Spa: Round seven practice and first qualifying summary

This is the second time that the FIA GT Championship has included the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa in the championship, after the successful introductory event last August. This year at least 51 cars should line up for the start, with the regular ...

This is the second time that the FIA GT Championship has included the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa in the championship, after the successful introductory event last August. This year at least 51 cars should line up for the start, with the regular competitors joined by cars from various National GT Championships and other single-make series. Racing in their own classes, they will not be eligible for FIA GT or N-GT points.

WEATHER
Overcast and damp, becoming sunny and dry in the afternoon.

LAST TIME--

Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc continued their run of first- and second-place finishes by winning the race overall, sharing their Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R with local hero Marc Duez. With their victory, the pair won the 2001 championship for drivers

Mike Hezemans' Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper fought with the Larbre team throughout much of the race, but was delayed by a cracked exhaust pipe and retired when the engine drivebelt snapped with less than three hours to the finish--Fifth overall, and leading the N-GT class was the RWS Red Bull 911 of Luca Riccitelli, Dieter Quester, Norman Simon and Antonio Garcia.

The JMB Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena, which David Terrien had qualified fastest in the N-GT category retired with an engine failure--

CALDERARI DRIVES THROUGH THE PAIN

Enzo Calderari has made an early return to the cockpit following his domestic accident three weeks ago that caused him to miss the sixth round of the FIA GT Championship at Oschersleben. Despite injuries to his left arm, the Swiss driver is determined to drive, sharing the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello with Piccini, Deletraz and Zadra.

PADDOCK RUNDOWN

The Proximus 24 Hours of Spa has attracted a multitude of new faces to the FIA GT Championship this year. Formula 3000 points leader Sebastien Bourdais joins Vincent Vosse, David Terrien and Christophe Bouchut in the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R. Bentley Le Mans drivers Andy Wallace and Eric van de Poele join Nicolaus Springer and Jamie Campbell-Walter in the nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm. Italian Alex Caffi has joined the Lorris Kessel Racing team in the nr 100 Ferrari 360 Modena.

Carsport Holland has recruited Thierry Tassin, four-time winner of the Spa 24 hours in touring cars, to join Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans in the nr 3 Chrysler Viper GTS-R, while former F3000 driver and World Nissan front-runner Bas Leinders joins Gollin and Cappellari in the nr 4 Viper. The reigning FIA Sports Car Champion Marco Zadra joins Jean-Denis Deletraz, Andrea Piccini and Lilian Bryner in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, being Zadra's first international race since winning the FIA title last year.

HANDICAP WEIGHTS AND RULE CHANGES

The FIA GT Championship competitors will not be carrying any penalty weight this weekend. The weights which applied after Oschersleben will be added to any penalty weight earned during this round for round 8, in Pergusa, Italy. Half of the normal weight will be awarded according to the cars' finishing position at Spa at six hours and at 12 hours. The final 12 hours will be treated as a normal round of the championship with full points and full weight applied for Enna according to cars' finishing position at 4pm on Sunday.

The point system mirrors the weight system. Half championship points (5-3-2-1.5-1-0.5) will be issued at six hours and at 12 hours. Full championship points (10-6-4-3-2-1) will be awarded at 24 hours.

Drivers will score points at six hours and at 12 hours regardless of whether they drive the cars during this time.

FIRST FREE PRACTICE

Thierry Tassin, Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans set the fastest time in the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R during the wet, but drying, practice session. Their time, of 2:26.700s was a full second faster than the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Vincent Vosse, Christophe Bouchut, David Terrien and Sebastien Bourdais. The Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of last year's winner Marc Duez, Fabio Babini and Boris Derichebourg was third fastest, a further 2.5 seconds behind the class leaders.

A crash for Christophe Bouchut in the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R caused heavy front-end damage to the car, and the team was still completing repairs as the second session started.

