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Monza: Friday practice report

FIA GT Championship - Round 10, Monza - Free Practice The final round of the 2003 season sees the FIA GT Championship make a much-awaited return to the extremely fast Monza circuit. The circuit, 5.793 km long, has undergone a number of...

FIA GT Championship - Round 10, Monza - Free Practice

The final round of the 2003 season sees the FIA GT Championship make a much-awaited return to the extremely fast Monza circuit. The circuit, 5.793 km long, has undergone a number of changes since the first round of the 2001 season was held here. Although the GT Team and Drivers' titles have already been claimed by BMS Scuderia Italia and the drivers of the nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello, Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi, this round will be decisive for the N-GT titles. The Drivers' crown could go either to Stephane Ortelli, Marc Lieb, Jamie Davies or Fabrizio De Simone, whereas the Teams' title will be between Freisinger Motorsport and Team Maranello Concessionaires. This round, with a bumper grid of 40 cars, also sees the debut of the new Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT, entered by Reiter Engineering and driven by Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen.

Weather
Although there is some sunshine, the weather is feeling decidedly autumnal, with temperatures relatively low.

Last time --
The last the FIA GT Championship raced here, the race was won by Jamie Campbell-Walter and Tom Coronel in the Lister Storm; Philipp Peter and Johnny Cecotto were victorious in N-GT with an Autorlando Porsche 996 GT3-RS. In 2000, the Monza round was won by Mike Hezemans and David Hart in their Chrysler Viper GTS-R, while Nigel Smith and Michael Neugarten won in N-GT, in a G-Force Porsche, ahead of the EMKA Racing car of Tim Sugden and Steve O'Rourke.

Paddock News
- 40 cars are due to take part in this 10th round of the FIA GT Championship, 19 in the GT category and 21 in the N-GT category. Special permission for this increase was given by the GT Commission, as the maximum number allowed in the Sporting Regulations is 38 per event, excluding the 24-hour race.

- The fuel tests carried out on cars 6, 21, 50 and 88 after the Oschersleben event found that all samples complied with the regulations.

- Reiter Engineering is making its return to the Championship, after an absence of nearly two years. The German team, led by Hans Reiter, last took part in the final round of the 2001 season, finishing 5th with Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin. The team now enters the Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT for the first time, experienced Sportscar drivers Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen at the wheel.

- Italian team Megadrive (formerly known as Racing Box) has entered a Chrysler Viper GTS-R in this round, to be driven by Gabriele Matteuzzi, Piergiuseppe Perazzini and Stefano Zonca. The team has been competing in the Italian GT Championship, where Perazzini won the title, and Zonca finished as runner-up.

- Alda Motorsport, from Poland, is back, having been absent since Donington, but this time the team has its Porsche 911 GT2 in action, driven by Polish driver Max Stanco, and Italians Mauro Casadei and Moreno Soli.

- AB Motorsport has entered a Porsche 996 GT3-RS for Gabriele Sabatini and Marco Spinelli

- Andrea Montermini, a frontrunner last year with JMB Racing, makes his return with Italian team Mastercar, driving a Ferrari 360 Modena alongside Franco Bertoli and Gianni Santini.

- Team Eurotech will see British driver Rob Barff replace Mark Sumpter in the nr 74 Porsche 996 GT3-RS

- Former French F3 Champion Jonathan Cochet makes his FIA GT debut alongside Fabio Venier in the Yellow Racing Ferrari 360 Modena

- Michel Neugarten, a race-winner here in 2000, will be sharing the nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS with Ian Khan and Mark Mayall, while team owner Jurgen von Gartzen shares the nr 86 car with father and son Horst Felbermayr and Horst Felbermayr Jr.

- MAC Racing returns to the FIA GT Championship with a Porsche 996 GT3-RS for Marco Saviozzi, Pierre Bes and Olivier Dupard.

First Free Practice Session : Gollin goes fastest in GT; Bertolini leads in N-GT

The first 90-minute free practice session round the extremely fast Monza circuit saw five different cars in the top five positions, illustrating the close and varied grid in the class. The best time was set by the nr 22 BMS Scuderia, with a lap of 1:44.730, the only car to go under the 1:45 barrier. The car, driven by Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari, was already the fastest at the start of the session, and although the times dropped gradually through the session, with both the nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R and the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper setting good times, the nr 22 remained fastest at the end. Gollin was followed by the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper of Hezemans, Kumpen and Alliot, which set the pole position in the previous round in Monza. The nr 2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen was third, with the nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello fourth, and the nr 14 Lister fifth - 5 different cars in the top 5. In N-GT, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Bertolini and De Simone set the fastest time in the N-GT category in today's first free practice session. The lap of 1:50.779 was two tenths faster than the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Ortelli and Lieb, with the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Sugden and Collard.

