The Italian track of Monza will host the official test sessions and presentation of the 2001 FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships on March 7th and 8th. Track time will be shared between the GT and the Touring cars.
FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
Rafanelli testing at Vallelunga
A new entrant in the FIA GT Championship for 2001, Team Rafanelli is currently testing its Ferrari 550 Maranello at the Italian track of Vallelunga. "We have four drivers here today," Gabriele Rafanelli said on Tuesday. "Emanuele Naspetti, Geunther Blieninger, Marc Duez and Mimmo Schiatarella. Three of these may be with us for the season, but Mimmo is just testing." Italian Naspetti drove for March in Formula One in 1992, and has since concentrated on touring cars. Belgium's Marc Duez has been an occasional competitor in the FIA GT Championship over the past years, driving mainly for Chrysler Viper Team Oreca, and finished twice on the podium in 2000 for Paul Belmondo Racing. G=FCnther Blieninger , from Germany, finishing third with RWS/Red Bull Racing in his only appearance in the 2000 championship. He was also behind Pole Team, competing in sportscar races with a Riley and Scott.
Another driver currently in discussion with the team is Frenchman Jean-Marc Gounon, former BMW and Mercedes factory driver. "We are currently preparing the car to start testing tomorrow, and then we have three days to define the parameters before building the second car in time for the Valencia test," said Rafanelli.
Full season for Automotive Racing Team
French Automotive Racing Team have made occasional appearances in the FIA GT Championship, but for 2001, Jean-Pierre Jarier and Fran=E7ois Lafon are planning to enter the whole season with their Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The car, which finished in second place in last season's French GT Championship, has undergone a lot of work over the winter months. "It's lighter, with a new sequential gear box, and complies with FIA rules concerning the restrictors," Jarier explained. "The other significant change is that we will now be using Michelin tyres." When a third driver is needed, Jarier's neighbour and former F1 colleague, Indycar champion Danny Sullivan, will be driving the car. The car will make its testing debut at the official Monza tests on March 7th and 8th.
"We know that it's going to be a hard season, because there is a lot of competition," Jarier concluded.
Porsche 996 bi-turbo for AAP
Dutch team AAP is facing a race against time to get their Porsche 996 bi-turbo ready for the Monza presentation. "We are building everything in house - gearbox, engine, everything," renowned car tuner Aart Andriessen said. "We wanted to race a Porsche in the GT category, and there is nothing suitable available, so we bought a new body from Porsche, and have made all the modifications ourselves, with some help from the factory, to comply with the FIA specifications. We know it would be much easier to just buy a Viper, but we want a Porsche !" The drivers will be Remco Pappenburg, who is a director of a tool import company, and KLM pilot Nico Verdoes. Both drivers have driven for the team before, in Dutch national endurance races. "Remco might not be famous, but he is a very fast driver, and is excellent at setting the car up," Andriessen explained.
News in Brief
* Italian driver Batti Pregliasco will be sharing the second JMB Ferrari Modena 360 with Marco Lambertini and Andrea Garbagnati. He will also be involved with testing the car.=20
* Belgian team GLPK, who competed in the FIA GT Championship in 1999, will make their return this season with a Chrysler Viper GTS-R. One driver has already been announced, namely Belgian Wim Daems. The team is currently in discussions with other drivers, and hopes to announce its second driver soon.
* Racing Box, regular contestants in the 2000 FIA GT Championship, will be back in 2001. "We will run our Chrysler Viper GTS-R for Luca Cappellari and Gabriele Matteuzzi," team manager Mauro Felisatti said. =20
FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
British single seater specialist switches to Super Production
In 2001, Edenbridge Racing, previously competing in the British F3 and the FIA F3000 Championships, will contest its first Touring Car season. The Kent-based team will run two BMW 320i E46s in the FIA European Super Production Championship.
The cars are the former works cars run by the Team Rafanelli in the 2000 Spa 24 Hours. The original plan was to race them in the British Touring Car Championship. "We have secured extra support which has allowed us to join the European championship, which will benefit from live television coverage", team principal Peter Briggs explained.
Briggs has signed one driver, the 23-year-old James Hanson, from Ilkley, Yorkshire. The young Englishman will be a contender in the "Under 25" category in the Super Production Championship. In previous seasons, Hanson has proved to be a race winner and regular podium finisher in the British Formula Vauxhall Championship (one win in 1999), the US Formula Ford 2000 Pro Series (4th in the 2000 championship with one win) and the Formula Asia Championship (4th in the 2000 Macau round).
Belgian Lo Racing in Super Production
Two Alfa Romeos entered by LO Racing will take part in the FIA European Super Production Championship. The team, managed by Olivier Laine, has had good results in Super Production races. Last year, the team dominated the Belgian Procar Championship with its Fiat Auto Belgium-backed Alfa 156s. It secured both the drivers title with Sebastien Ugeux (with nine wins out of twenty) and the manufacturers trophy for Alfa Romeo.
Double Belgian Touring Car champion Ugeux, who claimed his first title in 1998 with Peugeot, is expected to lead the team again in its European campaign.
His co-driver will be young Italian Fulvio Cavicchi, who won the 2000 FIA F3 Central European Championship and the Austrian F3 Championship. LO Racing will start the season with two Alfa 156s and will switch to the brand new Alfa 147 at mid season.
Elgh Motorsport with two Nissan Primeras
The Swedish team will enter two Nissan Primeras in the FIA European Touring Car Championship.
With the support of Nissan Motorsport Europe, Elgh Motorsport has raced in the Swedish Touring Car Championship over the last few seasons. The team's main driver, Norwegian Tommy Rustad, 3rd in 1999 Swedish Touring Car Championship and 2000 Champion, will most probably drive with the team in the European Championship. The team is also currently in discussions with Carl Rosenblad and Emanuele Naspetti.