Donington: Round nine preview

The summer is definitely over, with the pace picking up once more and the fight definitely on for the titles in both the FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships. After the heat of Sicily, the LG Super Racing Weekend series is moving ...

The summer is definitely over, with the pace picking up once more and the fight definitely on for the titles in both the FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships. After the heat of Sicily, the LG Super Racing Weekend series is moving northwards, to the British track of Donington Park. The circuit, 4.023 km long, is a favourite with teams, drivers and spectators alike. Situated next to British Midland airport, the track has a good mix of fast and slow corners, and a number of changes of elevation - a big change from the flat, fast Pergusa circuit. The FIA GT Championship last raced at Donington in 1999, when a thrilling race saw the Chrysler Viper Team Oreca line-up of Beretta and Wendlinger take their fifth win of the season. However, the result could have been very different if the Lister Storm of Bailey, Hewland and Wallace, which led for the first hour, had not lost time during a difficult pit-stop, eventually finishing second.

The FIA European Touring Car Championship regularly visited the circuit between 1981 and 1988; the track is also visited by most of the national Championships, meaning that not only the drivers from the British Isles but former British Touring Car competitors, such as former Champions Rydell and Tarquini know it well.

With the season nearing its end, there is a lot at stake. Only three and a half points separate Larbre Competition Chéreau and Lister Storm Racing in both the GT Team and Drivers classifications, while the N-GT Teams classification lead passed from JMB Racing to Freisinger Motorsport after the previous race.

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
With their third win of the 2002 season, Lister Storm Racing has closed to within 3.5 points of the current leaders, Larbre Competition Chéreau, while Freisinger Motorsport claimed a fifth win to take the lead in the N-GT category. In the GT category, nine drivers still have a mathematical chance of the title - Bouchut and Terrien, Campbell-Walter and Springer, Vosse, Deletraz and Piccini, Duez and Babini. As far as the Teams title is concerned, all the teams which have scored points this season are still in with a theoretical chance, but it looks as if it will be played out between Lister Storm Racing and Larbre Competition Chéreau. In N-GT, the Drivers' title can only be won by Ortelli, Montermini or Pescatori, while the Teams honours will be between Freisinger and JMB Racing. Therefore, with all four titles still wide open, Donington is sure to see yet another addition to this season's stunning sequence of on-track action.

GT CHAMPIONSHIP

LARBRE COMPETITION CHEREAU KEEPS THE LEAD (1st in GT, 62.5 points)
With 100 kg penalty weight on board the nr 1 Chrysler Viper GTS-R, and 80 kg on the nr 2 car of Vosse and Rosenblad, Pergusa was a difficult event for the Larbre Competition Chéreau team. The team came away from the 8th round with a meagre score of just 2 points, its lowest of the season. With their weight reduced to 80 kg and 40 kg respectively, the team will be hoping to maintain its lead over Lister at Donington, a track appreciated by current joint Championship leader David Terrien. "Christian Pescatori and I won there in the Sports Racing World Cup" he said. " It's a track I like, with plenty of changes of elevation. We're going there as the leaders, but it is going to be difficult. It's one of Lister's test tracks, so it will be complicated to beat them, even if the weight ratios might be closer. We have to use our assets - the reliability of the car, the well-balanced team. And perhaps it will rain - which could really help us, as we were better in the rain at Anderstorp than Lister. I'm still quite confident for the title, but it's going to be tough. The end of the season is really going to be hot."

A RECORD TO MAINTAIN FOR LISTER STORM RACING (2nd in GT, 59 points)
Donington is one of Lister Storm Racing's favourite tracks. The team has won its last 10 races at the circuit, and, with so much as stake in the Championship, they will be hoping their luck holds for the next race. Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer, fresh from their Pergusa win, are just 3.5 points behind Bouchut and Terrien. "The cars are being rebuilt after Pergusa," Jamie explained. "The floor was pretty damaged, and the team is checking the suspension with a fine toothcomb. The preparation is very important, as we don't want to run into any problems at Donington. I am really looking forward to the race. We're in with a chance of taking the title, which we did not expect at all, so we won't start worrying, we will just turn up and try to win. There's no pressure on us, which is really nice. I like the track, and I think it will be good for our car, but it is hard on the brakes and the tyres. It could be interesting."

For this race, Bobby Verdon-Roe will be sharing the nr 15 Lister Storm with experienced Lister driver David Warnock, who won at Donington last weekend in the British GT Championship. "David has an unprecedented record at Donington," Bobby explained. "I sincerely hope to help him make it 11wins in a row. It won't be easy, but Lister has done lots of laps there, so they will be quick out of the box. I will be without the 40 kg I had at Pergusa, which will be a big help as I really noticed the difference. I've had some good races at Donington, dating all the way back to my epic battle with Jason Plato in the Formula Renault Championship in 1991, and through to the TVR Tuscan days. It would be great to get a good result, and to help the team win the Championship." A third driver might be named for the nr 15 car.

