Estoril: Race report

For the first time ever, the FIA GT Championship has had a bright and sunny race weekend in Estoril, and an exciting, close race took place around the 4.183 km circuit. A Ferrari-dominated weekend saw JMB Racing win in both categories, giving the...

For the first time ever, the FIA GT Championship has had a bright and sunny race weekend in Estoril, and an exciting, close race took place around the 4.183 km circuit. A Ferrari-dominated weekend saw JMB Racing win in both categories, giving the new Ferrari 575 M Maranello a win in its debut race, while third place gave BMS Scuderia Italia drivers Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi the GT Drivers title in their first season of GT racing. Bertolini and De Simone's third win wrote another chapter in the extremely close N-GT category, meaning that the three-way fight between Freisinger, JMB and TMC goes on to the final round in Monza.

THE FERRARI 575 M MARANELLO TAKES DEBUT WIN

After an extremely difficult season, when their Ferrari 550 Maranello cars proved to be fast but unreliable, JMB Racing have put their bad luck behind them with a fine win for the brand new nr 9 Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Philipp Peter and Fabio Babini. With the car winning on its first time out, it was a great relief for the whole team. "We are all very emotional today -- all the team was crying," Peter said. "Even in our most positive moments we did not believe we could do this. I would like to really thank Pirelli, who changed the compound in the race." His team-mate Fabio Babini, who last won at Silverstone last year in a Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R, was also delighted. "I really like this track; I pushed hard in the last stint, and I am very pleased for JMB Racing, Pirelli and N-technology."

BOBBI AND BIAGI SECURE THE GT DRIVERS' TITLE

Third place in Estoril was enough to secure the 2003 GT Drivers' Championship for Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi, following an amazing debut season in GT racing. The two young Italians, both single-seater drivers, have led from the start of the season, winning five races in a row, and a sixth (appeal pending) in Oschersleben. The two were both delighted with the title and relieved that the pressure was now off them before the final race in Monza. "I lost the title last year by one point in the final race, and I did not want to go through that again," Bobbi explained. As for Biagi, he dedicated his title to his best friend, Alfredo Melandri, killed in 1998 in Formula Three testing. "When he died, I had two choices -- to stop races or to go ahead. I decided he would want me to race on, and so I want to dedicate this title to him." With Gollin and Cappellari finishing in second place, and the Lister Racing cars failing to make the end of the race, BMS Scuderia Italia is now assured of the Teams' Championship, regardless of the ongoing appeal concerning Oschersleben.

THIRD WIN OF THE SEASON FOR BERTOLINI AND DE SIMONE

JMB Racing's Estoril domination was complete, with the French team achieving the rare feat of claiming victory in both categories. Andrea Bertolini led from pole, and despite a starting problem in their second pit stop, which resulted in a stop and go penalty for a push start, recovered to win the race, finishing 22 seconds ahead of the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari of Jamie Davies and Darren Turner. "I am very happy, for me, for the team and for Pirelli," Bertolini said afterwards.

With the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Ortelli and Lieb finishing fourth, the title battle goes on to Monza. Ortelli and Lieb have a lead of 9.5 points over Jamie Davies, and ten points over Fabrizio De Simone. This means that if the nr 50 car fails to score in Monza, and the nr 88 TMC car wins, Davies could be Champion; in a similar scenario, if the nr 52 wins, De Simone could be Champion due to a greater number of victories. In the Teams Classification, Freisinger Motorsport leads by 16 points, with 18 still in play at the final round.

