An action-packed race around the ultra-fast Monza circuit in Italy closed the 2003 season of the FIA GT Championship in style. With 30,000 spectators lining the track, situated in the beautiful Monza park, the 500 km, 87-lap race was completed in 2 hours and 40 minutes. 2003 Champions BMS Scuderia Italia sealed their winning season with another victory, this one for Gollin and Cappellari. In N-GT, while JMB Racing took a fourth win of the season, second place was good enough for Stéphane Ortelli and Marc Lieb to win the Drivers' Championship, while giving the Teams title to Freisinger Motorsport. A good end to a good season.
ORTELLI, LIEB AND FREISINGER MOTORSPORT TAKE CHAMPIONSHIP
The extremely close and ultra-competitive N-GT class was still open coming into the final round, but 2002 Champions Freisinger Motorsport did more than enough to retain their title, finishing second to put themselves out of reach of Team Maranello Concessionaires, while Stéphane Ortelli and Marc Lieb claimed the Drivers' Championship. "It was a very exciting race, and an exciting way to finish the Championship," Ortelli said. " This victory feels better than last year, first of all because I am not alone. Marc already helped me a lot last year, and I am very glad he is here with me today, he did a wonderful job all season. And I think it is better when you can share something like this. This is now our victory. And I am very pleased for our team, Freisinger Motorsport. To do this two times in a row is something really special." Marc Lieb was also delighted : "This is the biggest success of my career so far, and I want to thank the team, and Dunlop and especially Stéphane for his support. It's just wonderful."
CAPPELLARI AND GOLLIN WIN ON HOME GROUND
Luca Cappellari and Fabrizio Gollin took their first overall win of the season today, as although they won the GT class in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, they finished behind the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche. Extremely fast all weekend, and qualifying in second place, Gollin took the lead into the first corner, and stayed ahead for all his stint. In the top three for the much of the rest of the race, Gollin retook the lead when the nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari had to stop for a splash and dash in the closing stages. "It was a great race and I have to thank our engineer Marco Galuppi who made a wonderful strategy, we finished with only 6 litres in the tank but we didn't have to make a splash and dash," Luca explained. "So we won the fight with Enzo and Lilian, with whom we were fighting for the title. Many congratulations to the team who have done a fantastic job all season. We have got to the finish line in nine races out of ten, and my team-mate Fabrizio was very fast." This second place also gave Gollin and Cappellari the second place in the Championship behind their team-mates Bobbi and Biagi, after a close battle with Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari.
FOURTH N-GT WIN OF THE YEAR FOR JMB RACING
The season started as it ended, with another strong performance by Andrea Bertolini and Fabrizio De Simone putting them on the top of the podium in N-GT. The two Italians took their fourth win of the season, and their third in a row, finishing 9th overall, ahead of the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche. With neither Team Maranello Concessionaires car finishing in the points, JMB Racing have moved up to second in the N-GT Teams Classification, with De Simone finishing third behind joint leaders Ortelli and Lieb, and Andrea Bertolini moving up ahead of Jamie Davies. "It was a very good result for us, with three victories in the last three races, which is the result of the work done by Pirelli, the big developments of the car made by Ferrari and the work that we put in together with the team," said Fabrizio De Simone."I am really very happy about this; we had some problems during the season that stopped us in the rush for the Championship, but that's OK. I'm very happy for Stéphane and Marc. I think it was very good to come to the race with some chances for the Championship. It was very good; we won the race, we did our work, and that's it." The team's second car, driven by Kutemann and Gosse, also finished in the points, in seventh place.
BIRTHDAY PODIUM FOR THE LISTER STORM
The Lister Storm was unveiled exactly ten years ago, on October 19th 2003, and started its racing career two years later. The car is still going strong, and while waiting an engine improvement for next year, Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nathan Kinch celebrated its birthday in style with a third-place finish to close the season. The car made steadily progress up the field, and despite stalling while avoiding two spinning cars which had blocked the track, regained third place when the nr 9 Ferrari 575 M Maranello made a late splash and dash. "It was close for everyone, and I think that Fabrizio and I were the only two that did the race on two stops," Jamie Campbell-Walter said. "It was a pretty good result, and as it is the tenth anniversary of the Lister Storm today, so it's nice to have a podium and end the season this way."
