The seventh round of the FIA GT Championship is also the longest of the year -- the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Twenty-four hours of racing around the challenging, beautiful circuit of Francorchamps, in the Ardennes region of Belgium. This is the fourth time that the classis endurance event has been run as part of the Championship, and forty-four cars are due to line up on Saturday at 4 pm to climb up the famous Raidillon for another exciting race.
Beautiful warm sunny weather greeted the teams and drivers. The weather is due to remain good, with the possibility of thunderstorms at the weekend
In 2003, the weather was cold and wet during the 24-hour race. The Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Stephane Ortelli, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas created a surprise by winning the race outright, ahead of the cars from the GT category. The BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Fabrizio Gollin, Luca Cappellari, Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari was second overall and the winning GT car.
International Court of Appeal
The appeal on behalf of JMB Racing car nr 17 (Karl Wendlinger) against the decision of the Stewards of the Meeting at Donington on June 27th, concerning the 5-minute time penalty imposed on the car, was heard in Paris on July 20th. The Court quashed the penalty and replaced it by a 15,000 US$ fine. This means that JMB Racing have regained their first win of the season, ahead of the Vitaphone Racing Saleen and the GPC Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Peter and Babini. It was only the second-ever win in the Championship for a 575 M car, after Estoril last year. In the Championship classification, this means that Karl Wendlinger is the leading non-BMS driver, in fifth place, three points ahead of Vitaphone Racing's Bartels and Alzen. Scuderia Italia's Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari are leading the Drivers Championship, as they have since the start of the season, eight points ahead of their team-mates Bobbi and Gardel.
No handicap weights will be carried for this round. However, the penalty weights earned at Spa will be added -- or subtracted, from the weights carried forward from Donington, to be applied to round 8 in Imola, on September 5th.
* 44 cars are due to take part in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, 16 in GT, 13 in N-GT, 10 in Group 2 and 5 in Group 3 .
* Among the GT category, there are five Saleen S7, four Ferrari 575 M Maranello, three Chrysler Viper GTS-R, two Ferrari 550 Maranello and two Lister Storms.
* In N-GT, we have ten Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars, two Ferrari 360 Modena and a Nissan 350 Z.
* Group 2 consists of two Vertigo Streiff cars, five Porsche cars, two BMW M3 GTR cars and a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R.
* Group 3 has three Porsche 996 GT3 Cup cars, a Viper Competition Coupe and a Lotus Elise.
First Free Practice : BMS leads throughout
The nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, liberated from the penalty weight it has carried since the second race of the season, was fastest throughout the first 90-minute free practice session at Spa. The times gradually improved throughout the session, with the nr 2 car, shared by Championship leaders Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari, with Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari, gradually improving from 2:20.4 to its best time of 2:18.054. Second fastest was the nr 7 RML Saleen of Erdos, Newton, Goodwin and Ramos, with a time of 2:18.994, set towards the end of the session. They were followed by the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen and the nr 11 GPC Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello. In N-GT, the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsports Porsche of Maassen, Luhr and Lieb was fastest, ahead of the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos car and the nr 62 GPC Ferrari. The nr 108 Corvette was fastest in the G2 class for national GT competitors, ahead of the two BMW M3 GTR cars. In Group 3, the best time was set by the nr 115 Viper Competition Coupe. The nr 9 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper, Rob van der Zwaan at the wheel, had a heavy crash at Stavelot, hitting the barriers and damaging the front of the car; the driver was unharmed, but the team will have plenty of work in order to get the car ready for qualifying. This caused the session to be red-flagged for approximately ten minutes, while the car was moved to safety.
Second Free Practice : Vitaphone fastest in the afternoon
The second 90-minute practice session at Spa saw the Saleen cars dominate, with the nr 5 Vitaphone Racing Team setting the fastest time of 2:18.228, ahead of the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen, with the nr 2 BMS Ferrari third. Times came progressively down, but the session remained slightly slower than in the morning. The nr 11 Ferrari 575 M was the first to lead the times, followed by the nr 2 BMS Ferrari 550 Maranello. Half an hour into the session, the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen improved to 2:19.057. Fifteen minutes later, it was the turn of the nr 4 Konrad Saleen to go fastest, Walter Lechner Jr setting a time of 2:18.896. However, the Vitaphone car soon regained the upper hand, with a time of 2:18.228, which was to remain the best time of the session.
In the N-GT category, the nr 99 and 50 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-RS and the nr 62 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena cars were within six tenths of a second of each others' times, with the nr 99 fastest at 2:23.918.
The nr 108 Corvette C5-R was seventh overall, and the leader in the Group 2 class, with the nr 124 Porsche fastest in Group 3
This evening, two qualifying sessions take place, between 20:30 and 21:30, and again between 22:00 and 23:30. The third and final qualifying session will take place on Friday, at 12:35.
Each driver has to do three laps during the two night sessions, as well as setting an overall qualifying time, which should be less than 130% of the average of the best times achieved by three different makes of cars per group (except for Group 3)