Monza: Race report

After an action-packed first hour, a high-attrition race saw a Ferrari-dominated result in today's first round of the FIA GT Championship, giving Fabrizio Gollin a second consecutive win as a 29th birthday present. He and his team-mate Luca ...

After an action-packed first hour, a high-attrition race saw a Ferrari-dominated result in today's first round of the FIA GT Championship, giving Fabrizio Gollin a second consecutive win as a 29th birthday present. He and his team-mate Luca Cappellari, in the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, were victorious ahead of Bobbi and Gardel, with the two GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars finishing their first-ever race in third and fourth. In N-GT, Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard took a fine win, finishing 7th overall in their Freisinger Yukos Porsche 996 GT3, chased by the GPC Giesse Ferrari of De Simone and Pescatori, with Proton Competition claiming its first-ever podium in third.

Warm-up
In chilly but dry conditions, the nr 7 RML Saleen of Erdos and Newton set the fastest time in the morning warm-up, ahead of the pole-setting BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Gollin and Cappellari, with Tom Coronel in the Lister Storm third. In N-GT, the nr 62 GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 360 Modena set the best time, ahead of the nr 50 and 99 Porsches.

Weather
A frosty morning in Monza was replaced by blue skies and sunshine, although temperatures remained low. 25,000 spectators came to the circuit, in the Royal Park of Monza, to see the first round of the 2004 LG Super Racing Weekend series.

BMS Scuderia Italia takes early Championship lead

Reigning Champions BMS Scuderia Italia made a dominant start to the 2004 season, starting from pole and leading throughout the 87-lap race. The nr 1 and 2 cars pulled away from the rest of the field, followed only by the nr 5 Saleen. Although Bobbi led early on, Gollin and Cappellari eventually took the win, finishing 44.7 seconds ahead of Bobbi and Gardel, who had been delayed by two extra pit stops and a spin. This result has given the team a healthy early lead, with 18 points, while Gollin and Cappellari have taken the lead of the Driver's Classification for the first-ever time. "It was almost a problem-free day for us," Gollin explained. "We are now leading the Championship for the first time, and I hope to stay there all season !" The BMS Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello had looked like making it a one-two-three for the Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, until a spin into the gravel due to oil on the track dropped the nr 3 car of Bryner, Calderari and Livio down to fifth place.

Ortelli and Collard claim N-GT win for Freisinger Yukos

Inversing the positions from the final race of 2003, Stephane Ortelli of Monaco, accompanied this time by his French team-mate Emmanuel Collard, took a comfortable win in the first round of the Championship, their Porsche 996 GT3 finishing in seventh place overall. They finished with a good margin over the second-placed car, the GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena driven by Monza's October winner Fabrizio De Simone, sharing the car with Christian Pescatori. "This is my first N-GT win in Italy," Ortelli explained.

"Emmanuel did a very good job, and I think we are really strong together." In the classification, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport has a narrow lead of two points over GPC Giesse, with Proton Competition lying third. However, the nr 77 Freisinger Yukos car stopped on the track and did not finish, while the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche of Maassen and Luhr, which was lying second for the first third of the race, had problems at Ascari, hitting the kerb and damaging the car. It later rejoined, but due to the time lost in the pits, was not classified.

Dream start for GPC Giesse Squadra Corse; JMB Racing in the points

New team, new cars - and points in both categories for GPC Giesse Squadra Corse. Team owner Gianpaolo Coppi was delighted with the performance of his team, which is now lying in second place in both the GT and N-GT categories of the 2004 Championship. Although the Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars started from 9th and 10th on the grid, steady races and a high level of attrition brought them up to third and fourth, while the Ferrari 360 Modena of De Simone and Pescatori was a good second in N-GT. "We started the team on January 6th," Gian Paolo Coppi explained. "In three months we have built up a good team; we are really happy, and I want to thank all my staff, the mechanics, the drivers, for the confidence they have had in my project, as well as Pirelli and all the technical partners and the sponsors. It was a crazy project, but sometimes crazy things work."

JMB Racing, also starting with new cars and new drivers this weekend, saw one car go out at the start, with the nr 17 Ferrari 575 M Maranello stopping with engine problems. However, the nr 18 car of Bert Longin, Ian Khan and Christophe Pillon made steady progress and took two points for seventh place.

Difficult race for the Saleens, despite fastest lap for Vitaphone

Fastest in free practice, and third on the grid, the Vitaphone Saleen S7-R of Alzen and Bartels was extremely rapid in the early section of the race, with Alzen pushing hard, setting the fastest race lap of 1:44.708 and challenging the BMS Ferrari cars for the lead. But the promise shown throughout the weekend ended when the car went over the kerbs, cutting the cooling and oil lines and suspension, leaking liquid onto the floor and retiring on lap 10. The race was even shorter for the nr 4 Saleen, also run by Konrad Motorsport, as Walter Lechner Jr was involved in a first-lap incident with the nr 14 Lister, which broke the yellow Saleen's wheel.

