The season might be nearly over, but much needs to be decided before the teams and drivers taking part in the LG Super Racing Weekend series break up for the winter. The final round of 2002 will take place at the Portuguese track of Estoril, ...
The season might be nearly over, but much needs to be decided before the teams and drivers taking part in the LG Super Racing Weekend series break up for the winter. The final round of 2002 will take place at the Portuguese track of Estoril, situated 30 km from Lisbon, and 7 km from the coastal resort of Cascais. So close to the Atlantic, the weather is notoriously changeable, and rain has dogged the FIA GT Championship races held at the circuit over the past two years. The track, 4.182 km long, has a good blend of fast and slow corners, with changes of elevation and a long pit straight making it generally popular with the drivers.
The Estoril round of the FIA GT Championship will determine who will join the new N-GT Drivers Champion Stephane Ortelli on the role of honour for 2002. The GT category Teams and Drivers' Championships, as well as the N-GT category Teams Championship, are still to be decided. Last year, Carsport Holland took its second win of the season at Estoril; a repeat performance - and a lot of luck - would be needed for the Dutch team to claim the GT Teams title this year, as they are trailing the main contenders, Larbre Competition Chéreau and Lister Storm Racing, both of which finished on the podium last year. In N-GT, the battle is likely to continue between JMB Racing, who won the title at Estoril last year, and Freisinger Motorsport, the likely winners this year.
FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
The penultimate round, held at the British track of Donington, saw Freisinger Motorsport's Stephane Ortelli crowned as the 2002 N-GT Drivers Champion, after his sixth win of the season. But the race, which saw a high number of cars retire, left many questions open, and further intensified the battle for the remaining titles, which will have to be decided in Sunday's 500 km race round the Estoril circuit in Portugal. Freisinger Motorsport leads the N-GT Teams Championship, but JMB Racing still have a mathematical chance of retaining their title. The situation is a lot less clear in the GT category. Larbre Competition Chéreau leads by 5.5 points, but Lister Storm Racing and Carsport Holland could still claim the title. As for the Drivers classification, David Terrien is the new Championship leader, with a two-point lead over his former co-driver Christophe Bouchut, and 5.5 points ahead of the Lister duo Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer.
LARBRE COMPETITION CHEREAU MAXIMISES ITS OPTIONS (1st in GT, 64.5 points)
After a driver rearrangement, which saw David Terrien and Christophe Bouchut at the wheel of different Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars for Donington, Terrien now leads by two points, with the nr 2 Chrysler Viper GTS-R due to carry 60 kg penalty weight for Estoril. As for Bouchut, whose nr 1 car failed to finish at Donington Park, he will only have 40 kg extra weight to carry. "We achieved what we set out to do, which was to maximise our hopes of retaining the Championship," team principal Jack Leconte explained. "We are currently first and second in the Drivers classification, and leading in the Teams points table. It is likely that we will keep the same line-ups for Estoril. We are in the best possible position should one car have a problem, or even retire. With both cars having lost penalty weight, we should be more competitive for the final round, and on an equal footing with the other Vipers. Personally, my priority is the Teams Championship, as it is the one that rewards the whole team, the mechanics, the partners, as much as the drivers. The Drivers title is a much more selfish award, although the ideal situation is obviously to claim both ! The changeable weather we sometime get in Estoril could work to our favour - we would not be against wet weather ! We'll have to see what happens."
LISTER STORM RACING STILL IN WITH A CHANCE (2nd in GT, 59 points)
Although Donington was rather a disappointment for Lister Storm Racing, with neither car finishing the race, the team is still confident and looking forward to the final race of the season. "We recovered to seventh in our class after the initial problems, and we only needed one more car to drop out in order to score a point," Jamie Campbell-Walter explained. "You never know what will happen in motor-racing. It was important to get back into the race even though we lost so much time in the pits. It was good practice for Nicolaus, and good for our sponsors to see our speed. However, the bonnet flew off again towards the end, ripping the restrictors off. We would have lost a lot more time to replace it. That's racing." As for the final round, Lister Storm Racing is still in with a good chance of taking both the Teams and Drivers titles. "If we win, Bouchut is second and Terrien third." Jamie mused, recalculating the points. "Then we would win by half a point, and the Larbre drivers would tie. I think it will be harder for Larbre Competition to finish second or third than it will be for us to win. We never thought to be in this position at the start of the season. We'll do our best; we were fast there last year and in 2000. I'm sure the Ferrari will be quick, and the Carsport Chrysler Vipers too. Who knows what will happen ? I'm trying not to think too much about it, we'll just go and do our usual race." As at Donington, the second car will be shared by Bobby Verdon-Roe, David Warnock and Ian McKellar.
