The FIA GT1 World Championship enters new frontiers with a visit to Moscow Raceway, Russia for the seventh round of the championship from 1-2 September.
Moscow Raceway, on the outskirts of the Russian capital, is the country’s first world-class motorsport facility. It was officially opened as recently as 15 July this year.
We are delighted to be finally bringing world-class GT racing to Russia.
The FIA GT1 World Championship will be the first FIA-sanctioned world championship to visit the circuit.
The circuit layout, the work of renowned Formula One designer Hermann Tilke, is 3.931km (2.443 miles) in length and provides several technical challenges for drivers.
"We are delighted to be finally bringing world-class GT racing to Russia after working hard to make it happen over the past few years,” Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, said.
“Russia is a very important market for GT manufacturers and there is huge development potential for GT racing in the country.
“There will be a strong presence of Russian teams and drivers on the start grid and we look forward to providing plenty of competitive racing for motorsports fans at the Moscow Raceway.”
Ekaterina Beltsevich, the head of Moscow Raceway circuit added: "We are very pleased to welcome the FIA GT1 World Championship to their premiere event in Russia.
“We opened Moscow Raceway only a couple of weeks ago and having a World Championship status event in the first season is a great honor for us.
“The spectacular GT cars promise exciting racing on the 4 km long Grand Prix track. The Russian motorsport fans and the organisers are really looking forward having this event.”
Moscow will also be the first GT event in 2012 where the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship will line up on the same grid.
The battle for the FIA GT1 World Championship is entering a crucial phase. The Vita4One Racing BMW pair of Michael Bartels (DEU) and Yelmer Buurman (NLD) recorded a double race win at Slovakia in round six to consolidate their lead of the drivers’ standings.
They have 121 points with the German ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes duo of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock second on 105 and Hexis McLaren’s Fred Makowiecki (FRA) and Stef Dusseldorp (NLD) third on 82.
In the teams’ classification, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport lead the way with 185 points from Vita4One Racing (166) and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (126).
Vita4One team boss Bartels believes there is all to play for in the remainder of the 2012 season in both drivers’ and teams’ titles.
“The championship is still wide open – there’s a long way to go, three race weekends to go, 99 points available so you have to be focused every weekend, keep on working on all the details,” he said.
Bartels, like the rest of the drivers, says he will be relying on modern technology to familiarize himself with Moscow Raceway.
“In the modern times of YouTube, computers, games and so on, everybody knows the circuit already. Personally I am not in those modern times so much but for sure Yelmer (Buurman) will give me some indication about the circuit,” he said.
“Everybody is looking forward to the race because we are going to one of the world’s greatest cities. It’s a new track, hopefully there will be a big crowd to see us. We are going there with a full grid because GT3 is joining us so it is going to be a bit more entertaining.
“It’s fantastic that in the end the SRO Motorsports Group realized this event.”
The circuit looks tight so I don’t know if it suits our car or not.
Basseng, his counterpart at ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, has also been doing his homework.
“I have been watching some coverage of the Formula Renault race from Moscow. The circuit looks tight so I don’t know if it suits our car or not. I guess we will find out,” Basseng said.
“It is good to visit Moscow because it underlines that the championship is exploring new markets. The travel will be an adventure for the trucks but we are prepared. Our aim is to score more points than BMW this weekend.”
Nicky Pastorelli (NLD), who pilots the No.37 Mercedes with Thomas Jager (DEU), is relishing the step into the unknown.
“I'm really looking forward to go and race in Russia. I think it's positive for the championship, and for all of us who will race there,” he said.
“Of course I don't know a lot about the track yet since I've never been there before. I've been watching some videos and I've talked to some people who have been there with other race series.
“It seems like a very clean and smooth track. But as always you only really know once you've done the first lap there yourself.
“We've lost some points because of bad luck in Slovakia so we need to make up for that to stay in the game for the team championship.”
Hexis Racing McLaren had a weekend to forget in Slovakia and came away with just two points for their efforts. The French outfit also dropped from third to fourth in the teams’ standings as a result.
