Maserati/Michelin on the hunt for success Two weeks after the triumph of Phoenix Racing/Michelin at Adria, the FIA GT Championship moves on to the fourth round of the 2008 series at Oschersleben where ...
Maserati/Michelin on the hunt for success
Two weeks after the triumph of Phoenix Racing/Michelin at Adria, the FIA GT Championship moves on to the fourth round of the 2008 series at Oschersleben where Germany's Vitaphone Racing/Michelin will be hoping to profit from its home fixture to notch up its first win of the season. In the GT2 category, the Porsche 997 RSRs - also competing on home soil - will be looking to make life hard for the Ferrari F430s.
Despite topping the current GT1 Teams standings thanks to a run of three podium finishes, the triple FIA GT champions Vitaphone Racing Team have yet to see one of their two Maserati MC12/Michelins secure a win since the start of the 2008 campaign at Silverstone. That said, Bartels/Bertolini led for some three-quarters of the race at Adria a fortnight ago before the crew was compelled to pit for a drive-through penalty.
Racing on home ground at Oschersleben, where it has won and started from pole position each time in the past three years, Vitaphone Racing Team will be hoping to add to its recent record. It won't be easy, though, since the No.1 Maserati (Bartels/Bertolini) will be carrying 30kg of ballast, while the sister car of Ramos/Negrao will be dropped five places down the grid following a tangle at Adria deemed overly virile by the stewards.
"These are two real handicaps at Oschersleben," says Gerard Bombled, the Manager of Michelin's Endurance and FIA GT programmes. "A good grid position is essential because it is extremely hard to overtake, while ballast is a big penalty since the track is twisty and quite slow, with lots of turns that call for hard acceleration; that can be costly for the heavier machines."
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Racing Corvette/Michelin, which won at Adria, will be carrying 40kg, although Mike Hezemans - who will be out to equal Karl Wendlinger's record of 13 wins this weekend- doesn't appear to too concerned by the prospect: "The team has always gone well at Oschersleben and we are in great form at the moment. On top of that, we are fortunate to be working with Michelin. We saw the result their soft compound tyres achieved at Adria and we will be using soft rubber again this weekend in Germany."
The SRT Corvette C6.R and the Jetalliance Racing Aston Martins will also be racing on Michelin tyres. However, 'thanks' to their mediocre finish at Adria, they will be carrying either very little ballast or no extra weight for the German round.
Ballast promises to be a talking point in the GT2 category, too, with the No.50 AF Corse-run Ferrari F430/Michelin carrying an additional 50kg after its wins at Silverstone and Monza, and second place at Adria, plus a further 35kg because Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni (GT2 winners at Le Mans in June) are both professional drivers. With an extra burden of 85kg onboard, the No.50 Ferrari faces a tough job against the Porsche/Michelin of Collard/Westbrook and the CR Scuderia Ferrari/Michelin of Kirkaldy/Bell.
It will be interesting too see whether the performance of Michelin's tyres will be able to compensate for this handicap against the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari F430 which is running on rival rubber--
Oschersleben - Circuit: 3.696km
Gerard Bombled (Endurance and F IA GT Programme Manager, Michelin):
"Oschersleben is a twisty circuit, not all that fast and quite short; a bit like Adria. That said, its surface is fairly unique and it took us some time to get a grasp of it and find the ideal compound. It was only last year that we really understood that soft tyres work best here, even in very hot weather. Two of our partners - the Lamborghini Murcielago (Menten/Kox) and Longin/Kumpen's Corvette - tried the soft compound and went very well."
Michelin will take 1,100 tyres to Oschersleben, from where the trucks will leave directly for Spa-Francorchamps for Spa 24 Hours testing upstream of August's race. The three to four thousand covers necessary for the Belgian race are currently being produced in Clermont-Ferrand.