For the second race of the 2003 season, the FIA GT Championship has returned to the French track of Magny-Cours, for the fourth year in succession. However, the circuit has undergone significant work over the winter, redesigning the final corner, and the cars and drivers from the FIA GT Championship will be among the first to race on the modified circuit this weekend. The track is now 4.411 km long, as opposed to the old length of 4.250 km. This circuit has traditionally been a Lister track, with the British team winning their class on all three occasions.
Although the skies around Magny-Cours, in central France, have remained overcast, the temperatures are high, with the possibility of rain tomorrow.
After winning in Barcelona, the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Biagi and Bobbi will carry 40 kg penalty weight while the team' s nr 22 car, driven by Gollin and Cappellari will carry 30 kg. The nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari, of Bryner, Calderari and Livio, has 20 kg. In N-GT, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena will have 20 kg, while the nr 88 and 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena cars will carry 15 and 10 kg respectively.
- French driver Jean-Marc Gounon has joined Konrad Motorsport, at the wheel of the nr 2 Saleen S7-R, with team-owner Franz Konrad and Toni Seiler. Gounon raced for BMS Scuderia Italia at the end of last season, claiming pole and second place at Donington.
- Marco Zadra is driving the nr 6 Creation Autosportif Lister Storm with Bobby Verdon-Roe. Zadra, the 2001 FIA Sportscar Champion with BMS Scuderia Italia, raced in a Cirtek Motorsport Porsche at Barcelona. He has joined Creation for the rest of the season.
- All four JMB Racing Ferrari cars are sporting a new red and yellow livery.
- With his arm out of plaster, Stephane Ortelli has been declared fit to drive, and will be behind the wheel of the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS with his team-mate Marc Lieb.
- Rustem Teregulov being ill with the 'flu, his place in the Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R has been taken by Frenchman Xavier Pompidou. Pompidou has taken part in the Championship on numerous occasions, most recently for Freisinger Motorsport in 2001.
- Additional entries for this race include the nr 64 AB Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, from Italy, which also took part in the Barcelona event, and which will be driven by Antonio de Castro, Renato Premoli and Bruno Barbaro. The nr 20 Monteiro Porsche 911 GT2 will be driven by Manuel and Michel Monteiro, from Portugal, and by French driver Christophe Vassort. The final new entrant is the nr 65 Desbrueres Porsche 996 GT3-RS, in the hands of Philippe Brocard, Daniel Desbrueres and Christopher Campbell. Brocard already entered a Porsche in the final round of the 2001 Championship.
First Free Practice Session:
Lister Racing and EMKA Racing lead the field The cars and drivers of the FIA GT Championship tried out the new Magny-Cours layout, with an altered final corner and approach to the pit-lane straight, for the first time during today's first free practice session. Lister continued to prove that Magny-Cours suits the Storm cars by setting the fastest time in the 90-minute session, with a lap of 1:37.781 for Jamie Campbell-Walter in the nr 14 car.
The second-fastest car was the Barcelona-winning nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello of Biagi and Bobbi, with the nr 7 Saleen S7-R of Erdos and Newton third. The nr 1 Larbre was the fastest of the Vipers, although the car lost time due to a problem with a fuel pipe.
The nr 12 Proton Porsche 911 GT2 hit the wall at the last corner, with Christian Ried at the wheel, damaging the rear of the car and the axle.
In N-GT, the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche of Tim Sugden and Martin Short dominated the session, setting a time of 1:42.833. "I am delighted," Sugden said, after the car suffered from chronic misfire problems throughout the Barcelona weekend. He was followed by the nr 88 Team Maranello Ferrari 360 Modena of Davies and Mullen, with the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Ortelli and Lieb third.
Second Free Practice Session:
Repeat performance from Lister and EMKA Racing The second session also saw the Lister Storm cars dominate the session. Although Jamie Campbell-Walter remained fastest, he was followed by the second Lister Racing car, with Andrea Piccini closing to within four tenths of Campbell-Walter.
"Andrea is going to be my biggest threat in Qualifying," Jamie said. "But at least it's all within the team !"
The nr 7 Saleen S7-R of Erdos and Newton remained third, improving on their morning time, while the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper set the fourth time, with a lap of 1:38.899. Having changed an engine, the nr 23 BMS Ferrari was fifth, with the nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Hezemans and Kumpen an excellent sixth, having been off the pace in Barcelona.