GT RACE STORY

Although the Konrad Saleen briefly took the lead at the start, by the time the drivers came round at the end of the first lap, the Saleen had spun off and the pole sitter, the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R, was leading the race, followed by the nr 22 BMS Ferrari. The nr 2 Konrad soon overtook the N-GT cars, and was 15th by lap 5. Gollin took the lead after a good battle with Hezemans on lap 9, and began to pull away slightly. The nr 9 Ferrari 575 Maranello was in third place, with the nr 15 Storm the highest place Lister, after the nr 19 Creation car failed to take the start and the nr 6 stopped on the circuit with a problem. After the first round of pit stops, Anthony Kumpen, in the nr 5, began to chase down Luca Cappellari in the nr 22 BMS Ferrari, overtaking him on lap 42. However, brake problems saw Kumpen spin out on lap 56, retiring shortly afterwards. This put the battle for the lead between the nr 22 and 23 BMS cars, and on lap 58, Thomas Biagi took the lead. The nr 9 Ferrari then overtook the nr 22 car for second place. At this stage, there were four Ferrari cars in the top four, with no Lister cars left running, both the nr 14 and 15 having retiring with mechanical problems. The situation was still similar at the end of the second round of pit stops, with the nr 23 ahead of the nr 9 and the nr 22.

However, Babini was closing on Bobbi, and lapping quicker, and the JMB Racing driver took the lead on lap 87; six laps later, Gollin overtook his team-mate Bobbi, whose car was carrying 50 kg penalty weight, for second. With the nr 2 Konrad Saleen recovering to fourth, the situation remained like this until the chequered flag fell, giving JMB Racing its first win of the season, and a maiden win for the Ferrari 575 M Maranello.

Gollin and Cappellari took second, putting them back up to second in the Championship, while Bobbi and Biagi secured the title with third place, the two podium finishes putting BMS Scuderia Italia in definitive command of the Teams title, regardless of the result of the outstanding Lister appeal. With the nr 2 Konrad Saleen fourth, the Zwaan's Racing and Roos-Optima Chrysler Vipers had fine finishes in fifth and sixth places, with the two Graham Nash Motorsport cars seventh and eighth.

THE N-GT STORY

The nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena led from pole, and although it was followed by the nr 89 TMC Ferrari at the end of the first lap, by the time the cars settled down, the nr 61 and 50 Porsches had relegated the TMC cars to fourth and fifth places. The classification remained static until the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport car came into the pits early, suffering from vibrations. This changed the strategy of the car, which had been aiming for a one-stop race and had therefore been conserving fuel. When the nr 52 Ferrari made its pit stop on lap 41, the nr 61 briefly took the lead, before pitting in its turn. This placed the TMC cars, on a one-stop strategy, in the lead. They finally pitted simultaneously on lap 52, by which time the nr 52 retook the lead, with the nr 61 second and the nr 50 third. Once again, the situation stabilised, with the leading cars close together. The nr 50 pitted again on lap 69, bringing the TMC cars to third and fourth. The situation changed on lap 78, when the nr 50 Porsche received a 60 second stop and go penalty for speeding in the pit lane, while the nr 52 was also called in, for ten seconds, due to getting a push start after its second pit stop. This dropped the nr 52 to third, and the nr 50 to sixth, behind the MENX Ferrari. The nr 61 took the lead, but went wide after being overtaken by the nr 88 TMC Ferrari, and pitted for two new tyres. By lap 99, Bertolini had regained the lead, ahead of the nr 88 and nr 61. The nr 89 car stopped by the side of the track, moving the nr 57 MENX Ferrari up to fourth, but a final splash and dash dropped it back a place, giving the nr 50 Porsche fourth place. As the chequered flag fell, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Bertolini and De Simone took its third win of the season, ahead of the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena of Turner and Davies, with Sugden and Collard third in the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS. Ortelli and Lieb were fourth, with Janis and Pergl fifth for MENX.

Sixth place went to the Eurotech Porsche of Jordan and Sumpter, with JVG Racing's Porsche seventh and the Autorlando Porsche of Alessi, Mediani and Gay taking the final point for eighth.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Philipp Peter, nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello - 1st, GT: "There were a lot of emotions at the end of the race, all the team was crying. It was amazing to have this new 575, put it on the race track and win the first race ! Even the most positive guys did not expect this ! The race was really good. I would like to thank Pirelli as they changed the compound during the race. I was pushing really hard during the last stint. We did not really have problems. Fabio just had a light on the dashboard starting to smoke 10 minutes to the end. We thought he would have to pit but in the end, he was able to disconnect the cable and the smoke was less."

