Magny Cours: Round one free practice report

The FIA GT Championship returns for the third time to the French circuit of Magny Cours, the host circuit of the French Grand Prix, situated 20km to the south of Nevers. WEATHER Friday dawned bright and sunny, though became more overcast as the...

The FIA GT Championship returns for the third time to the French circuit of Magny Cours, the host circuit of the French Grand Prix, situated 20km to the south of Nevers.

WEATHER
Friday dawned bright and sunny, though became more overcast as the day wore on.

LAST YEAR
Damp conditions in qualifying and a wet warm-up set the scene in 2001 though the race was dry...Jamie Campbell-Walter took the lead of the series when he and Tom Coronel won in the third round here in the Lister Storm from pole position...Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc were second in their Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R after suffering tyre problems...Ferrari scored its first ever international race victory with the 360 Modena, when Christian Pescatori and David Terrien beat the RWS Motorsport Porsche GT3RS of Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester...Formula 3000 stars Tomas Enge and Justin Wilson raced the Coca Cola-backed Porsche and finished third in the N-GT class.

HANDICAP WEIGHTS
This is the first round of the championship, meaning that all cars will start without handicap. Weights are applied for the next race for the GT class depending on the finishing order at Magny Cours, as follows: 1st, +40kg, 2nd, +30kg, 3rd, +20kg 4th, +0kg 5th, -20kg, 6th, -30kg, 7thetc -40kg.

In the N-GT class, the penalty weights will be as follows: 1st, +20kg, 2nd, +15kg, 3rd, +10kg, 4th, +0 kg, 5th, -10kg, 6th, -15kg, 7th etc, -20kg.

FIRST FREE PRACTICE: LISTER FASTEST
Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer set fastest time the morning free practice session in their Lister Storm, beating the Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen. The Briton set the time before pitting with a gear selection problem that kept the car in the pits for the remainder of the session. Campbell-Walter, the 2000 FIA GT champion, and Mike Hezemans in the Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper, were the only two cars to break into the 1minute 34 second bracket.

Hezemans, second, was struggling with understeer in his Chrysler Viper but is running this weekend with a low-downforce front splitter. The sister car of Luca Capellari and Fabrizio Gollin's had their high-downforce splitter fall off during the session.

Bobby Verdon-Roe was third fastest in the second Lister Storm shared with property developer Paul Knapfield. The Briton was 1.6 seconds slower than his team-mate Campbell-Walter, but does not have the benefit of the team's uprated engine.

David Terrien, last year's N-GT Champion with Christian Pescatori in the JMB Ferrari 360 Modena, was getting used to the nr 1 Larbre Competition - Chereau Chrysler Viper GTS-R that he shares with reigning GT champion Christophe Bouchut. "It is very good coming from a winning team and into a winning team with a winning car," said Terrien.

Marc Duez and Fabio Babini were fourth fastest in the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Babini setting the time despite also suffering from understeer. The Italian, who won his class at Le Mans and drove for the ART Engineering Porsche team last year, recommended that the team stiffen the rear suspension to compensate for the lack of front-end grip.

The BMS Scuderia Italia team, which won the FIA Sports Car Championship last season with the Ferrari 333 SP, finished 10th and 13th overall in the first session, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini delayed by a fuel pump problem that limited them to just 3 laps. Frederic Dor, Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner were the faster of the two cars, setting a time of 1m38.450s.

Ni Amorim and Stefan Ortelli set fastest time in the N-GT class behind the wheel of their nr 54 Freisinger Porsche, despite running with the old car. They were a full seven tenths of a second faster than the JMB Ferrari of Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini. Pescatori set the time before handing to Montermini, but the Italian spun during his first few laps of the French circuit, blaming gravel on the track.

Jurgen von Gartzen stopped early with a broken gearbox in his nr 60 Porsche GT3RS, but the JVG team was able to install a new transmission in time for the afternoon session.

FREE PRACTICE TWO : LISTER REMAINS FASTEST
Lister maintained its position at the head of the timesheets, Jamie Campbell-Walter setting a 1m34.081s lap in his nr 14 Lister Storm, identical to his morning time, to beat the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Mike Hezemans by nearly six tenths of a second.

Bobby Verdon-Roe was third fastest again in the second Lister Storm while Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien could not improve on fourth in the nr 1 Larbre Competition - Chereau Viper GTS-R, Bouchut setting a 1m35.817s. Vincent Vosse stopped early in the second Larbre Viper GTS-R with a power steering failure in the car engineered by Anders Olofsson, who is helping Carl Rosenblad.

Philippe Alliot and David Hallyday were the fastest Ferrari 550 Maranello, the nr 5 Force One car setting sixth fastest time behind the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Marc Duez and Fabio Babini. The team is using the car developed from the FIRST racing Ferrari 550 Maranello that raced in the hands of Jean-Denis Deletraz and Fabien Giroix during the 1999 season.

The BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Deletraz and Piccini lost the first ten minutes of the session as the team completed the repairs to the fuel pump, but the pair set a time of 1m36.903s, good enough for seventh overall.

Luca Capellari spun his nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R when his throttle jammed open. The Italian got out of the gravel and returned to the pits, but the passenger door fell off on the way, and he had to bring it back in the car.

Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini were the fastest in N-GT in their nr 50 JMB Ferrari 360 Modena, the pair setting a time of 1m41.179s to head three similar Ferraris.

Jurgen von Gartzen was fourth in his nr 60 Porsche 996 GT3-R, fitted with a new gearbox, while the System Force Motorsport Porsche of Dutchmen Peter van Merkstiejn and Phil Bastiaans was fifth. Bastiaans has previously competed in national series in his native Holland, including the Renault Cup and the Clio V6 trophy. This year he will combine a programme of FIA GT and European two-litre Clio racing.

The Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Marco Saviozzi, Thomas Leriche and Jean Luc Blanchemain repaired a clutch and replaced a gearbox between the two sessions, but the car turned three laps at the end of the session, setting a time of to 1m45.518.

FREE PRACTICE NOTES AND QUOTES

Christophe Bouchut nr 1 Larbre Competition -- Chereau, "We don't have the sequential gearbox and we have the old engine. We started our season late, but I hope that we can have the new engine and gearbox by Brno. I think that we could get into the 1m35s, but there is no chance to get into the 1m34s. I want to win this race, but I think that we have no chance in qualifying."

Mike Hezemans nr3 Team Carsport Holland, Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "We didn't get rid of the understeer, but we are close to the Lister team. We have an issue with the front splitter which we are trying to resolve."

Paul Belmondo nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing, Chrysler Viper GTS-R : "We are struggling with understeer here, and in the second session we had a problem with the gearbox, a vibration. We are hoping to fix it but if we can't then we will have to change it and take the old one back to the factory and sort it out there."

Fabio Babini nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing, Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "I love driving this car! It is not so much the power of the engine but the sequential gearbox is lovely! I just go past the Porsches and the Ferraris that I raced against last year. We have a lot of understeer so I have asked that they make the back stiffer. We have a huge rear wing at the back and nothing on the front so hopefully this will cure the problem."

Jamie Campbell-Walter nr 14 Lister Storm Racing, Lister Storm : "We have done thousands of kilometres of testing, I have the uprated engine and we ha ve tyres that are really suited to our car. I think that if the conditions are the same tomorrow and the weather is dry, it is possible to do a 1minute 33 second lap. Not a low 1m33, but a 33 nevertheless!"

The Freisinger Motorsport team is running last year's Porsche GT3-R after a delay transporting the cars back from the Sebring 12 hours last month. The ship that was carrying the two cars suffered engine trouble in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and arrived last night, three weeks late. The team was able to transfer one box of spares to Magny Cours, but not the cars though they will be available for the next round. Ni Amorim and Stephane Ortelli still set fastest time in the N-GT class during the first of the two practice sessions.

The nr 58 Autorlando Sport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Austrians Philipp Peter and Toto Wolff did not take part in the first practice session as the team had taken part in a late test and did not arrive at the Magny Cours circuit on time. They tried to get out for the second practice but were not allowed as the car had not yet been scutineered.

Toto Wolff nr 58 Autorlando Sport Porsche 996 GT3-R: "It is a very long story why we did not take part this morning, but basically we were at a late test. We have not been scrutineered so that is why we cannot run this afternoon. We will have to go straight to qualifying tomorrow."

Phil Bastiaans nr 63 System Force Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R : "Everything is new here, right down to the wheel nuts on the car. It is very good that we are here, but I think it will take until Silverstone to get everything ready and be able to make fewer mistakes."

-fia-gt-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Tomas Enge , Justin Wilson , Fabrizio Gollin , Christian Pescatori , Tom Coronel , Ni Amorim , Carl Rosenblad , Vincent Vosse , Stéphane Ortelli , Philippe Alliot , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Jean-Denis Deletraz , Andrea Montermini , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Luca Riccitelli , Christophe Bouchut , David Terrien , Dieter Quester , Paul Belmondo , Marco Saviozzi , Nicolaus Springer , Frederic Dor , Fabio Babini , Jean Luc Blanchemain , Enzo Calderari , Lilian Bryner , Bobby Verdon-Roe , Paul Knapfield , Marc Duez , Anders Olofsson , Fabien Giroix , Jurgen von Gartzen , Toto Wolff , Philipp Peter , David Hallyday , Phil Bastiaans
Teams Larbre Competition