After setting the best time in the warm-up, the nr 7 RML Saleen ran strongly early on, but both the nr 7 and the nr 8 suffered from punctures, which delayed them significantly. However, the nr 8 car of Chris Goodwin and Miguel Ramos took the final point for eighth, while Erdos and Newton finished ninth in GT. The Graham Nash Saleen had looked certain of a points finish, after a steady start with Villarroel and Becker, before the very fast Ruberti got in the car. But unfortunately first a puncture, and then a gear-box problem placed the car 10th in GT, and last of the fourteen classified cars.

Sixth place for Zwaan GTR Racing

Despite a number of problems, the Zwaans Chrysler Viper cars have improved steadily over the weekend, and with Christophe Bouchut and Marc Goossens sharing the car with team-owner Arjan van der Zwaan, a good race saw the objective of scoring points achieved. The car, which was that run by Roos in 2003, finished sixth. The second car stopped on the track, having run out of fuel due to a problem during the previous pit stop.

No Storms at the finish

Despite good early race performances for both the Lister Racing and Creation Autosportif Storms, neither made it to the chequered flag. The nr 14 Lister Storm had overtaken the nr 7 RML Saleen for fourth place, and was fighting for third, when a broken water hose stopped the car on lap 19. Jamie Campbell-Walter brought the nr 27 Creation Lister up to 5th place, but after the first pitl stop, his new team-mate Jamie Derbyshire, spun into the gravel.

First podium for Proton Competition

This race saw the first podium finish for long-time GT competitors Proton Competition, with German father and son team of Gerold and Christian Ried taking third place. They changed from a Porsche 911 GT2 to their current 996 GT3 car at the Brno round last year, and scored their first point in Monza last year. The final points went to the Italian team, AB Motorsport, with drivers Antonio de Castro, Renato Premoli and Bruno Barbaro.

Quotes

GT winner: Fabrizio Gollin - nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello: "It was almost a problem-free race for us. We had to be careful about the fuel consumption, so we chose not to make a final splash like we'd originally planned. But it worked out very well, and we're now leading the championship for the first time. Hopefully, Luca and I will be able to stay in the first position during the whole season."

GT winner: Luca Cappellari - nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello: "I did the middle stint today, and it was not an easy one. I had to save the tyres for Fabrizio's stint, because I know that he never asks to change tyres, and because of that I had to drive very carefully. Also, the track was very dirty and slippery with oil in one corner. But it was a very good race and a great result."

2nd in GT: Matteo Bobbi - nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello: "It was a big shame for me today, because we were aiming for victory and we knew that we would have been able to do it. In the first stint, I was pushing really hard and had an interesting fight with Fabrizio. But then we got a big problem with the radio, and it was very difficult to communicate with the team. The problems increased during Gabriele's stint, so when he came back in the pits, the team wasn't ready for him and he had to drive off again. We had to come back in a second time and later once more for a brief splash-and-dash. So we had at least one more stop than everyone else did. During my last stint, there was some oil on the track, but I was pushing very hard and completely forgot about it - so I spun off. Considering all that, I think second place is a very good result. Obviously, I don't like being second, but the championship is very long and it's only just started. It's Fabrizio's birthday today, so you could consider this race my present for him. But we have a very good car and I think it's going to be an interesting fight for the championship between me and Fabrizio."

2nd in GT: Gabriele Gardel - nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello: "I'm glad to be on podium in my first race, but of course I'm not completely happy with the result. We were leading for the better part of the race and then we lost the position, due to the misunderstanding with the radio. I had to do a double-stint on the same tyres, which was rather hard for me. We were lucky after all and managed to clinch second place, so the championship is open and that's important for us and the team."

3rd in GT: Philipp Peter - nr 11 G.P.C Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello: "I'm really delighted with the result today. We've worked very hard in those last few days and I'm so happy with what Gian Paolo Coppi put together. It's an amazing team, so my thanks go to him! It's good motivation for everyone to have us getting so close to the BMS cars. Monza is not an easy track for us, so we're very happy with what we have achieved."

3rd in GT: Fabio Babini - nr 11 G.P.C Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello: "The car was great today. We had some big problems on Friday and Saturday, and in the light of that I'm really happy with the race result. We were the leading Pirelli car and we managed to score our first podium right in our first race."

N-GT winner: Stephane Ortelli - nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche: "This is my first victory in Italy in NGT. Last year, I finished second behind Fabrizio de Simone, and this time I'm in front of him, which is great. We had a very good fight with Fabrizio in the first lap. He passed me at the start, then I could pass him back. It was very a strong start of the season for us. It wasn't an easy race, but I enjoyed it. I had to push like crazy, but I could maintain my lead and then increase it, thanks to the fight going on behind me. I could give a bit of a lead to Emmanuel, and he did a very good job. It's our third joint victory, so it seems like together, we are really strong."

N-GT winner: Emmanuel Collard - nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche: "The car was perfect today. We had no problems whatsoever. But despite the great result, it was still a rather tough weekend for us. We won, but the Ferrari was just behind. It's not going to be too easy this year. There's a big competition between us, so we'll have to see what the future will bring."

