Bucharest: Michelin preview

Racing round the People's House The sixth round of the 2008 FIA GT Championship takes teams to Bucharest for a street race round the Romanian capital featuring the Palace of the Parliament - popularly known as the People's ...

Racing round the People's House

The sixth round of the 2008 FIA GT Championship takes teams to Bucharest for a street race round the Romanian capital featuring the Palace of the Parliament - popularly known as the People's House- which is the world's second largest administrative building after the Pentagon. Following its third success of the year at Spa, Vitaphone Racing/Michelin tops the provisional GT1 Teams' standings, while Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini share first place in the Drivers' classification. The leaders in the GT2 championship are AF Corse/Michelin and Toni Vilander/Gianmaria Bruni.

The FIA GT Championship could hardly be more diverse. Just three weeks after the longest event of the calendar at the longest venue, Spa-Francorchamps, competitors now face the prospect of two one-hour sprints through the streets of Bucharest.

For the second year running, the Romanian capital is poised to welcome the world's fastest GT cars which will perform round a circuit that takes in the city's boulevards near the huge parliament building. The track itself is confined within rows of concrete blocks that produced a few scratched and ruffled body panels in the pouring rain of last year's race."The asphalt is extremely worn and smooth, in both the macro and micro sense of the term," says Matthieu Bonardel, Manager of Michelin Competition's four-wheel activities. "Last year, the rain turned it into something of a skating rink. This time round, its slot in the calendar has been postponed from May to the end of August, so we're hoping the weather will be better."

"The main function of the tyre here is to provide as much grip and traction as possible. We get little wear and the races are short, so we are able to run soft compounds, and even extra-soft tyres in the case of the GT1 cars. We won't have any extra-soft tyres for the GT2 runners but we will allow our partners to run with relatively low pressures with a view to enhancing traction performance."

Overtaking isn't easy round the Romanian street circuit, so the scrap for pole-position is likely to see teams go for extreme set-ups and tyre choices. Unlike other rounds of the series, there won't be any mid-race refuelling or tyre changes either. "We can expect to see our partners use the same type of tyres for both races. In any case, they will have to mark up both sets before the start of the first race. The only thing we will be able to work on between races is the pressure in order to adjust the cars' balance if necessary," adds Matthieu Bonardel.

In 2007, Michelin claimed GT2 honours with its partner AF Corse but was beaten in GT1 for the first and only time of the season by the Scuderia Playteam Sarafree Maserati MC12. This year, the objective will consequently be to win both classes. Given that the track seems to suit the Maseratis, Vitaphone Racing/Michelin - which provisionally tops both the Teams' and Drivers' championships - could well follow up its resounding one-two at Spa with further success. That said, the two German Maserati MC12s have not been particularly incisive in qualifying so far this year, and Jetalliance and Phoenix have instead shared pole-position honours to date. In GT2, AF Corse/Michelin has seen its cushion in both title chases melt away after Spa, allowing BMS Scuderia to close the gap.

Bucharest
Circuit: 3.115km

Matthieu Bonardel (Four-wheel Competition Director, Michelin):

"This is one of the shortest circuits of the season, and definitely one of the most untypical. The polished asphalt offers very little grip and the track can become something of a skating rink in wet weather, and that resulted in lot of crashes here last year."

-credit: michelin

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Gianmaria Bruni , Michael Bartels , Andrea Bertolini , Toni Vilander
Teams AF Corse