FIA GT Championship
NÜRburgring Round Nine
Free Practice Sessions

Weather
Grey, damp and cold conditions greeted the teams as they took to the track for the first free practice session this morning. Temperatures were around 8° C, although it was not actually raining.

Handicap weights
After finishing second in Austria, Team Carsport Holland's nr 3 Chrysler Viper GTS-R has now joined the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper in having reached the maximum penalty weight of 100kg. The nr 4 Carsport Holland Viper has 40 kg after finishing on the podium in the last two races. The nr 15 Prodrive Allstars Ferrari 550 Maranello will be driving with 40 kg penalty following their first win. In the N-GT category, the nr 62 JMB Ferrari 360 Modena will be carrying the maximum weight of 50 kg, while their rivals in the nr 77 RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R only have 10 kg. The nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche of Babini and Moccia have 35 kg, while Dumez has 25 in the nr 50 Larbre Competition Porsche 996 GT3-R

First Practice Session:

Lister and Redolfi Orlando lead The first 90-minute session started off wet, drying gradually, before the rain started again towards the end. Times dropped gradually throughout the session, with Jamie Campbell-Walter setting the fastest time in the nr 1 Lister Storm, despite driving at the Nürburgring for the first time. His best lap was of 1:52.513, three tenths faster than Julian Bailey in the nr 2 Lister Storm.

The nr 7 Larbre Viper led at the beginning of the session, with the nr 15 Ferrari taking the lead after 30 minutes, with a time of 1:53.916. The Ferrari's time was eclipsed by the nr 3 Carsport Viper, who in turn was overtaken by the nr 7 Larbre Viper once more. Finally, towards the end, the two Lister Storm cars improved, taking the top two places.

In the N-GT category, the nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche 996 GT3-R set the best time, with a lap of 1:54.471 placing them sixth overall and less than two seconds behind the Storm. The Championship leaders, RWS Motorsport, were second, with the nr 77 Porsche lapping two seconds slower than Orlando. The nr 61 Haberthur Racing Porsche pulled off the track early in the session with a broken driveshaft. All 33 cars set a time during the session.

Second Practice Session:

Carsport and RWS set the best times Although the weather remained cold and grey, no further rain had fallen between the sessions, and the track was drying as the cars took to the circuit for the second free practice session. It remained dry throughout, with Mike Hezemans setting the fastest time with a lap of 1:40.261 in the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R.

The Carsport Holland Chrysler Vipers dominated the early part of the session, until the nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari improved to 1:40.646. As the session continued, and the track dried, the times gradually came down. A lap of 1:40.261 put Team Carsport back in the lead. The times were extremely close, with the Prodrive Ferrari only one hundredth of a second behind the Carsport Viper, and the nr 1 Lister Storm a further four hundredths behind. The top seven cars set times within half a second of each other.

In the N-GT class, the nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche 996 GT3-R continued to dominate at the start of the session, although the drying track meant that the nr 52 EMKA Racing Porsche and the nr 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche were able to close up the gap. Towards the end of the allotted 90 minutes, the nr 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche set the best time of the day, with a lap of 1:43.679, followed by the nr 69 Orlando Porsche and the nr 52 EMKA Racing Porsche. RWS's main rival for the title, JMB Competition, was eighth. 32 cars set a time, the nr 75 Jürgen Alzen Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R failing to go out.

Notes and Quotes

Jamie Campbell-Walter - nr 1 Lister Storm : "It's going well -- especially as Mike Jordan set the fourth best time. The car is very good in the wet; it's only in the absolute monsoon conditions that we have serious problems. The car is handling well, and we're very pleased. It's my first time at the track, but I'm not having any problems. After last season, when all the tracks were new to me, I've got used to learning them very quickly. Mike is getting on well ; he knows the track and the car, and tested with us at Dijon." Lister Storm Racing also confirmed today that they will be entering two Lister Storms in the 2002 FIA GT Championship, with drivers Julian Bailey, Nicolaus Springer and Jamie Campbell-Walter and one driver yet to be announced.

Mike Hezemans -- nr 3 Carsport Viper : "It's not going badly -- I did the whole of the second session. Jeroen did most of the first session ; he's now in Zandvoort, where he has a Clio Cup race. The car is OK. We tried the new wing a few times. It gives us less understeer, but more drag. I used just one set of tyres, and set the fastest time towards the end, so the car is consistent. Without our 100 kg penalty weight, we'd be at least one second quicker. The second session was totally dry, but it was extremely slippery out there -- if you went off line, it was like ice. I really hope it rains for the race -- then you don't notice the weight as much."

