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ETCC: Brno preview

For the second Eurosport Super Racing Weekend, the FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships are visiting the Masaryk circuit in Brno, uzech Republic. There has been motor racing at the Masaryk circuit in Brno since 1930, when the first...

For the second Eurosport Super Racing Weekend, the FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships are visiting the Masaryk circuit in Brno, uzech Republic.

There has been motor racing at the Masaryk circuit in Brno since 1930, when the first race took place on a 30-km track, made up of ordinary roads. The track was shortened over the years, and a new permanent circuit was opened in 1987. It is situated 16 km from Brno, which is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, with a population of 400,000. "The track is 5.4 km long, very wide, with a good variety of fast and slow corners, and uphill and downhill sections," Czech GT driver Josef Venc explained. "It's a bit like the Nurburgring, in the forest."

The circuit has good memories for some of the drivers. "I won a Formula Three race there in 1988," Freisinger Motorsport's GT driver Wolfgang Kaufmann remembers. "I beat Joachim Winkelhock and Frank Biela. That was over Easter too -- perhaps it's a good sign."

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP

Lister Storm Racing (1st -- 10 points) : Coronel replaced by Dean
As Monza round winner Tom Coronel has Touring car commitments in the Netherlands, he will be replaced in the n 1 Lister Storm at Brno by British driver Richard Dean. Dean last raced in the FIA GT Championship in 1997, for Chamberlain Motorsport. He was also a race-winner last season for Lister in the British GT Championship.

The team have discovered the source of the Lister Storms' Monza misfires: "The problem was fuel contamination : everything has been cleaned out, and should now be fine," press officer Fiona Pearce explained.

Paul Belmondo Racing (2nd -- 7 points) : Kumpen looking forward to new track
Paul Belmondo Racing driver, Anthony Kumpen, enjoyed his Monza weekend, despite his race finishing prematurely when the n10 Chrysler Viper he shares with Claude-Yves Gosselin suffered battery failure. "It was good," the young Belgian driver said. "If I could have got past Boris Derichebourg on the first lap, I could have stayed up with Christophe Bouchut in the Larbre Viper. But I lost too much time. Still, it was an encouraging start - the car and team did a good job, and I have good cooperation with my engineer, who understands what I need." This is Kumpen's first year in full-time international racing. "I could only race in Belgium last year, as I was finishing my studies," he explained. As for Brno, he has never been there before. "It sounds like a fast track, which I prefer to technical ones. We have plenty of time in the free practice sessions to get to know the layout. I think we'll be good. We should have the Dunlop development tyres, which we tested in Almeria (Spain), and which weren't ready for Monza."

Despite some nerves, Kumpen enjoyed his first experience of the Superpole single-lap qualifying. "I've really no qualifying experience, as with 62 cars on the track in Belcar (Belgian GT and Touring Car Championship) you just try to get a decent lap. I was a lot too nervous at the start, and braked too early for the first corner. You really have to be very focused and precise, really going to the limits of the car. But it's interesting for a driver : it's just you and the car, and no excuses."

For the Brno race, team co-owner and driver Claude Yves Gosselin will be replaced by French driver Emmanuel Clerico, a race-winner for the team in 1999. Clerico will also drive at Silverstone, this time replacing Paul Belmondo, who has family commitments.

Larbre Competition-Chereau (3rd -- 6 points) : optimistic
Bouchut and Belloc finished in second place in Monza, in their first race in the team's new Chrysler Viper GTS-R. "I think the Lister is going to be really strong in Brno, but we might be able to close on them," Bouchut said. "We don't yet have enough technical information on our new car to beat them, but if we really push, we shouldn't be as far behind as in Monza. The weight handicap is not enough to be a problem yet." Bouchut also remembers Lister's replacement driver. "I drove against Richard Dean in Formula Ford, back in1988 -- he was really fast !"

Team Rafanelli (4th -- 2 points) ready for Brno
Finishing in fifth place in the first race of the season, the n6 Rafanelli Ferrari 550 Maranello, driven by Marc Duez and Gunther Blieninger, scored the first ever points by a Ferrari in the FIA GT Championship. Team owner Gabriele Rafanelli was pleased with the result. "Both cars should have finished the race -- we didn't have any doubts about the reliability," he explained. "But the n5 had a problem with the undertray after going over the kerbs while overtaking a Viper. It was touching the ground, and we lost time in the pits while attempting to mend it. The car rejoined the race at the back of the grid, and rose back to tenth place before the bottom fell out again and the car ended in the gravel. But the cars proved fast and competitive, and I am very pleased with them." The team will be back for Brno, with the cars totally revised and ready to go. "We will be testing again after Brno, a circuit that I am sure will suit us," he concluded.