CARSPORT HOLLAND : MATHEMATICAL CHANCE AFTER FIRST WIN (3rd in GT, 53
After Carsport Holland managed its best result of the season, with Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen winning Round 9 of the FIA GT Championship and the nr 4 Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari finishing in fourth place, the team still has a mathematical chance of claiming the title. However, both cars would need to finish on the podium, and to hope that the teams ahead of them in the Classification, Larbre Competition Chéreau and Lister Storm Racing, have another poor weekend. "It was very good to finally win my first FIA GT race," Anthony Kumpen said afterwards. "We had some luck as the Ferrari, which was quicker than us, hit problems, while we had a trouble-free race" In 2001, Carsport Holland was victorious at Estoril, but Anthony, racing at the time for Paul Belmondo Racing, was at the centre of a start-line collision. "Despite what happened in the race, I really like the track, and I think it is a good circuit for Vipers. The weather can be very changeable, so I think it will be a very tactical race for everyone. Lister and Larbre will have a lot of pressure, but for us, we will just try to do our best. It's still possible for us to win the title, but I don't think it will happen. But we will obviously try. It's just a pity this is the last race - our new car is going really well now, but the season is about to finish. We'll have to see about next year !"
WIETH RACING HOPES FOR ESTORIL RETURN
German team Wieth Racing is hoping to return to the Championship for the final round of the 2002 season, at Estoril. The team has worked all year on their Ferrari 550 Maranello. "We have nearly built a new car," team manager Florian Hebel explained. "We have a new engine, including forged crankshaft, titanium rods, new pistons and cylinder linings, a new sequential Hewland gearbox with magnesium housing, a Pankl carbon fibre transaxle, a new suspension system, a new lightweight wire harness, a new optimised exhaust system, all of which has meant a lot of work. We are trying to get everything ready for Estoril - but if not, for Barcelona !" The car will be driven, as usual, by the father-and-son team of Franz and Niko Wieth.
REITER ENGINEERING ENTERS REVISED CAR Reiter Engineering will be entering a revised Lamborghini in the final round of the FIA GT Championship, with Emmanuel Clérico and Lee Cunningham at the wheel. The car, based on those running in the Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy, and upgraded to FIA GT specifications via a kit, represents the first stage of a project for 2003 that would see a number of Lamborghini cars running in the FIA GT Championship. Known as the GTS-R Supertrophy Team, the cars would be driven by many of the current Supertrophy stars. The car underwent an initial test at the A1 Ring recently. The aim for the weekend is to achieve a good qualifying time, and to finish the race.
FREISINGER MOTORSPORT : ORTELLI TAKES THE DRIVERS TITLE (1st in N-GT, 92
Stéphane Ortelli claimed the N-GT Drivers Championship at Donington, with his sixth win of the season. He has driven his Porsche 996 GT3-R with a variety of talented co-drivers this season, winning races with Marc Lieb, Sascha Maassen, Emmanuel Collard and Romain Dumas. This achievement crowns a long and successful career for Ortelli in the FIA GT Championship. The 32-year old driver from Monaco first stepped onto an FIA GT podium in 1997, when he finished second in the GT1 class at Helsinki. Later that same season he claimed two wins and two second-place finishes at the wheel of a Roock Racing Porsche 911 GT2. In 1998 he remained with the team, setting three pole positions and two second-place finishes in the GT2 class. In 2001, with Freisinger Motorsport, he was on pole at the Nürburgring, and took three second-placed finishes, including second at the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. This season, however, has seen Ortelli dominate the class, with six wins and four pole positions. "I am very happy with this result, especially as if you look at the competition in the N-GT Championship," he explained "It is so very close ! I am very proud to be in this Championship, and to have won the N-GT Drivers title." In Estoril, Ortelli will be reunited with his Jarama and Oschersleben team-mate, Sascha Maassen from Germany, who also drove with him in the early days of his FIA GT career. The second car should be in the hands of Stephane Daoudi and Bert Longin. Although Freisinger Motorsport have a 14.5 point lead, JMB Racing could still clinch the title if they finish first and second, and Freisinger finish sixth or lower, meaning that the team will be keen to claim their seventh win of the season and the Teams' title.
