For round 5 of the 2003 season of the FIA GT Championship, the teams and drivers have returned to the British track of Donington, which hosted the penultimate round of the 2002 season. The track, with its mixture of uphill and downhill sections...
For round 5 of the 2003 season of the FIA GT Championship, the teams and drivers have returned to the British track of Donington, which hosted the penultimate round of the 2002 season. The track, with its mixture of uphill and downhill sections and sequences of quick corners, is generally a favourite with drivers. Last year, the race was won by Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen in their Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R, while Stephane Ortelli and Romain Dumas won the N-GT class, claiming the N-GT Drivers title for Ortelli in the process.
Friday dawned overcast and warm, and remained dry for the morning. However, light rain started around lunchtime and it remained wet throughout the afternoon free practice session.
After winning the first four rounds, the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Biagi and Bobbi remains with the maximum of 100 kg penalty weight. The team's nr 22 car, driven by Gollin and Cappellari, will have 80 kg, after finishing third in Brno. The nr 15 Lister Storm of Piccini and Deletraz has gained 30 kg weight after their second-place finish in the Czech Republic, while the penalty on the nr 14 car has been reduced to 10 kg, after finishing fourth last race. In N-GT, the nr 51 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche has 20 kg after winning in Brno, while the nr 52 Ferrari 360 Modena now has 30 kg and the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena car sees its penalty increase to 25 kg after third place in Brno.
- 30 cars are due to take part in this fourth round, with 16 in the GT category and 14 in the N-GT category.
- New for this round is the nr 81 Morgan Aero 8, entered by British team Morgan Motors for Neil Cunningham and Paula Cook. However, the car did not go out on the track today as further documents concerning the homologation have still to be presented by the team, by tomorrow morning.
- Veloqx Motorsport has also entered a Ferrari 360 Modena for Guy Smith and Andrew Kirkaldy, both of whom are due to drive for Team Maranello Concessionaires in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa.
-Tom Coronel, a race-winner for Lister in 2001, has rejoined the team for this round. The Dutch driver, currently racing in the FIA European Touring Car Championship for Carly Motors, will be strengthening the team following Jamie Campbell-Walter's qualifying crash at Le Mans, which has left the former Champion with three broken ribs. "I am sure I can drive, but I am not certain that I could do two stints," Jamie explained.
-French Sportscar specialist Emmanuel Collard has joined EMKA Racing, to drive alongside Tim Sugden in the nr 61 Porsche 996 GT3-RS.
-Maciej Marcinkiewick, from Poland, who drove the nr 12 Proton Porsche 911 GT2 at Brno, has moved to the team's new Porsche 996 GT3-RS for this round, alongside father and son team Gerold and Christian Ried.
-British driver Johnny Mowlem, who competed for Autorlando and JVG Racing last season, will be replacing Walter Lechner Jr in the nr 99 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS, who is competing in the Porsche Supercup this weekend.
-Creation Autosportif has announced that Christophe Bouchut, double winner of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and reigning FIA GT Champion, will be joining the line-up of their nr 6 Lister Storm for this year's race. Bouchut will drive with Marco Zadra and Bobby Verdon-Roe. "I think they will make a good combination," team principle Ian Bickerton explained. "Bobby finished second last year, Christophe won the race and has prior Lister experience, and Marco also raced there last year, as well as in various Sportscar races. It is a big move for Christophe, who is sad to leave Larbre, but we are very pleased that he is joining us."
-Four regular teams are missing from the N-GT grid for Round 5. The nr 54 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche, the nr 58 Autopalace Ferrari 360 Modena and the nr 56 Alda Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS all have technical difficulties, while the nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena is missing due to ill-health of team owner and driver Robert Pergl. The cars will have 30 kg penalty weight for the next penalty-bearing race in Anderstorp.
First Free Practice Session : Lister and EMKA fastest
Jamie Campbell-Walter showed no signs of ill-effect from his broken ribs, as he set the fastest time in this morning's first free practice session for the Donington round of the FIA GT Championship, with a lap of 1:29.819. At a track that Lister knows well, the nr 14 Lister Storm led for much of the session, with its main rival being the nr 15 Storm of Deletraz and Piccini. Another front-runner was the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R, with Tommy Erdos setting a lap of 1: 30.512 with half an hour to go, placing the car second and demoting the nr 15 Storm to third. The nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Hezemans and Kumpen, who won here last year, were fourth fastest, ahead of the two BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars.
In N-GT, the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Sugden and Collard was fastest, with a time of 1:34.595, closely followed by the nr 89 Team Maranello Ferrari 360 Modena, with Kelvin Burt setting a time of 1:34.632. New to the Championship, the nr 80 Veloqx Motorsport Ferrari 360 Modena of Kirkaldy and Smith was third, ahead of the two Team Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars.