The Porsche cars led the second session times in the N-GT class. The nr 61 EMKA Racing car was still the fastest, with a best lap of 1:43.261. Ortelli and Lieb, in the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche, were only 7 thousandths of a second behind them, while the nr 99 RWS Yukos car of Daoudi and Lechner was an excellent third. The Czech MenX Ferrari 360 Modena of Enge and Pergl was the fastest of the Ferrari cars, with the former F3000 frontrunner looking forward to tomorrow's qualifying at a circuit he particularly enjoys.
Christophe Bouchut - nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R:
"The car seems quite competitive compared to our rivals, but we appear to have lost the reliability which was always our greatest asset. However, the problems we have had are neither insurmountable, nor difficult to solve. This race will be very important for us : we were heading for a good result in Barcelona, and we will prepare for this race in the same way, and hope to be fighting for the podium. I believe Lister are our main rivals this weekend."
Tomas Erdos - nr 7 Graham Nash Saleen S7-R:
"Things are going well, especially as this is the first visit to the circuit for both Mike Newton and myself, so we are still learning the circuit. I think the track is excellent, really first class - safe and good fun to drive. The car is going well too - it's all coming together."
Philipp Peter - nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello:
"The car is getting better; we had a lot of understeer, which we are working on, but at least it has been reliable so far, as has the nr 10 car. We still need time and testing. But by the middle of the season, we will be going for podiums, I hope."
Jamie Campbell-Walter - nr 14 Lister Storm:
"This is a good track for us, and a good track for Dunlop. I am very pleased ! The car is quick on new tyres, but they also hold up well considering the temperatures, and I was able to still do a good time after 40 laps. The car is going well. I'm sure the others will catch up, but I think the Ferraris will feel their penalty weight while braking for the chicanes. And our brakes are really good. I am quietly confident. Andrea's going well, and he is going to be one of my biggest threats for Qualifying - but at least it's still in the team ! And Nathan is on the pace. He's won a race here previously in the Ferrari Challenge, and he likes the car, so his time is not far off mine."
Enzo Calderari - nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello:
"We had a little problem with the dashboard, but everything is going quite well. They have changed the engine of the nr 23 BMS Ferrari between the two sessions, and it is going well."
Andrea Bertolini - nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena:
"Fabrizio De Simone drove during the second session and stopped on the circuit. I believe it is just a minor engine problem, and we should be OK for tomorrow. The morning went well, and we worked hard for the race. It is very important for me that we work in the same way as we did for Barcelona, as that worked very well for us."
Tomas Enge - nr 57 MenX Ferrari:
"I like the changes to the circuit, which I think have improved it. The last corner was not my favourite part as it was very slow. Now this is a new challenge, and I like it. The car is going better although we need to improve a lot of things. We are still very much at the beginning of the programme. We tested in Most last week, which went well. We are now working for qualifying and the race. This is one of my favourite circuits, and I have had some good results here, so I am looking forward to it !"
Tim Sugden - nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS:
"I am delighted with our fastest times today. At last we have got rid of the misfire, and now it's easy ! I was quick right away this morning - I think my very first timed lap would have placed us sixth ! And Martin is doing similar times to mine. I am really pleased, especially after all our problems in Barcelona, when we were unbelievably unlucky - it was nobody's fault, it just happened like that. But I am very pleased for the whole team."
Nicolaj Fomenko - nr 77 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS:
"We had problems with our new sequential gearbox, so we have put the old gearbox back in. However, I think that when it is working it will be absolutely perfect and we will be really competitive. We hope to test before or after Pergusa."
Jamie Davies - nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena:
"We 'll find out more on Sunday. We're still learning the circuit, but I think we can go faster. We mainly worked on the race set-up, but I'm pretty happy."
Stephane Daoudi - nr 99 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS:
"That wasn't bad at all ! I hope it carries on like that ! We had no real problems, and found a good set-up. It's the first time we've driven into the pits and were able to say - OK, that's fine - we don't need to change anything. I really like the changes to the circuit. I was a bit dubious to start with, as I like chicanes, but the new variations are really fun to drive. It's better than before - and we should be able to overtake as well."