Fabio Babini, nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello - 1st GT: "I am very happy with this first win and would like to thank JMB, Pirelli and N-technology for their work. It was a fantastic race, especially when we did not have an easy start of the season with the 550 Ferrari. I pushed a lot in the last stint. I like this track. It is fantastic !"

Fabrizio Gollin, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 2nd GT : "Second place is a beautiful result. I hope to win the next race ! At the start, I had a very nice fight and overtaking manoeuvre with Hezemans. The car was fantastic. We are looking forward to the next race!"

Luca Cappellari, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello 2nd GT : "I had a very difficult stint as I had a problem overtaking the Saleen. I went wide and went on the kerb, thus damaging the tyres. The next ten laps were very hard. Fabrizio did a great race and pushed very hard. Now, we are going to Monza, hoping for another good race and hope to be second in the Championship at the end of the season. "

Matteo Bobbi, nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello- 3rd GT: "It was a great day for us as we won the Championship, which was our target for the day. In the last stint, I pushed very hard for the first 6-7 laps but Fabio caught me. I did not want to take any risks as I wanted to win the Championship, not this race. The last 30 minutes were very difficult for me as last year, I lost the Championship in single-seaters in the last race... There was so much on my mind ! Anyway, we won the Championship and I would like to congratulate Prodrive, Michelin, BMS Scuderia Italia. We all did a very good job all together. I would also like to congratulate Fabio and Philipp for their first win."

Thomas Biagi, nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 3rd GT: "For me, it was a very good race especially as we had 50kg ballast in the car. We were still competitive. It was very important to finish the race, get the points for the Championship and arrive in Monza more relaxed than before. We are two rookie drivers. It is amazing for us to win the Championship in the first year, especially for two Italians to win in a Ferrari car. I would like to thank Augusto Mensi, Tiziano Minuti, our race engineer, Michelin, Prodrive and Mr Frederic Dor. They believed in us. I would like to dedicate this Championship title to my best friend, Alfredo Malandri. I lost him in a F3 test in 1998. At this time, I had two options : either to continue in motorsport or stop with it. I decided to continue as I had the feeling it was what he wanted me to do. I always remember him".

Walter Lechner Jr - nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R - 4th in GT : "I made a good start, and got in front of the Viper and the Ferrari, and led for the first three corners. But then the Viper hit me at the back, and I spun off. The car was OK; but I had to wait until the whole field had passed, and rejoin at the back. I am happy that we finished in fourth place - we could have had a chance at a podium finish without the problem at the start, but you can see from the results that we were the best on Dunlop tyres. There was no way that I could have done a lap of 1:37 like Gollin did --"

Arjan van der Zwaan - nr 18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 5th in GT : "We had a good set-up, different from qualifying, a real race set-up. I could keep up with the rest, and although I made a small mistake after 50 minutes, when I broke too late and went off slight, everything went well, and we did good times throughout the race. We finished fifth for the second time in a row, but this time we really earned it, rather than inheriting the extra points in Oschersleben.

Magnus Wallinder - nr 11 Roos-Optima Racing Team Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 6th in GT : "Finally we have a good result after two hard races. We were lucky that some of the others did not finish. We had no major problems and good pit stops. However, the car was excellent yesterday, but today it was awful, with huge oversteer problems. But we tried to keep pace with those in front, and to be consistent and keep out of trouble. So sixth place is quite good !"

Anthony Kumpen - nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R - DNF : "Just like the last race, the brakes failed. When they get hot, the pedal goes soft. Mike warned me about it when I took over. But they cool down in the pits, and so when I took over, it all seemed OK. But after five laps, they went really soft. I kept pumping them up, but that put the heat up even more. And then at one corner, the brakes just didn't work. I spun three times, the wing hit the barriers, and that was it."