Second Free Practice Session : BMS and Freisinger best in the wet
The light rain varied in intensity throughout the second qualifying session, but it never stopped for long enough for times to equal those in the morning session. The nr 23 BMS Ferrari 550 Maranello of Biagi and Bobbi , currently leading the Championship, was consistently fastest throughout the 90-minute session, with a best time of 1:39.481, set during one of the drier periods. The nr 14 Lister Storm, fastest in the morning, improved to second later in the session, with a lap of 1:41.753, over 2 seconds slower than the Ferrari' s best time. The nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello of Calderari, Bryner and Livio was third, followed by the two Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars. A number of cars had problems, including the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, and the nr 8 Graham Nash Saleen S7-R, both of which spun after touching the white lines in the wet. In the N-GT class, the Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars dominated, led by the two Freisinger Motorsport cars, followed by the nr 74 Team Eurotech and the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsches. The best of the Ferrari cars was in fifth, the nr 88 Team Maranello car of Mullen and Davies, which led the nr 80 Veloqx Motorsport and the nr 89 Team Maranello car.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Franz Konrad -- nr 2 Saleen S7-R : "We've had a number of little problems, like the wrong gear ratios, and a broken sensor on the throttle, which meant that the car was practically undriveable in the wet. So, considering the problems, we are very pleased with our times. We know where we are, we can fix everything and hope it will all be right tomorrow."
Steve Zacchia -- nr 4 Force One Chrysler Viper : "This is my first time at Donington, and I have never really driven the Viper in the wet, so I was very cautious out there today. It's going better and better, but I really hope it will be dry on Sunday."
Thomas Erdos -- nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R : "It was very good this morning. We had a bit more time between the races, and we were able to work more on the car. We have not yet had a chance to test, so there is still more to come. I am very happy with the time we set this morning -- we are back where we think we should be. But we are running up against some very professional teams ! It helps being back on familiar territory, after a number of tracks that were totally new to us."
David Terrien -- nr 10 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello : "I had an alarm on the dashboard, so I stopped by the side of the track as a precaution. But everything is OK, and the car was going well this morning."
Jamie Campbell-Walter -- nr 14 Lister Storm : "The car is nice. As for me, it hurts when I get in and out, but when I'm driving, the adrenaline takes over and I'm fine. The car was quick out of the box, just as we expected, and I know we can still go quite a bit quicker. We tried the tyre compound we first used in Brno, which was good round here too, but no other major changes. Nathan did 10 laps, but Tommy did not get a chance to drive as we had a minor engine problem at the end."
Andrea Piccini -- nr 15 Lister Storm : "The car was good and we set a fast time in the morning. We have solved all our engine problems, which is good, but I still need to get closer to Jamie Campbell-Walter. I know the track, but I have never driven the Lister here before. I'm quite happy in the dry, but it is difficult in the wet, and I still have problems finding the limits with this car in those conditions."
Matteo Bobbi -- nr 23 BMS Ferrari 550 Maranello : "It went very well today. We had a problem with the first set of tyres this morning, so we only used one set, and 5th was not bad. The Lister is quicker than us in the dry, but in the afternoon we had some very good tyres from Michelin for the rain. The car was excellent, and you do not notice the penalty weight in the wet, so we are really hoping for rain on Sunday."
Bert Longin -- nr 51 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We were first and second in the rain, which must be OK. But we are not so close to the nr 50 car in the dry conditions. Our car is one of the few not to have a sequential gearbox -- we have to earn it with some good results. We are pushing all the time; we're here to learn. But I think this race could be very important in terms of the Championship, especially with the next race being the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa."
Fabrizio De Simone -- nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena: "The car was very good in the morning, very consistent. But in the afternoon, I went into the gravel, and the engine stalled, so we lost much of the session."
Emmanuel Collard -- nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It took me a while to get used to the car, as the gear-box is different from those I was used to. But the car is excellent, and Tim and I hope to win ! We'll see on Sunday."
Christian Ried -- nr 69 Proton Competition Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We were quite happy with 9th at Brno for our first time out in the new car. Each time I get in the car, I'm able to go a bit faster, and we hope to manage to finish in the points this time."
Mike Jordan -- nr 74 Team Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "I am pleased; everything is going well and we're on pace. If everything continues to go well, it should be OK. Our car has a lovely balance, and is working well, and both cars are up there together. So we're hoping it carries on like this -- But I think it's going to be very close out there this weekend."
Tim Mullen -- nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena : "We didn't get out until about 40 minutes into the first session, due to lots of little problems. It will be completely different in the afternoon due to the rain, but it will be good experience for us, as we have not had much wet running so far."
Johnny Mowlem -- nr 99 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We were trying to find a good set-up for the dry, and so we changed a lot, but then it started to rain. I only did four laps in the afternoon, but when I was out I was 3rd fastest. However, the category is so competitive at the moment, that I really can't see us being in the top six, but you never know."