CARSPORT HOLLAND STILL IN WITH A CHANCE (3rd in GT, 40 points)
Once more, bad luck hit the Carsport Holland team of Kumpen and Hezemans while they were in the lead of the Pergusa race, with a long pit-stop due to a vapour-lock in the fuel tank. "I think I've had all the bad luck for my whole career in one season," Anthony Kumpen said, after yet another spoiled opportunity to win. "We had two problems at Pergusa - once when the rear window blew out, and again when the car refused to start after our splash and dash. For sure, our Championship hopes were effectively over after the Spa race, so we have no more pressure and we will just do our best to try and win the races that remain. I don't know Donington at all, but Mike does. I am sure the Lister will be fast there, and that the Ferrari will be difficult to beat. But I learn new tracks quickly, and our new car seems to work really well. Our main problem could be the weather - who knows what will happen ?"

While Kumpen has been accumulating bad luck, Fabrizio Gollin, in the nr 4 Chrysler Viper, has been improving rapidly this season. With his first pole position and his best result to date at Pergusa, he and Luca Cappellari form a fast and consistent team. "I don't know Donington, but I'm learning it by playing video games," Gollin explained. "Obviously it doesn't help you with the braking points and cornering lines, but at least it gives you an idea of where the track goes. Luckily my team-mate Luca Cappellari knows Donington and he will give me some help. As far as I've heard, the track requires handling and driveability, therefore it should suit the Lister and Ferrari cars better than the Vipers. However, we have a very competitive car, which we have proved by reaching the Super Pole seven times out of eight. If we don't have technical problems I believe we can fight for a top position again - especially if it rains, because our Pirelli tyres are so good in the wet."

NEW CAR FOR FORCE ONE
After a series of mechanical failures, which meant that the nr 5 Force One Ferrari 550 Maranello of Alliot and Hallyday failed to finish any of the races it entered, the team decided to change car after Spa. Therefore, the two Frenchmen will be at Donington with a brand new Chrysler Viper GTS-R, in the same livery as the previous Ferrari. "We have been testing at Dijon this week," Philippe Alliot explained. "We had a bit of rain, but we managed to do a lot of laps without any reliability problems. The cars are very different- the Ferrari was aggressive, agile and slightly fragile, whereas the Viper is powerful and solid, and gives off an incredible feeling of robustness. Now we need to see what happens at Donington. We want to prove that we are able to finish a race. This season has been extremely difficult for the whole team, and we need to show that we are able to react and overcome our problems."

N-GT CHAMPIONSHIP

FREISINGER HOPES TO CONTINUE ITS WINNING STREAK (1st in N-GT, 82 points)
Pergusa was one of the best results of the season for German team Freisinger Motorsport. Not only did the two Porsche 996 GT3-R cars finish first and second in the N-GT class, but the team took the lead in the N-GT Teams classification, ahead of JMB Racing. Stéphane Ortelli now has a lead of ten and a half points over Andrea Montermini in the Drivers Championship, meaning that the man from Monaco is certain to enter the final round at Estoril in the lead of the Championship. For Donington, Ortelli will be driving with French driver Romain Dumas, who was in the team's winning car for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Dumas, who is currently leading the Euro F3000 series, is looking forward to the race : "It makes a nice change to get back in the Porsche again. We are all taking turns to help Stéphane win the Championship. Normally, I had a F3000 race this weekend, but it was cancelled, so I can drive for Freisinger again. I've already driven at Donington this season . I am certain we will be getting the rain tyres out !" Pergusa also saw the best result by far for French driver Stéphane Daoudi, competing in his first FIA GT season. At Donington, he will once more share the car with Belgian driver Bert Longin. "Apart from Magny Cours, I haven't known any of this season's tracks, so I am getting quicker at adapting," Daoudi said. "This was always going to be a season of learning and adapting to the Championship. My objective is to try and finish on the podium for the remaining races, and then to aim for the title in 2003. For Donington, the idea for the team would be to get another one-two like in Pergusa. Personally, I want to make the Superpole and do the best times I can during the race."

JMB RACING CHASING THE TITLE (2nd in N-GT, 73.5 points)
With a deficit of 8.5 points, and a total of 32 points in play, everything remains possible in the N-GT Teams Championship. JMB Racing opted to reorganise their line-ups for Pergusa, with Pescatori and Montermini in different cars. Montermini and Alexander finished in third place, with Pescatori and Bertolini fourth. "For sure, we lost some valuable points in Pergusa," Andrea Montermini said. "It is crucial that we work well in Donington, as we really need a good result. I last raced at Donington ten years ago, in Formula 3000 - it was a very good race, and I got pole position, but I've never been back, so I really need to learn the track again. This race is vital both for Ferrari and Porsche; it's going to be very interesting. For me personally, it's also very important. It's my first real chance to win a title, so I will really be fighting. I'll never give up !"