Mike Hezemans - nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R - DNF: "At the beginning, it was really good, and I had a nice fight with Fabrizio Gollin, when we went through four corners side by side. He gave me a lot of space, and I was laughing I was having such fun. It was really good ! But once again we haven't finished. It's beginning to be almost funny. We will change the brake system for the next race, as we've had this failure four times, twice on each car."

N-GT CATEGORY

Andrea Bertolini, nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 1st N-GT: "I am very happy as we had an unbelievable race today! The car was very quick. In the last stint, we had a stop & go penalty for a push start, which made things difficult. But I am very thankful to Pirelli as they have made this win possible"

Fabrizio de Simone, nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 1st, N-GT: "The race was OK today. We had fantastic tyres. Pirelli did incredible work. Their tyres were very consistent throughout the stint. It was quite easy work for me."

Darren Turner, nr 89 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena - 2nd N-GT: "It took us a while to get into the rhythm at the beginning as we did not have the pace of the front cars. We were on a one-pit stop strategy, so we were looking after the fuel. Our tyres were consistent, but we were struggling with brake problems to begin with. We wanted to make sure that they do the whole stint . And then Jamie went into the car and did a good job. We lost some time in the pits with a wheel nut problem. Maybe we could have got a step higher on the podium."

Jamie Davies, nr 89 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena - 2nd N-GT: "At the start of my stint, I was very unfortunate as we had a problem with the left rear wheel nut. We lost 10 to 15 seconds during our pit stop. I had a difficult stint as I was trying to defend my position, trying to be as quick as possible, trying to think about the Championship and trying to save fuel ; all at the same time. We then had a problem with the clutch quite early on in my stint. That cut my pace a little bit as well as I was unable to brake as late as previously in the corners. We just soldiered on and the lap times were not too bad after all. I just drove consistently up until the end".

Emmanuel Collard, nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R - 3rd N-GT: "At the start, I had a big fight for two laps with one of the Ferraris as if it was the last laps of the race. He was closing the door everywhere. But I overtook him and then I tried to stay in contact with JMB. In the end, it was more difficult as I lost the clutch and started to have gearbox problems. It was very hard !"

Tim Sugden, nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R - 3rd N-GT: "We did not have a clutch at all and we were also struggling with the gearbox. Sometimes, I got it in gear, some times not. And then I was struggling to get into gear and Jamie overtook me on the outside. I do not think he did it intentionally but he pushed me and I went into the gravel trap. Then it was just a case of trying to get to the end, when we did not have any gears anymore... But at least, we did lead for a while".

Michael Hinterberg - team manager, Freisinger Motorsport - 4th in N-GT : "What a fight in N-GT ! I think that Monza could be very hot. We have a good lead, but if we fail to finish in Monza, there is a good chance that either JMB Racing or TMC would win. And then either TMC could win by half a point, or JMB on the number of victories - so everything depends on us finishing in the points. And you can't totally rule out a mechanical failure. For sure, we will be second - but that is not what we are aiming for. This was a really incredible race; we were lucky that MENX had a splash and dash at the end - that point could be very important at the end of the season. Next race is going to be really, really tense. And the fact that the weather can be bad in Monza could make it all more interesting."

Nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena - 5th in N-GT: the team did a splash and dash at the end of the race. "We could have finished on the fuel without a stop, but we would not have had enough fuel left for the obligatory scrutineering checks. But everything went well, the car was fine all weekend, with no glitches whatsoever, and we are all very happy. With hindsight we could have pushed harder, but I don't know if it would have made much difference," said a team spokesman.

Christian Ried - nr 69 Proton Competition Porsche 996 GT3-RS - DNF: "The engine went -- this is the third engine failure we have had since we got this car earlier this season."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Darren Turner , Emmanuel Collard , Jamie Davies , Matteo Bobbi , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Paul Belmondo , Christian Ried , Fabrizio de Simone , Frederic Dor , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Andrea Bertolini , Thomas Biagi , Luca Cappellari , Arjan van der Zwaan , Tiziano Minuti , Philipp Peter
Teams Proton Competition