JMB RACING CHASING THE TITLE (2nd in N-GT, 73.5 points)
Ferrari 360 Modena driver Andrea Montermini was unhappy with his race at Donington, which saw him fail to finish a race for the first time this season. "We had a gearbox problem, with something that cost about 10 euros. But that's motorsport," he explained. Montermini previously raced at Estoril in 1995, when he was driving for the Pacific Ford team in Formula One. "I liked the track a lot before, but I think it will be even more fun since the track was altered, as the hard braking area should make for good overtaking." Andrea is very aware that the team still has a slender chance of winning the title. "We will be very concentrated and focussed on trying to get the best result possible," he concluded. Montermini will drive with Alexander in the nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, while Pescatori and Bertolini, who finished in third place at Donington, will be in the nr 50 car. "We are going to try to win the Championship, but it is going to be very difficult," Christian Pescatori agreed. "There are a lot of very fast cars, including the two British Ferrari 360 Modena cars and some rapid Porsches. For me, the important thing is to win, to race for the Teams' Championship. I'm not interested in the fight for second place in the Drivers Championship."
AUTORLANDO BACK IN THE POINTS (3rd in N-GT, 28 points)
After failing to finish at Spa and Pergusa, Italian team Autorlando was back in the points at Donington, with a fifth-position finish for Austrian drivers Philipp Peter and Toto Wolff in the nr 58 Porsche 996 GT3-R. "We were really unfortunate in Donington, as a puncture and a bad pit-stop meant we spent about two and a half minutes longer in the pits than everyone else," Wolff explained. "The time we lost meant that we could have finished in second place, which would have meant I was still in contention for fourth place in the N-GT Championship. By the end of the race, I was really struggling with my tyres, and I lost my fourth place to Johnny Mowlem in the JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R, which was a bit of a shame. But despite finishing fifth, I really enjoyed the weekend. It's a great track and the race was quite fun, as we were all fighting as if we were in a sprint race. After Pergusa, which was one of the most terrible weekends I've ever had in my racing career, it was great. I was amazed at how close we all were in qualifying - it was more like times for a single-seater series. I have really enjoyed the season, with four podiums so far and a win at Oschersleben. I think it's not too bad a result for my first season. Now I have to try and hold on to fifth place in the Championship at Estoril. I've never been to the track before, but I don't think it's that difficult to learn, so Philipp and I will be aiming for the podium !"
Autorlando will be entering a second car at Estoril for 19-year old Swiss driver Joel Camathias and triple Renault Sport Clio Trophy champion Luca Rangoni, who previously drove together at Jarama.
NORMAN SIMON RETURNS TO RWS MOTORSPORT (4th in N-GT, 22.5 points)
German driver Norman Simon will be returning to RWS Motorsport for the final round of the 2002 season. He previously raced with them in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa in 2001, winning the N-GT class with Luca Riccitelli, Dieter Quester and Antonio Garcia. A race winner in the 2001 FIA European Super Production Championship, Norman drove a BMW 320i in the British Touring Car Championship this year, claiming a number of Production class victories and finishing second overall. He is really looking forward to returning to the Porsche 996 GT3-R. "I had never driven the car before Spa last year, and only did five or six laps before the race started. I haven't been in a Porsche since, but two of my main skills are the fact that I can learn new tracks and new cars very quickly. Usually, after ten laps I am up to speed." Simon will be replacing Antonio Garcia, pole-sitter for the last two races and a three-time podium finisher this season. "It would have been great to drive with Antonio, but he has a clash with his World Nissan series commitments. I hope to be fast in Qualifying, and I will be aiming for a podium finish, which I think is quite realistic." Simon's team-mate is likely to be Paul Knapfield, who drove for Lister Storm Racing earlier this season, finishing second at Silverstone with Bobby Verdon-Roe.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Thirty-five cars are due to take part in for the final round of the 2002 FIA GT Championship. As well as Wieth Racing and Reiter Engineering making a welcome return, Zwaan's Racing will also be making a second appearance in the Championship after entering the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa in the National GT category. The team's Chrysler Viper GTS-R will be driven by brothers Arjan and Rob van der Zwann. In the N-GT category, Machanek Racing is entering a Porsche 996 GT3-R for Slovakian drivers Rudolf Machanek and Andrej Studenic, and Dan Michl from the Czech Republic. The car last entered the Brno round. Veloqx Motorsport will be back in action with their two Ferrari 360 Modena cars, which proved their speed at Donington, leading the class, but retiring with mechanical failures before the end of the three-hour race.