Monza: Round one preview

There has rarely been so prestigious or varied a grid in the FIA GT Championship as that in prospect for the 2005 season. With seven different manufacturers represented for the first round in Monza, including Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini,...

There has rarely been so prestigious or varied a grid in the FIA GT Championship as that in prospect for the 2005 season. With seven different manufacturers represented for the first round in Monza, including Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lister, Maserati, Porsche and Saleen, and cars from Aston Martin and Nissan expected during the season, the Championship has come a long way in the last few years.

Although this year's first race in Monza will see many of the same names on the grid as in the 2004 race, there is barely a single team which has not changed its car or driver line-up over the winter. With a pit-lane full of the top names in GT teams, and plenty of extremely strong driver pairings, it is extremely difficult, if not to say impossible, to predict who will be on the top of the podium at the end of the first 500 km race around the ultra-fast Monza track.

Between 28 and 30 cars are expected to line up for the first race of the year. Teams from around Europe include entries from Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as Britain, Italy, Germany, France, Monaco and the Netherlands.

Monza is always an exceptional race. Not only is it the only race in the calendar where the 500 km are completed in well under the allotted three hours - weather permitting - but the fast circuit produces some spectacular qualifying and exciting races. If the times seen during the official test days are anything to go by, the field will be extremely close - and the result nearly impossible to predict.

WHAT THE DRIVERS THINK ...

"Monza is a very pleasant circuit, and certainly the fastest of the year. It's a great place to start the season, as it makes you feel very secure with its wide sand-traps. The circuit is not very technical as far as the set-up of the cars is concerned, which means you gain time at the start of the year. And then, it's Italy, which is always a delight."
    Christophe Bouchut, Russian Age Racing

"For me, Monza is the kingdom of racing; it's the track where you have the fastest speed. Two long straights, a really fast chicane and a parabolic corner make this circuit selective and beautiful." @_Gabriele Gardel, Larbre Competition

"Monza is a high-speed circuit. The cars don't have much grip here and any slides result in lost time in the following straights. Brakes have to react quickly and are not allowed to cool down on the long straights. 70% of the track is full speed. Another important factor for a good lap time in Monza is the balance of the car on the curbs." @_Michael Bartels, Vitaphone Racing Team

GPC ANNOUNCES LINE-UP FOR SECOND CAR

Italian team GPC Giesse Squadra Corse today announced the line-up for the second of their two Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars. The first car will be driven by Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz, who have been driving together since 2002 and who claimed four wins in a Ferrari 550 Maranello for BMS Scuderia Italia.

Next week's first round will see the second car in the hands of rapid Brazilian Jaime Melo and 2001 FIA GT Champion Jean-Philippe Belloc, from France.

After a single-seater career which included an F3000 pole position, the F3000 Euro Series Championship in 2003 and four wins in the first year of the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, Jaime Melo rapidly proved to be an extremely good GT driver. He took part in a number of rounds with JMB Racing's Ferrari 575 M Maranello, winning the Donington round with Karl Wendlinger. Later in the season, he raced for GPC in their Ferrari 360 Modena, winning the final round of the season with Christian Pescatori, and becoming the only man to claim victories in both classes last year.

34-year-old French driver Belloc was part of the official Chrysler Viper Team Oreca line-up in 1999. He won the 2001 Championship with Christophe Bouchut in the Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper. Over the last two years he has raced for Carsport America in the ALMS, and put in a fine performance for JMB at the Bahrain GT Festival last November in a Ferrari 360 Modena. Although he has not yet driven the car, Belloc is looking forward to being at Monza. "Jaime has plenty of experience in the Ferrari 575 M Maranello, so he will be able to help me," he said. "It is always difficult to have to get to know a new car on the first day of the season, but I know Monza well. I am really looking forward to it."

WORLD MOTOR SPORT COUNCIL

The World Motor Sport Council met in Paris on March 30th. Among other matters, the eligibility of LM GT1 and LM GT2 cars was approved, subject to the agreement of the GT Bureau Furthermore, drivers taking part in the FIA GT Championship now require 'B' licenses instead of 'C'.

The Medical Commission approved an immediate ban on the wearing of jewellery (body piercing and heavy chains) by race and rally competitors.

RENAUER MOTORSPORT TO RACE IN THE FIA GT

A new name on the Monza grid will be Renauer Motorsport, an Austrian team which has previously competed in the FIA Sportscar Championship and in various long-distance races in Germany and the Czech Republic. The team plans to enter its Porsche 996 GT3 RS in a number of races, including Monza, Brno, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and Oschersleben.

Although the team is new, the drivers both have plenty of FIA GT experience: Wolfgang Kaufmann, from Germany, and Austrian Manfred Jurasz. Monza will mark Wolfgang's return to Porsche in the FIA GT. After becoming the last driver to give the Porsche 911 GT2 an overall FIA GT victory, at the Lausitzring in 2000, he won the prestigious Porsche Cup in 2001. Over the last two years, he worked with Wieth Racing on their Ferrari Maranello, and made a very successful debut in the Graham Nash Saleen S7 with Paolo Ruberti and Jamie Wall in Oschersleben, when the car qualified third.

Jurasz was a regular competitor from 1997 to 2000; his last appearance was in the 2002 Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, when he claimed 3.5 points in a Cirtek Motorsport Porsche. Manfred and Wolfgang teamed up last year, along with Petr Valek, when they finished in 2nd place in the 3 hours of Brno.

"I am really happy to be going to Monza," Kaufmann said. "I love the circuit, and always have good races there. It will also be Renauer's first FIA GT race, so a good result would be excellent. Renauer is a family team, really professional and extremely motivated. We will all do our best in Monza !"

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Christian Pescatori , Jaime Melo , Jean-Denis Deletraz , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Christophe Bouchut , Wolfgang Kaufmann , Paolo Ruberti
Teams Nissan Motorsports , Larbre Competition