Michelin's partners on top in GT1 and GT2 After last month's visit to Bucharest, the FIA GT Championship remains in eastern Europe for round seven which sees teams move on from Romania to the Czech Republic. Michelin's objective at Brno will...
Michelin's partners on top in GT1 and GT2
After last month's visit to Bucharest, the FIA GT Championship remains in eastern Europe for round seven which sees teams move on from Romania to the Czech Republic. Michelin's objective at Brno will be to do at least as well as it did in 2007 when its partners started from pole-position and took the spoils in both categories. The Czech round could potentially see Michelin partners sew up both the 2008 GT1 and GT2 Teams' titles.
Michelin tyres haven't, in fact, been beaten at Brno since 2005 in either GT1 or GT2, while a long list of Michelin-shod cars have enjoyed success at the Czech venue, from the Ferrari 550 Maranello and the Porsche 996, to the Saleen S7R, the Ferrari F430 and the Maserati MC12.
Despite this glittering record, Matthieu Bonardel, Director of Michelin Competition's Four-wheel Programmes, prefers to tread cautiously going into this year's race:"Brno is wide and undulating, calls for hard uphill re- acceleration, and its banked medium and fast turns, plus the lack of grip despite the abrasive asphalt make it pretty hard for tyres. One unknown factor this year, however, is the fact that the track has been re-surfaced. The new asphalt is less abrasive and promises to give more grip, but how much? And what influence will that have on the cars' settings and balance? These remain unanswered questions for the moment because the FIA regulations do not permit testing on circuits visited by the championship." Friday's free practice session will doubtlessly provide the first clues--
Meanwhile, with three rounds remaining, Michelin drivers and teams dominate the GT1 and GT2 standings. In the former, Vitaphone Racing Team's one -two finish at Spa has helped it to a lead of more than 30 points over another Michelin partner, Phoenix Carsport Racing, while Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels (Maserati MC12/Michelin) co-lead the Drivers' table ahead of team -mates Ramos and Negrao.
In GT2, it was at Brno that Italy's AF Corse clinched the 2007 title and this year sees the team travel to the Czech event with a 34-point cushion for Michelin over its Italian rivals. In the chase for Drivers' honours, Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni jointly top the standings. Sunday's race could well see Vitaphone Racing and AF Corse sew up of their respective championships, which would give them their fourth and third crowns respectively.
Last season saw both outfits qualify on pole-position and win at Brno in 2007 and they will be targeting similar success in this year's two-hour clash. "This weekend marks a return to a more conventional FIA GT format, which will mean refuelling and tyre change strategies," observes Michelin Competition's Endurance and FIA GT Programmes Manager, Gerard Bombled . In 2007, our partners opted to single stint on medium compound tyres. This year, the less aggressive surface could produce different strategies. Our partners will be able to choose from soft and medium compounds."
Circuit: 5,403 km
Gerard Bombled (Endurance and FIA GT Programmes Manager, Michelin Competition):
"Brno is an excellent venue. It is long and rolling, and quite fast, too, with average speeds around the 170kph mark in the case of the GT1 cars. The numerous cambered right-hand turns and the call for hard uphill acceleration make this track fairly hard on tyres, especially the front lefts."