to catch third, but we were not quick enough. But fourth is not too bad for our first time with the car."

Creation Autosportif was the best of the new teams in the GT category today, with Bobby Verdon Roe and Peter Snowdon finishing in fifth place. The team had a relatively problem-free race. "It was a good result for a new team, but we need more pace. But points make prizes!"

Although a strong run for the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper of Bouchut and Belloc, lying in the top four until the car stopped on the side of the track after 57 laps, two Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars finished in the points. The nr 11 Roos-Optima Racing Team car from Sweden was sixth, while the Zwaan's Racing car from the Netherlands was seventh. "It was tough, but OK, and the car was running well," Henrik Roos explained.

On its Championship debut, the Saleen S7-R entered into the points, with the Konrad Motorsport car of Franz Konrad and Toni Seiler taking the final point for eighth place. "It has been an extremely hard weekend, and we have worked day and night, but it was a good experience and I am very happy to finish in the points."

N-GT STORY : FERRARI TAKES THE LEAD

The nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, which had inherited the pole position on the starting grid after the nr 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires had to start from the back of the grid, made an excellent start, and it looked as if Lieb and Maassen would be able to add another win to Freisinger's 2002 tally. However, the lead passed to the Ferraris after the pit-stops, with the nr 89 and 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires leading mid-race. On lap 53, the front of the N-GT field was involved in a spectacular case of simultaneous spinning, with first the Autopalace, nr 50 Freisinger Porsche and nr 88 Team Maranello cars all losing control at the same place. The nr 52 JMB car managed to thread through the cars to take the lead of the class. Shortly afterwards, the nr 50 retired with a radiator leak. After the final stops, the nr 89 Ferrari of Burt and Turner appeared firmly in control, until a puncture dropped them back in the final stages, leaving JMB to take the win. A splash and dash for Autopalace, in an excellent third place, elevated the nr 89 Team Maranello Ferrari to third on the final lap. Team Autopalace, new to the Championship, finished in a fine fourth place, with French drivers Guillaume Gomez and Steeve Hiesse.

The best of the Porsche cars today was the nr 99 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Walter Lechner Jr and St├ęphane Daoudi. "It was not bad, especially considering we lost our power steering after 15 minutes. We are going to be competitive this year !" The team's other car, driven by Fomenko and Vasiliev, finished seventh, bringing the team's score up to six.

The MenX Ferrari 360 Modena finished in sixth place for their first race, with Tomas Enge and Robert Pergl at the wheel. "It's a very good result for us - but we are aiming higher !" the team manager Peter Mikula said. The final point, for eighth place, went to Cirtek Motorsport, with the nr 54 car of Mark Mayall and Marco Zadra.

-fia-

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