Portugal’s Alvaro Parente, who co-drives with Frenchman Gregoire Demoustier in the No.2 McLaren, expects a return to form in Moscow.
“After all the problems at Slovakia it’s good to look at another race weekend with a new track and a new country. Though, we have to understand the problems that we suffered at the last event, because we struggled a lot.
"We expect to overcame those issues and be able to adapt well to the circuit so we can return to the good form that we showed in the previous events. One thing I can guarantee, we will give our best.”
At the Slovakia Ring, Laurens Vanthoor (BEL), together with Stephane Ortelli (MON), in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.32, were challenging for a podium in the Championship Race until a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement relegated them to fifth.
Vanthoor is relishing the trip to Moscow. “It's very exciting to be going to Russia, one of the highlights of the season. I've never been to Russia before so on a personal point that's special as well,” he said.
“Russia is a big and famous country and to go over and race there with GT1 is something we have to do. I'm proud as well to announce a special partner for the Russia race, Berghoff Worldwide, so it will be an important event for me with a to of guests.
“Until now I don't have a clue about the track to be honest. I'm going to start preparing by learning the track through onboard videos, simulator runs and trying to talk to somebody who has some experience there.”
The young Belgian hopes to carry over the form he and Ortelli displayed in Slovakia. “After Nogaro we had a difficult time in the championship but the last race in Slovakia Ring brought us new hope. Finishing on the podium in the Championship Race should be our goal. We will work hard for it and try to not make any errors and then our luck will come. A victory would be nice as well.”
Germany’s Frank Stippler, who took fourth in the Championship Race at Slovakia in the No.33 Audi with Oliver Jarvis (GBR), is focused on scoring more points.
“We need to have a weekend without any issues for the first time since Nogaro and score some points for the championship,” the German driver said. "The whole WRT team works so hard and they really deserve a top result.”
Russia will be well represented in the FIA GT3 European Championship entry list.
Besides the two Russian Bear Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italias of regulars Sergey Ryabov, Vyacheslav Maleev and Kirill Ladygin, the Esta Motorsports team will field two additional Ferraris with Aleksander Skryabin and Aleksey Basov among the ranks.
Skryabin, who will share driving honours with Italy’s Alessandro Pier Guidi in the No.177 Esta Motorsports Ferrari, is delighted to be racing on home soil – and will have an advantage over the first-timers.
“Moscow Raceway is the newest and best track in Russia. I raced there one month ago and won in the GT Open class of the Russian Championship with Aleksey Basov," he said.
“Actually we are a Russian team based in Italy. All the staff in the team are Russian people along with an Italian engineer and an American team director.
“For our team, the FIA GT3 European Championship is a new challenge and we are really looking forward to it.”
Team Novadriver Audi’s Cesar Campaniço, who together with Portuguese compatriot Ni Amorim, scored a brilliant second place in Race Two in the previous round of the FIA GT3 European Championship at the Algarve, is looking forward to being on the same grid as the GT1 field.
“This race weekend will be completely different as we will be racing along with the GT1 cars. There will be no changes in the regulations, so we will see what will happen in the races, but our goal remains the same – fighting for the podium among the GT3 cars.
“For that we will have to adapt to a new track and to different weather, which looks like it will be unstable during the event.
“It will be a pleasure to visit a new country as interesting as Russia, so we are looking forward to crown our debut there with a good result."
At the previous round in Portugal, the Heico Gravity-Charouz Team Mercedes team were dominant in Race One before David Mengesdorf (DEU) and Hari Proczyk (AUT) in the Rhino's Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini broke threw for a maiden victory in Race Two.
In the FIA GT3 European Championship battle, the Mercedes pair of Maximilian Buhk (DEU) and Dominik Baumann (AUT) lead the way on 129 points from AF Corse Ferrari's Gaetano Ardagna Perez (VEN) and Giuseppe Ciro (ITA) on 110, while Hari Proczyk and Mengesdorf move to third (109) just ahead of AF Corse Ferrari’s Michael Lyons (GBR) and Stefano Gai (ITA) on 108.
AF Corse (243) lead the teams’ standings over Heico Gravity-Charouz (231) with Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport third on 114.
Source: FIA World GT1