The brand-new nr 36 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT set the 18th time overall, with a lap of 1:51.030, 6.3 seconds behind the fastest car. There were problems for the nr 19 Creation Lister, which stopped with a broken engine. Second free practice session : Force One Racing leads the GT table, EMKA Racing fastest in N-GT

After setting the second time in the morning session, Anthony Kumpen, in the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R, set the best time in the afternoon, with a lap of 1:44.868, a tenth of a second slower than the best time set by Fabrizio Gollin in the morning. Second fastest was the nr 2 Konrad Motorsport S7-R, which improved towards the end of the session, displacing the nr 21 Care Racing and the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars. The nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R was fifth, followed by the nr 15 and 14 Lister Storms.

In N-GT, Tim Sugden set the best time in the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche, with a lap of 1:50.715. Second fastest was the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, with the nr 52 JMB Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS third. The nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche of Khan, Mayall and Neugarten finished an excellent fourth.

Franz Konrad -- nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R : "We are still struggling with the set-up, but we are working on it and I am sure we will get there."

Anthony Kumpen -- nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R : "In the first session, the team had completely changed the brake fluid system after the problems in the last race. The team then made some changes, and it went well, and I set the second time, but then the spark plug cable came loose. In the second session we worked up on the set-up, and I went out on old tyres. Then I put on a second set, and set the fastest time. There were still 40 minutes in the session, but I got a stone through the radiator, so I only got one lap on the new tyres, but I set the fastest lap anyway. It's been a nice day !"

Marco Zadra -- nr 6 Creation Autosportif Lister Storm : "The car is well balanced, the best since the beginning of the year. It was fun to drive. It is not that fast, due to the top speed, as we are around 10 km/h down on the leaders. The car is very good and stable, even on old tyres. We do not expect a good time in qualifying, but a better place in the race. Monza is my home track, but I have not been so lucky here, and over three years, did not finish a race, with lots of broken engines, as the track is very hard on the engines -- and I think others might have that problem this weekend."

Boris Derichebourg -- nr 10 JMB Racing Ferrari 575M Maranello : "We're doing fine. The whole team is very motivated, as this is the final race of the season. In the first session, we were missing a bit of top speed. We need more time behind the wheel, more time, but it is still going better and better. But the car is reliable !"

Fabrizio Gollin -- nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello : "The set-up of the car is OK, and we have no problems -- this is the second race in a row when the set-up has been good from the start. I am very happy, but qualifying is always difficult -- the cars are very close. I know this track very well, and I have raced here a lot, but I think that all the others should be up to speed now as well. The last win I had in Italy was at this circuit in 1993, ten years ago !"

Matteo Bobbi -- nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello : "We lost much of the morning session after a failure. In the afternoon, the car was quite good, but I did not do much running, as Thomas will start the race this weekend. I think we have a good chance. We are very relaxed, but I hope to do a good race as we are in front of friends and family. Neither Thomas nor I have ever won in Monza, although we have been on the podium -- it would be very special to finish with a win."

Manfred Fitzgerald -- Marketing Manager, Automobili Lamborghini : "The idea behind this programme goes back to a year ago, due to customer demand for a car based on the Murcielago which could compete in the FIA GT Championship. The company gave thought to this matter, and got the approval to go ahead in late July. We will be racing for the first time seven weeks after starting the development time. This race is part of our development process, and although we don't expect much in terms of results, it is important to see whether the development is in the right direction. We have already identified some problem areas such as the top speed. But the car is reliable and everything is going to plan."

Rinaldo Capello -- nr 36 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago : "The car is very new; we only started testing two weeks ago in Vallelunga, when we had some big problems. We finally managed to run nearly 500 km at Zeltweg. The top speed is our main problem, but Monza is a good opportunity to test and develop the car for next year."

Tom Kristensen - nr 36 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago : "Dindo has done the whole testing programme, so he will do qualifying. But it will be difficult to aim for pole -- maybe if it's raining. I drove the car for the first time today, and we need more top speed and acceleration. Apart from that, the car is good round the corners. But this is a good opportunity to compare ourselves to the rest of the competition, as it is difficult when running alone. It is certain that the FIA GT is very competitive and strong. We need to work on the car and see for next year."

Stephane Ortelli -- nr 50 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We are very concentrated on what we have to do. We need a good race car and to be able to score the points we need. We are very pleased with the car and the speed after the first two sessions. Everything is getting harder for us, but we are trying to recover better. The team is working very well."

Gabriele Gardel -- nr 51 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche : "We were first for 35 minutes in the session, which was great. The car was very good, but then we had a tyre blow up, so we had to use another set of tyres. I set the same time in the afternoon with old tyres, so it's looking good for qualifying. It's my home race, and I want to help the team to win the Championship."

Tim Sugden -- nr 61EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It is really competitive this weekend, and I am really pleased with the way it is going. JMB Racing and Freisinger are very close and it will be very close at the top. I think it will be a very interesting race on Sunday. I set the best lap on tyres that had done 42 laps, and I am very pleased. Qualifying is going to be close -- I am sure that it will be between me, Stephane Ortelli and Andrea Bertolini for the pole."