FIRST PODIUM FOR MIKE JORDAN
Having aimed for another strong top-six finish in Monza, after good races in Estoril and Oschersleben, Team Eurotech's Mike Jordan and last-minute team-mate Rob Barff outdid their expectations and claimed third place in the N-GT class. "As a team we are delighted with our first podium, especially at Monza and at the end of the year," Mike explained. "The car was perfect; the tyres was brilliant; we ran all the race on our front tyres, only changing the rear ones, and it was as good at the end as it was at the beginning"
THE GT STORY
At the start, the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari got ahead of the pole-sitter, the nr 5 Force One Viper, and began to pull away. The nr 2 Konrad Saleen was close behind in third. By lap ten, the Saleen moved up into second place, and the nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari took third, overtaking for second seven laps later. The two cars, fighting for second place in the Championship, continued their close battle, while the nr 2 Saleen made an early stop for fuel. This meant that Walter Lechner Jr took the lead when the other cars made their scheduled driver change stops, followed by the nr 21 Care Racing car, which took the lead when Seiler took over the Saleen on lap 46. With its different pit schedule, the Saleen took the lead again by the time it pitted for Konrad to take over. On lap 50, the nr 5 Force One was reported going slowly on the track, and retired with transmission problems, meaning that the car failed ot finish a single race this season. However, on lap 67, an incident involving the nr 15 Lister Storm, Lancieri at the wheel, saw both cars spin and stop, blocking the track and briefly delaying the nr 14 Storm. This put the Konrad car out of contention, and it retired shortly afterwards. The nr 9 took advantage to take third from the nr 14 Storm. It looked as if Care Racing would take its first win of the season, but a last-minute splash and dash on this fuel-thirsty track put the nr 22 back into the lead, while a similar situation placed the nr 14 Storm back up to third. At the chequered flag, the nr 22 BMS won ahead of the nr 21 Care Racing, with the nr 14 Lister Storm third. The two new Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars came in fourth and fifth, with the nr 23 BMS Ferrari and GT Champions Bobbi and Biagi, damaged in a collision with a Porsche early on, recovering to sixth. The second Lister Racing Storm of Piccini, Sterckx and Lancieri was seventh, with the nr 6 Lister Storm of Verdon-Roe and Zadra taking the final point for eighth.
THE N-GT STORY
The nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche got ahead of the pole-sitting nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena at the start. However, it was caught out when a slower GT car braked ahead of it, and Emmanuel Collard spun out into the gravel on lap 11. This put Bertolini, in the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari, in the lead, a position he only lost during pit-stops until the end of the race. In similar fashion, the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche remained in second place throughout, securing their Championship. The nr 99 RWS Porsche moved up to third, but then was involved in an incident with the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari, dropping out of the race. The nr 51 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche then running up to third, but was hit by overheating problems. After good first stints, the two Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena cars both hit problems, with an off and electrical problems meaning that neither car scored a point for the first time this season. In a good race for the Porsches, the nr 74 Team Eurotech car of Jordan and Barff made steady progress to third. The positions remained fixed until the chequered flag fell. The nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche took fourth position for Mark Mayall, Ian Khan and Michel Neugarten, with the nr 67 Autorlando Porsche of Sabatini and Spinelli fifth. Sixth place went to the all-Russian RWS Yukos team of Vasiliev and Fomenko, with the second JMB car in seventh place - meaning that all four JMB Racing cars finished in the points. In eighth and final points-scoring point, the Proton Competition Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Christian and Gerold Ried, along with Maciej Marcinkiewicz, took their first point of the season.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Fabrizio De Simone - nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 1st N-GT : "It was a very good result for us, with three victories in the last three races, which is the result of the work done by Pirelli, the big developments of the car made by Ferrari and the work that we put in together with the team. I am really very happy about this; we had some problems during the season that stopped us in the rush for the Championship, but that's OK. I'm very happy for Stéphane and Marc. I think it was very good to come to the race with some chances for the Championship. It was very good; we won the race, we did our work, and that's it."
Stéphane Ortelli - nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS .- 2nd, N-GT, N-GT Drivers Champion : "It was a very exciting race, and an exciting way to finish the Championship. We must first congratulate our rivals, who did a very good job throughout the year, and we must also mention Team Maranello Concessionaires. It was quite stressful today, as we needed a point, and we were listening to every single noise from the engine. Marc had a puncture, and had to do three or four kilometres on the rim, and we were lucky he was able to bring the car back safely. This feels better than last year, first of all because I am not alone. Marc already helped me a lot last year, and I am very glad he is here with me today, he did a wonderful job all season. And I think it is better when you can share something like this. This is now our victory. And I am very pleased for our team, Freisinger Motorsport. To do this two times in a row is something really special."
Marc Lieb - nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS .- 2nd, N-GT, N-GT Drivers Champion : " This feels fantastic. The whole season has been up and down, and we started off with two DNF's from the first three races, then we improved slowly, with the highlight of the 24 hours of Spa. But we had big competition in the end, we struggled a bit, and this result is fantastic. This is the biggest success of my career so far, and I want to thank the team, and Dunlop and especially Stéphane for his support. It's just wonderful."
