7th round of the 2001 FIA GT Championship : Proximus 24 Hours of Spa August 4th / 5th, 2001 Double first at Spa Francorchamps This year's seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, represents a new venture for both...
7th round of the 2001 FIA GT Championship : Proximus 24 Hours of Spa
August 4th / 5th, 2001
Double first at Spa Francorchamps
This year's seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, represents a new venture for both parties concerned. It is the first time that the classic 24 Hours race, reserved for touring cars in previous years, will be run exclusively for Grand Touring cars. It will also be the longest race ever to be run since the Championship's creation in 1997.
FIA GT returns to Spa
Although the Championship has not raced at the beautiful, challenging Belgian track of Spa Francorchamps since 1997, the race held that year has remained in people's memories as one of the highlights, not only of the season, but of the Championship as a whole. A race-long battle between JJ Lehto and Steve Soper in a BMW Motorsport McLaren F1 GTR, and Bernd Schneider and Alex Wurz in the Mercedes CLK GTR, continued for four hours, through the changeable Spa weather. Victory eventually went to Lehto and Soper, crossing the line with a 14 second lead. Ralf Schumacher made a one-off visit to the GT Championship for the Spa race, using the Mercedes CLK to gain experience of the track in preparation for his first-ever Belgian Formula One Grand Prix. Victory in the GT2 class went to Belgian all-rounder Marc Duez and eventual GT2 champion Justin Bell, at the wheel of the Team Oreca Chrysler Viper GTS-R.
Times may have changed, and the GT1 era long ended, but the FIA GT Championship, now reserved for GT and N-GT cars, is enjoying one of its most exciting and hotly disputed seasons ever. Spa, with its renowned corners, evocative names and spectacular changes in elevation, is a track almost universally adored by drivers. With the battle between the Lister Storms, the Chrysler Vipers and the Ferrari 550 Maranellos in full swing, the Championship's second visit to Spa could be every bit as exciting as the first.
The season to date
The Proximus 24 Hours of Spa will be the seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, with four 500km races still to be run after the 24 hour marathon. After six rounds, French team Larbre Competition Ch0x2961u, winner of the N-GT category in 2000, has a comfortable lead in the GT category. With Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc taking three wins and three second places so far this season, their unparalleled consistency and the remarkable reliability of their Chrysler Viper GTS-R, must make them the favorites for the 24 Hours race. They will be joined at Spa by local star Marc Duez, winner of the 24 Hours in 1997 and 1998. The car has already completed one 24 Hours race this year, finishing fourth at Le Mans despite sustaining serious accident damage early in the race.
With Lister Storm Racing, Champion in 2000 and a front-runner this season, choosing not to race at Spa, Larbre's main opposition is likely to come from other Chrysler Viper GTS-Rs, namely those run by Dutch team Carsport Holland and Paul Belmondo Racing, based in France. Carsport Holland should be confident after a convincing win in the sixth round of the Championship for the all-Dutch line-up of Mike Hezemans and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Carsport's second car finished in third place, lifting the team to second place overall in the Classification. The drivers will be joined for the longer race by Spa legend Thierry Tassin and Jean-Michel Martin.
Paul Belmondo Racing has strong Belgian connections, with drivers Vincent Vosse, Didier Defourny and Anthony Kumpen as part of their regular line-up. Team owners Paul Belmondo and Claude-Yves Gosselin, and F3000 graduate Boris Derichebourg, are the other known names. With three drivers a necessity for the longer race, one of the blue-and-yellow Fina sponsored Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars will be shared by team occasional Emmanuel Clerico, touring car specialist Eric H0xc872y and leading Belgian touring car driver Fr0x4a72ic Bouvy.
The N-GT class, reserved for less powerful vehicles, has seen some incredible fights this year, and battle is raging between the Porsche 996 GT3-R cars and the Ferrari 360 Modenas of French team JMB Competition. JMB overtook Austrian-based team RWS Red Bull Racing in the previous round, taking the lead of the Championship with a resounding win, and RWS are bound to be out for revenge. JMB's leading drivers are the reigning Sports Racing World Cup Champions David Terrien and Christian Pescatori. RWS is led by fast Italian Luca Riccitelli, with five podium finishes this season as well as a win in the Czech Republic. Luca has had a number of different team-mates this season. He may be joined for Spa by Spanish driver Antonio Garcia, who made an impressive GT debut for the team at Budapest. Larbre Competition Ch0x2961u should not be ruled out, and reigning Champion Patrice Goueslard, allied to young Frenchman Sebastien Dumez, showed a return to his top form in Budapest, with a second place finish.
- Cars may be entered in three different categories for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa :
Category 1 : FIA GT and FIA N-GT, reserved for cars corresponding to the FIA GT and N-GT technical regulations.
Category 2 : FFSA GT and other National GT Championships, open to cars competing regularly in the French, Belgian, British, Spanish or other National Championships
Category 3 : Single make series, Cups and Trophies, open to cars from series such as the Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy, the Porsche Supercup, Ferrari 360 Challenge, etc.
- Double points will be scored for this round, meaning 20 points for a win, 12 for second place, 8 for third.
- Penalty weights will not be carried. Weights earned after Budapest will reapply for the eighth round at the A1 Ring.
- Teams are allowed to have up to four drivers per car.
- The maximum continuous driving time per driver is three hours. After this period, a minimum of two hours rest is required. The total number of driving hours cannot exceed twelve hours per driver.
- This race falls outside the general entry rules of the Championship, meaning that teams are not obliged to enter, and other teams are allowed to enter this round only.
- Entries for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa close on July 16th 2001.