THREE CARS FOR CIRTEK (6th in N-GT, 9.5 points)
Cirtek Motorsport has been having an excellent season in the FIA GT Championship this year. After scoring points in the last four rounds, including an excellent fourth place finish in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, Rob Schirle will be entering three Porsche 996 GT3-R cars at Donington, the usual nr 62 and 64 Cirtek Motorsport, and the nr 74 for Cirtek Racing. The drivers are likely to include Alan Jones - who put in a fantastic drive at Pergusa - and Moreno Soli for Cirtek Racing, while the Merendino brothers from Sicily, and two newcomers to the FIA GT Championship, Stephen Stokoe and Jamie Wall compete for Cirtek Motorsport. "Our aim is to try and get on the podium," Rob Schirle explained. "owever, as far as the Championship is concerned, we are ready to play the game and help Freisinger in their bid for the title. We are really looking forward to our home race, and will be well prepared for it, bringing extra people in to look after the third car. We are planning to enter two cars for the full season next year, with one top driver line-up to show what we can do."

VELOQX MOTORSPORT JOINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP
New British team Veloqx Motorsport is planning to enter the final two rounds of the 2002 FIA GT Championship with two Ferrari 360 Modena cars, in preparation for a full-season entry in 2003. The team was formed at the beginning of this year by businessman Sam Li, and with backing from Ferrari UK. It has successfully entered up to three cars in the British GT Championship, with main driver Jamie Davies claiming the GTO class title at Donington last weekend. Davies will be with the team for the FIA GT race, along with former Formula One driver Ivan Capelli, who has also driven for the team in the British Championship. "I am quite pleased with the car as it is well balanced," Capelli said. "However, I haven't driven this type of car for two years, so I am going to have to get used to them again. It is going to be tough because this it is a high quality Championship. But the team is very good, so I am sure we will be OK." Sam Li is realistic about the challenge his team faces. "We are testing the waters in preparation for next year by competing in these two races so we can learn in the process. It will be a whole new experience, but it will be interesting to see how we measure up against the JMB Ferraris, especially as they run on Pirelli tyres and we are on Dunlops." The second car will be shared by Tim Sugden, a regular in the FIA GT Championship in 2001, and Andrew Kirkaldy, who has been driving with Jamie Davies in the British GT Championship.

TEAM EUROTECH WITH TWO CARS
Team Eurotech, a regular participant in the British GT Championship and other national series for over 15 years, will be entering two Porsche 996 GT3-R cars in the Donington round of the FIA GT Championship. Team boss Mike Jordan will be at the wheel of one car with Porsche Cup frontrunner Mark Sumpter, while the second car will be shared by twins David and Godfrey Jones. Mike Jordan last raced in the FIA GT Championship last year, taking a win with Jamie Campbell-Walter at the Nürburgring in a Lister Storm. He has also driven a Lister in the British GT Championship this year, winning the Donington round last weekend, and won the GTO class in 2000 with Mark Sumpter. "We know that the FIA opposition is incredibly strong, but we will give it our best shot, " Sumpter said. For the Jones twins, this will be their first venture into international competition, and they are looking forward to racing on their home track.

NEWS IN BRIEF
A number of familiar faces will be back in action at Donington for round 9 of the Championship. The nr 9 ART Chrysler Viper of Jean-Pierre Jarier and François Lafon will be taking part once more, after missing the last three rounds. Henrik Roos, from Sweden, is entering his Chrysler Viper GTS-R previously seen in action at Anderstorp; Roos will share the car with Magnus Wallinder, a regular driver in the FIA GT Championship in 2000. The nr 60 JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R will be driven by Ian Khan and Johnny Mowlem, who finished in second place at Silverstone in the Autorlando Porsche. EMKA Racing, a regular participant over the past two seasons, will be returning with its Porsche 996 GT3-R, with Steve O'Rourke and Robin Liddell at the wheel. Liddell last drove at Anderstorp, finishing in 5th place in N-GT with Cirtek Motorsport.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Christian Pescatori , Jamie Davies , Robin Liddell , Stéphane Ortelli , Alan Jones , Philippe Alliot , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Andrea Montermini , Anthony Kumpen , David Terrien , Jean-Pierre Jarier , Jason Plato , Johnny Mowlem , Romain Dumas , David Warnock , Nicolaus Springer , Tim Sugden , Ian Khan , Andrew Kirkaldy , Mark Sumpter , Godfrey Jones , Bobby Verdon-Roe , Luca Cappellari , Bert Longin , Henrik Roos , Ivan Capelli , Mike Jordan
Teams Larbre Competition