2nd in N-GT: Fabrizio De Simone - nr 62 GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena: "It wasn't really a hard race. It started out really well when we had a good fight with both the Porsches. I have to give my best compliments to all the team. From the first to the last lap, the package was impressive. We didn't have the chance to do any testing, but I'm very happy with the car - it's been a good step up from last year's version. The tyres were very consistent as well. Today has been a great start of the season; it's looking very good for the future."

2nd in N-GT: Christian Pescatori - nr 62 GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena: "It was a bit problematic for me because this is my first time in this car and I still find it very difficult to drive it. I think it will probably be easier from next race on. I'd like to thank the whole team because we worked so hard this week, and the car was very fast, so I'm looking forward to Valencia."

3nd in N-GT: Christian Ried - nr 69 Proton Competition Porsche 996 GT3 RS: "This is our first time up here on the podium. It's a completely new situation for us. Obviously, I'm very happy about the race result. We had to start from the back of the grid after changing our engine yesterday, but we didn't have any problems in the race and now we're here - perfect!"

3nd in N-GT: Gerold Ried - nr 69 Proton Competition Porsche 996 GT3 RS: "My first podium - and I'm very, very happy. There's nothing else to add!"

4th in GT : Mike Hezemans - nr 13 GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 575 M Maranello : "We had different wings and set-up than the other car, as we didn't know anymore, so we were trying other things. We had a lot of oversteer, and then we lost 50 seconds with a wheel problem during the pit stop. But even so, we couldn't catch them - we lost time in I lost time in both sessions. The other car was just a bit faster. It was very hard. But for the rest it was OK. I am very, very happy to finish the race, after failing to finish at all last season in the Viper - so that is very good. The cars are nice and strong, but we still have to work hard. "

6th in GT : Rob van der Zwaan - Zwaan's GTR Racing Team: "Our car stopped due to a problem with the fuel at the pit stop. It didn't put in 100 litres, but only 80, and just as we were going to call the car in for a stop, it ran out of fuel. But considering the little time we had to fix and build up the nr 10 car, it's unbelievable that it is still running and finished in the points. In two weeks time, it will have a faster engine installed, which will solve the problems it had. Thanks to Bouchut, we managed to get enough speed out of the car. It would have taken us five races for us to get to that point. I hope he might be able to race with us again. It's a good start for us. We need to be better organised as a team, but we know now what we have to do, and we'll be better in three weeks time for Valencia. "

10th in GT : Gordon Davies, team manager, Graham Nash Motorsport : "We retired with a gearbox failure. Paolo got into the car, and on his second or third lap, the left rear just exploded. For what reason we don't know, as there is nothing left of it. He went out again and everything was fine. Then he reported that there was a bit of a gearbox issue, that it wouldn't change gear, heard the noise came in - the gear had exploded, and punctured a hole in the side of the casing. But the car was good, Villarroel and Becker were getting used to the car, and their times were consistent, and everything was fine. We were definitely aiming for a points finish. Paolo was quick, and he knows the circuit, so we could have easily finished sixth. But that's motorsport."

DNF :Tom Coronel - nr 14 Lister Storm : "It was going really well, the tyres were good and I was thinking about keeping the car good until the end of the stint, when a water hose broke, and our race was over. But it had been good, I had a big fight with Erdos, and I think we were competitive. Next time we'll be back up there fighting ! As for the incident with the Konrad Saleen, I was fighting with a Ferrari, and I just did not see him there !"

DNF : Walter Lechner Jr - nr 4 Konrad Saleen : "I think that was one of the shortest races in my life. Two kilometres. I am really disappointed. The start was not too bad, I stayed on the left, waiting, and I think Coronel couldn't see me, as he went so quickly from right to left. It broke my wheel, and that was it. I'm looking forward to Valencia, although I haven't raced there since Formula Renault - it's a winding track, and this is a very big car - so we'll see."

DNF : Jamie Campbell-Walter - nr 27 Creation Autosportif Lister Storm : "We were running fifth, catching Babini, who finished third, so I think that, had Jamie Derbyshire's stint gone well, we could have finished on the podium. But someone had gone off at Ascari, putting gravel on the track, he spun on the gravel, spun into the gravel, and hit the barriers. We've had quite a few problems this weekend, and he didn't get a lot of track time, but actually, the car was quite good. We've still got a bit of work to do, but it's going in the right direction."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Christian Pescatori , Tom Coronel , Emmanuel Collard , Marc Goossens , Chris Goodwin , Stéphane Ortelli , Matteo Bobbi , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Christophe Pillon , Mike Hezemans , Christophe Bouchut , Christian Ried , Gerold Ried , Jamie Derbyshire , Miguel Ramos , Fabio Babini , Ian Khan , Gabriele Gardel , Luca Cappellari , Bert Longin , Arjan van der Zwaan , Antonio de Castro , Renato Premoli , Bruno Barbaro , Philipp Peter
Teams Proton Competition