Sebastiaan Bleekemolen -- nr 4 Carsport Holland : "I'm fourth, and only just over a tenth of a second behind Mike, so it's looking good. We tested a lot of things -- the springs, the ride height -- and everything seems to be working correctly."

Christophe Bouchut -- nr 7 Larbre Viper : "I was surprised at how close the times were. My best lap was only four tenths off the fastest time, despite the fact that I met traffic in the chicane. I'm not too happy with our dry set-up, but if it rains, I really think we have a good chance of winning. If it's dry, I think we can aim for a podium place. But I really hope it rains."

Georg Severich -- nr 21 GLPK Viper : "I drove the Chrysler Viper for the first time in Spa. Previously, I mainly raced in touring cars -- in the DTM in 1993 and 1994, then in the STC in 1997. Last year, I won the Belgian Touring Car Championship. But now I'm 42, and I think it's the right time to move to cars with more horsepower. The Viper is very nice to drive."

Florian Hebel -- team manager nr 25 Wieth Ferrari : "It was all going really well until the last lap, when something went wrong with the engine. It looks like being a long night. The first free practice session went smoothly, with no problems, and so did the second -- until the very end, when Franz had a problem in the chicane. The new suspension parts are going well, and if we can sort the engine out, I think it is possible to see an improvement of around two seconds over today's times." The team later discovered that there was a broken valve in one of the cylinders. " A new engine is on its way from Munich," Florian continued. "We couldn't just replace the valve because it would have happened again. It should arrive around midnight."

Fabio Babini -- nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche : "We had a big, big problem in Austria. The conditions were not easy, and we couldn't get the right set-up. I hope it will go better here. A good result is very important for the team. The rain is not a problem for me, after all the wet 24-hour races I've done this season !" Fabio is delighted to have been invited by Porsche to drive in the Porsche Supercup next weekend at Monza.

Michel Neugarten -- nr 55 Perspective Porsche : "We had a problem with the car and lost half of the session. Then we started up gently. The conditions were very variable out there. With the wind, the track dries very quickly in some areas, which means that it could be totally different between one lap and the next. I think that drivers who know the track well have a big advantage."

Robin Liddell -- nr 57 Freisinger Porsche : "It's the first time I've driven for Freisinger, and my first time in the Championship. I've had a couple of close races against them in the ELMS this year, especially at Estoril, where I finished in second place behind the Freisinger car, three and a half second behind after six hours of racing. I met Manfred Freisinger at Vallelunga. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to drive with the team, and great to drive with Stephane Ortelli. It's a real step up for me; I've never driven with someone of his caliber before."

David Terrien -- nr 62 JMB Ferrari : "Our times aren't too good. Christian was driving in the driest part of the first session, and he went over to intermediate tyres too late. But before then he was improving by about a second a lap. We've mainly worked on a wet set-up, making various modifications. I know the Dunlop and Pirelli tyres are good in the rain, but we haven't had much time to do much tyre testing with Michelin in wet conditions, and we hope to take advantage of the wet weather here to do as much as possible." David also had a warning from the Stewards after the first session. "I went over the white line at the pit exit. I was so busy looking in my rear-view mirrors that I didn't look ahead. I won't do it again !"

Christian Pescatori -- nr 62 JMB Ferrari : "We tried lots of things this afternoon, on the dry weather tyres, and with a full tank of fuel; we weren't really looking for a time. But with 50 kg penalty weight, the car is really difficult to drive; you really feel it in the fast chicanes, when it rolls a lot, and under braking. I think it will be really difficult to be first or second."

Marco Werner -- nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche : "I normally drive in the Porsche Supercup -- I won the previous race at Spa Francorchamps. I'm very happy to be here -- it's a good Championship, with a very good level. I know the Nürburgring extremely well -- and I enjoy driving in the rain -- but it's my first time in the Porsche 996 GT3-R. But I don't think it should be too different from the Porsche Supercup car."

Dieter Quester -- nr 77 RWS Porsche : "For Luca, the session went very well. But I'm not so pleased with my own driving as I ran out of fuel. But it's better that it happens now than in the race. I only did nine laps today, which is less than I really like to do. But the car is OK. I haven't been here to the Nürburgring since 1997. I like it more than the A1 Ring. It's not my favourite track, but it's a good one -- quite challenging, and no-where to relax. Except, if you miss the chicane and go into the gravel, then you can relax !"

-FIA-