Mike Jordan - nr 74 Team Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS - 3rd, N-GT : "This is our first year in the FIA GT Championship. In the last two races that Mark and I did, we were lucky to get top sixes. Unfortunately Mark's wife has been taken quite ill and so he wasn't able to do this race with me, so I phoned Rob on Wednesday and asked if he was free for the weekend. He's never driven a Porsche before, so he did a really good job. As a team we are delighted with our first podium, especially at Monza and at the end of the year. The car was perfect; the tyres was brilliant; we ran all the race on our front tyres, only changing the rear ones, and it was as good at the end as it was at the beginning."
Rob Barff - nr 74 Team Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS - 3rd, N-GT : "It has been an interesting learning curve to come here, having never driven a Porsche 996 GT3-RS before, never been to Monza before. I've had my eyes really opened. It's been a fantastic experience, and to end the weekend on the podium with guys like Stéphane and Marc - it's just fantastic. The race was great - I did the middle stint and tried to keep out of trouble. We knew we had a good chance to do the whole race on the front tyres, so just tried to be kind to the tyres, and give Mike a good car for the rest of the race."
Rod Benoist - team manager, Team Maranello Concessionaires : "Today has not been our best day, but the Championship has been good. This has been a huge learning experience for us, as our team has gone from a national to a European competition in just its second year of existence. There has been lots of tough competition, but we have really enjoyed it. We are obviously disappointed not to win, as we came here this weekend in the hope of winning, but I think it was a good show. We have had a good season, and I think 3rd in our first year is a good result, as there are some very good and experienced teams and drivers here. The race did not look good for us today, but actually the first stint went well, and then it went sour, with an off and electrical problems. With such a close field, you can go quickly from the front to the back very easily.
Emmanuel Collard - nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "I was behind a GT Ferrari, which was blocking me for a number of laps, and then it braked 100 metres earlier than the usual point, and I could not avoid it, and I went into the gravel. It's a shame, because we had a good car today, and we were having a very good race with the JMB Ferrari. But it's been a good season and I hope to be back next year."
Luca Cappellari - nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 1st, GT : "It was a great race but I have to thank our engineer Marco Galuppi who made a wonderful strategy, we finished with only 6 litres in the tank but we didn't have to make a splash and dash. So we won the fight with Enzo and Lilian, with whom we were fighting for the title. Many congratulations to the team who have done a fantastic job all season. We have got to the finish line in nine races out of ten, and my team-mate Fabrizio was very fast."
Enzo Calderari - nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello : "We had a very good car and Livio did a very good stint but the decision was to take him out after 26 laps. We didn't know that our rivals could go to the end without doing a splash, but I think we're happy with this second place."
Nathan Kinch - nr 14 Lister Storm - 3rd in GT : "It was a good result; we knew the Ferraris would be strong. We had a good strategy, and made two stops. I raced here two years ago in the Ferrari Challenge. The car was good, and the Dunlop tyres were good too."
Jamie Campbell-Walter - nr 14 Lister storm - 3rd in GT :" It was close for everyone, and I think that Fabrizio and I were the only two that did the race on two stops. We ran a little dry towards the end and I had to slow down. But the race was good, our car was handling well, the brakes were fantastic. We struggled a bit round here with top speed, but hopefully next year we will have some evolutions to the engine that will put us back on par for high-speed circuits like this. In the final stint, Gabriele Lancieri and Konrad went side by side into the first chicane and I was about 5 metres behind them , not racing for position and so I wasn't too worried. Unfortunately they both touched and spun, and I had nowhere to go. It took them about 30 seconds to get out of the way, and then unfortunately I stalled, and the Ferrari passed me for position. I then had to push pretty hard over the last laps to overtake him, and then he had to make a splash and dash anyway. It was a pretty good result, and as it is the tenth anniversary of the Lister Storm today, so it's nice to have a podium and end the season this way."
Philipp Peter - nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello : "We lacked some top speed all weekend, but the rest of the car was brilliant. After the season we have had, first and fourth in the last two races is very good. We confirmed our speed and reliability here today."
Gordon Davies - team manager, Graham Nash Motorsport : "The nr 8 car was running well after the warm-up accident, but then unfortunately something went wrong in the engine, a broken rocker we think. The nr 7 ran well, Mike did some good consistent times, and it was all going to plan. Then Tommy got in, but he noticed that the engine was down on power, and we were worried that we might destroy the engine if we continued, so he came in. But it has been a tremendous year, and we are really looking forward to next season. The car has plenty of scope, and we should see even more Saleens on the grid next year. I would like to thank the organisers of the FIA GT Championship for giving us the opportunity to run here, as well as our drivers, and I would also like to thank RML for their help."