Godfrey Jones -- nr 75 Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It's nice to be racing at a circuit like this, with lovely flowing corners. We've made a few changes to the car, and I feel we made a good start. It is quite easy to get the car 80% right, it's the other 20% which take the time to find. But once again it's a new circuit for us -- like all of them except for Donington."

Mark Mayall -- nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It's going better this weekend -- although unfortunately it was not me who set the team's fastest time. In the morning, I was close to Michel Neugarten, but he had the new tyres in the afternoon. Still, I am only one second off his times. The car is going well as last, just in time for the end of the season. But it would be nice to end on a good point."

THE N-GT CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE

Heading into the final race of the season in Monza, the fight for the N-GT title is still wide open. Four drivers - Stephane Ortelli, Marc Lieb, Jamie Davies and Fabrizio De Simone - all still have a mathematical chance of winning the Drivers' title, while Freisinger Motorsport and Team Maranello Concessionaires can both claim the Teams' Championship.

A quick look at the contenders :

Stephane Ortelli - Monaco - 30 years old - currently joint 1st, N-GT
Drives for Freisinger Motorsport - nr 50 Porsche 996 GT3-RS
Career Highlights :
1998 : wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans (Porsche 911 GT1)
2002 : FIA N-GT Drivers Champion (Freisinger Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3-RS)
2003 : overall winner, Proximus 24 Hours of Spa (Freisinger Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3-RS)
To win the 2003 FIA N-GT Drivers Championship : Needs to finish in the points, or to finish outside the points but for neither Jamie Davies nor Fabrizio De Simone to win.

Marc Lieb - Germany - 23 years old - currently joint 1st, N-GT
Drives for Freisinger Motorsport - nr 50 Porsche 996 GT3-RS
Points : 65 - 3 wins (Brno, Donington, Spa)
Career Highlights :
2002 : Winner, Porsche Carrera Cup. Wins 2 rounds of the FIA N-GT Championship (Freisinger Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3-RS)
2003 : overall winner, Proximus 24 Hours of Spa (Freisinger Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3-RS)
To win the 2003 FIA N-GT Drivers Championship : Needs to finish in the points or to finish outside the points but for neither Jamie Davies nor Fabrizio De Simone to win.

Jamie Davies - Great Britain - 29 years old - currently 3rd, N-GT, 9.5 points behind Drives for Team Maranello Concessionaires - nr 88 Ferrari 360 Modena
Points : 55.5 - 1 win (Magny-Cours)
Career Highlights :
2002 : British GTO Champion
1997 - 2000 : Formula 3000 Championship
To win the 2003 FIA N-GT Drivers Championship : Needs to win the race, and for Freisinger to finish outside the points. He would then win by 0.5 a point

Fabrizio De Simone - Italy - 30 years old - currently 4th, N-GT
Drives for JMB Racing - nr 52 Ferrari 360 Modena
Points : 55 - 3 wins (Barcelona, Oschersleben, Estoril)
Career Highlights :
2002 : FIA ETCC with BMW Team Spai2
1997 - 1999 : Italian Super Touring Championship (BMW)
1996 : Formula One Test Driver, Jordan
To win the 2003 FIA N-GT Drivers Championship : Needs to win the race, and for Ortelli/Lieb to finish outside the points. He would then tie on points, but claim the title on the number of wins

N-GT Teams Championship

Freisinger Motorsport - Germany - currently 1st, N-GT - 84 points
Cars :
nr 50 Porsche 996 GT3-RS (Ortelli/Lieb)
Nr 51 Porsche 996 GT3-RS (Longin/Gardel)
GT Highlights :
2002 : FIA N-GT Teams Champion; winner, Proximus 24 Hours of Spa
2003 : overall winner, Proximus 24 Hours of Spa (Freisinger Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3-RS)

To win the 2003 FIA N-GT Teams Championship : Needs to score at least 4 points between the two cars to guarantee the title. If they score no points, they still have the title unless TMC scores 15 points. If they score 1 point, TMC needs to score at least 16 points to beat them. If they score 2 or 3 points, TMC needs to score 18 points (1st and 2nd) to win.

Team Maranello Concessionaires - Great Britain - currently 2nd, N-GT - 70 points
Cars :
nr 88 Ferrari 360 Modena (Davies/Turner)
Nr 89 Ferrari 360 Modena (Burt/Mullen)
GT Highlights :
2002 : British GTO Champions (as Veloqx Motorsport); 2 rounds of the FIA GT Championship; 3rd in Estoril
To win the 2003 FIA N-GT Teams Championship : Needs to score at least 15 points (1st and 4th) if Freisinger does not score any points, 16 points (1st and 3rd) if Freisinger scores 1 point, 18 points (1st and 2nd) if Freisinger scores 2 or 3 points. If Freisinger scores 4 points, TMC cannot win.

-fia-gt-

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