GLPK Racing : disappointing start
Belgian team GLPK Racing had an early exit from Monza, after Hungarian driver Tamas Illes hit the barriers during the second free practice session. Although it initially seemed as if not much damage had been done to the Chrysler Viper, it later appeared that the chassis had been affected, and the team withdrew. "The car is currently being stripped down, and although it will be a race against time, it will be ready for Brno," a team spokesman said. "We will also have a second engine for the car, and we're looking forward to the next race."

Prodrive Ferrari with Menu and Kox
British team Prodrive announced last week that its leading driver in the FIA GT Championship will be 2000 British Touring Car Champion Alain Menu, from Switzerland. The team is due to enter a Ferrari 550 Maranello from the Silverstone round onwards, with a second car entering from the Budapest round. As Menu has commitments in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM), Peter Kox will be replacing him for three rounds (Zolder, A1 Ring, Nurburgring). Dutch touring-car specialist Kox drove in the FIA GT Championship for BMW in 1997, and competed in the final round last season for Carsport Holland. "I'm really looking forward to it," Peter said. "If Prodrive do anything, they do it well, and if what I saw at the factory is anything to go by, it'll be excellent. And it's a car that really catches people's imaginations. I'm proud they asked me, and want to do a good job. Obviously I have commitments to the Super Production Championship, but I don't think it'll be a problem to race in both series at the same weekend. The only problem will be adapting to two very different cars."

Orlando (1st N-GT -- 10 points) : Cecotto to share Porsche 996 GT3-R with Montermini
As Monza race-winner Philipp Peter will miss Brno due to previous commitments in the Porsche Supercup, he will be replaced by former Formula One and CART driver Andrea Montermini. "It's going to be a totally new experience for me," Montermini explained. "I've never driven a Porsche 996 GT3-R before, and I've never raced at Brno. But it's very exciting, especially driving alongside a well-known driver like Johnny Cecotto."

RWS Motorsport (2nd N-GT -- 6 points) : confident
The team's Porsche 911 GT3-R drivers, Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester, are looking forward to Brno. "It's one of my favourite tracks of the season, and I'm sure we can have a good race," Riccitelli said. "We were surprised in Monza, as we were always one of the fastest cars on the track, yet at the start of the final stint we were fifth. We couldn't understand it. But we discovered we lost all our time in the pits -- changing too many tyres, and putting in too much fuel. We know why we lost the race, and it won't happen again."

JMB Competition : aiming for victory
Only one JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena will race at Brno, with David Terrien and Christian Pescatori at the wheel. The second car, damaged in a crash at Monza, is being repaired, and will not be ready in time.

The Ferrari 360 Modenas showed their potential at Monza, with the n62 car, driven by Terrien and Pescatori, running as high as 3rd in class before stopping with a brake problem. "I can't wait to get to Brno," David Terrien said. "We saw the excellent potential of the car at Monza, and now I really believe we can aim for victory. We're still limited by the engine, but if we managed to be third and climbing at Monza, the least favourable track for our car, the rest of the season looks very promising. And I love Brno -- Christian and I won there last year in the Sports Racing World Cup, one of my best-ever racing memories. All the team is extremely motivated and working hard, because now we know we can win."

Home round for Coca Cola Racing Team
The first team from the Czech Republic to take part in the FIA GT Championship, the Coca Cola Racing Team, is looking forward to its home race. "It's on Easter Monday, so there should be a good crowd to watch. And as it is our home race, we won't have the logistics problems we have for the other races," team manager Igor Salaquarda explained. The long-established team has been competing in touring cars for many years, winning the Central European Touring Car Championship twice, but this is their first season in GT racing. "GT racing is adapted to private teams, who can get good results with a reasonable budget", Salaquarda continued.

The drivers, however, are having more problems adapting to the more powerful Porsche 996 GT3-R cars after their previous Audi A4 quattros. "There is more power and less grip in the Porsche," Milan Maderyc explained.

FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP

Larini confident of retaining STC lead at Brno
Nordauto Alfa Romeo leading driver Nicola Larini, who took the lead of the FIA European Super Touring Championship at Monza, is confident for the second meeting of the season. "I'm optimistic, because I think that the gap between Tarquini's Honda Accord and our Alfa Romeo 156 will be greatly reduced," the Italian said. "Monza was the perfect track for the Japanese car, with its very powerful engine. At Brno it will help Tarquini accelerating out of some uphill bends, but in general Honda and Alfa should be equal in performance, particularly as the Alfa Romeo engine specialists have collected a lot of interesting data and now they are working to find more power". In Monza, former Ferrari Formula One driver Larini had his best racing weekend for a long time, with one win and a second place. "I saw the great driver I knew before," Tarquini commented. "The one who was fast, clever and capable of demolishing both his team-mates and rivals." Over the past three seasons, Larini had been outpaced by Fabrizio Giovanardi and had settled into the role of second driver. "I had a hard time learning the front wheel drive and how to bring it to the limit." Larini admitted. "And I had to do it alongside Giovanardi, who is the master of this kind of car. I had to change my driving style and my set-up choices, in order to reduce my Achilles heel: wearing the front tyres out. Finally I feel that my apprenticeship is over and that this year I can really fight for the title".

Sardelli and Simon lead Michelin Trophies
Italian driver Sandro Sardelli and German Norman Simon are leading respectively the Amateurs Trophy and the Under 25 Trophy, supported by Michelin, sole tyre supplier of the FIA European Touring Car Championship.

At Monza, Sardelli, driving a PRO Motorsport Nissan Primera, collected maximum of points in the Amateurs Trophy, reserved for independent drivers taking part in the FIA European Super Touring Championship. He finished fourth and sixth overall and won his class in both Monza races. Scoring 80 points, he now leads the classification of the Trophy ahead of Angelo Lancellotti (Conrero Alfa Romeo 156) with 65 points and Massimo Pigoli (AGS Motorsport Audi A4 Quattro) with 64 points.

Norman Simon, driving a Ravaglia Motorsport BMW 320i, was the best of the young drivers competing for the Under 25 Trophy within the FIA European Super Production Championship. Despite a spin in the early stages of the Monza race, Simon finished fourth overall, collecting 20 points in the trophy's classification. Edenbridge Racing's two young British drivers, Tom Ferrier and James Hanson (both driving BMW 320is), finished second and third in the Under 25 race at Monza. They respectively collected 15 and 12 points. The fourth young driver, Italian Tobia Masini, failed to finish, due to a broken clutch on his Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156.

Lithuanian Champion in the Super Production Championship at Brno
Lithuanian driver Egidijus Dapšas will be driving a Honda Integra Type R in the second round of the FIA Super Production Championship, which will take place at Brno on Easter Monday.

Dapšas, who was born in Kaunas, the capital city of Lithuania, is 39 years old, and is one of the leading Touring Car drivers from the Baltic Republics, having won the Estonian Championship in 1999 and the Lituanian Championship in 2000. He started his motorsport career in rallying, before switching to circuit racing in 1997. He finished 5th in the Skoda Cup in 1988, with one race win, before moving to touring cars.

Mikko Lempinen enters the Super Touring Championship
Finnish driver Mikko Lempinen will drive a Lehtonen Motorsport Audi A4 Quattro in the Brno event and in all subsequent rounds of the FIA European Super Touring Championship. Lempinen was expected to make his debut at Monza, but was forced to miss the opening round due to technical problems with his car. The 34 year-old Finn from Turku switched from single seaters to Touring Cars in 1999. Previously he raced in Karting, winning the 1999 Formula Nordic crown, and Formula Ford. Over the past two seasons he has driven his Audi in the Finnish Super Saloon Championship, claiming the 1999 title with seven race wins.

Alfa 147 for Fulvio Cavicchi in the SPC
Fulvio Cavicchi, the reigning FIA Central European F3 Champion, will make his Touring Car debut in Brno. The young Italian will drive a Conrero Alfa Romeo 147 for the remaining rounds of the FIA European Super Production Championship.

Cavicchi is 21 years old and will therefore be eligible for the Michelin Under 25 Trophy. He was initially expected to compete with LO Racing, but after the Belgian team abandoned plans to run two Alfa Romeo 156s in the Super Production Championship, Cavicchi found another opportunity with Conrero. The Turin-based team will be adding a second Alfa 147 to the one driven at Monza by Ettore Bonaldi. This makes a grand total of four Conrero Alfa Romeos in the FIA European Touring Car Championship, as the team also runs two 156s in the Super Touring Championship for Angelo Lancellotti and Enrico Toccacelo.

Circuit Length : 5403m/3.357 miles

-FIA-

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