In the wet conditions, the Porsche cars were high up the order, with the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Bert Longin, Marc Lieb, Georges Forgeois and Andre Lotterer setting fifth fastest time overall, just 4.1 seconds off overall pole position.

SECOND FREE PRACTICE

Bas Leinders, Luca Cappelari and Fabrizio Gollin set the pace in the afternoon, driving their nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The three lapped the 6.947km Spa circuit in a time of 2:19.280s, just 34 hundredths of a second faster than the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Peter Kox, Frederic Dor and Enzo Calderari.

Both teams had difficulties with their other cars. The nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R had an oil leak, discovered at the end of the morning session when the team changed a drive-shaft, but was able to set fourth fastest time. The nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello had a problem with "the car burning" according to drive Andrea Piccini. "There is something around the exhaust that is getting too hot, but it is nothing serious," said the 22-year-old. The nr 23 car set the third fastest time, two tenths of a second off the leader.

The nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of last year's winner Marc Duez, Fabio Babini and Boris Derichebourg was eighth fastest, stopping for much of the session after Babini found the car impossible to drive due to a vibration problem.

The N-GT title protagonists set the pace, Stephane Ortelli, Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard setting fastest time in the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R. Their time was six-tenths of a second faster than the nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori, Andrea Montermini, Andrea Garbagnati and Andrea Bertolini. The nr 76 RWS Red Bull Porsche 996 GT3R of Dieter Quester, Luca Riccitelli, Toto Wolff and Philipp Peter was third fastest after suffering a fuel-injection problem.

FIRST QUALIFYING SESSION

Jamie Campbell-Walter set the fastest time in the first qualifying session in the nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm, and comfortably made it into tomorrow's Super Pole qualifying. The British driver lapped Spa in a time of 2:16.626s, a tenth of a second ahead of Andrea Piccini in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello.

Peter Kox was third fastest in the second BMS Scuderia Ferrari 550 Maranello, the Dutchman setting a time of 2:16.899s despite suffering a puncture to the left rear tyre halfway through the session. Both of the Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-Rs made it into the Super Pole qualifying session, as did the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Vincent Vosse, Christophe Bouchut, David Terrien and Sebastien Bourdais.

Stephane Ortelli was the fastest of the N-GT runners, a massive 2.4 seconds ahead of the nearest challenger, the nr 50 Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori, Andrea Montermini, Andrea Bertolini and Andrea Garbagnati. "We couldn't believe it when he set that time," said a very impressed Collard. "I don't know if we can go any faster, I also don't know if we will have to!"

The second Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R of Bert Longin, Marc Lieb, Georges Forgois and Andre Lotterer was third fastest, ahead of the nr 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R of Nikolaj Fomenko, Alex Vasiliev, Antonio Garcia and Jesus Diez Villarroel. The second JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, nr 51, was fifth fastest with Dieter Quester, Toto Wolff, Philipp Peter and Luca Riccitelli rounding out the Super Pole qualifiers.

Cars provisionally qualified for the Superpole

GT : Nr 14 Lister Storm; nr 23 and 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari Maranello 550; nr 4 and 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R; nr 1 Larbre Competition Chereau Chrysler Viper

N-GT : Nr 54 & 55 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R; nr 50 & 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena; nr 77 & 76 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R

Groups 2 & 3 : Nr 90 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R; nr 100 Lorris Kessel Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, nr 99 Widi Racing Marcos LM 600; nr 97 PSI Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R; Nr 122 Martin Short TVR Cerbera; nr 111 Frei Alexander Lamborghini Diablo GTR

QUOTES:

Anthony Kumpen, nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "There is an oil leak, but we cannot find it. I did the last stint and I heard a noise from the transmission. The team changed the driveshaft but found an oil leak. They thought that was due to the driveshaft, but obviously not! I think that both Blanchimont corner and Eau Rouge are faster than last year. They have both been re-surfaced and that gives more grip through the corners."

Marc Duez, nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing, Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "I think that a Viper can win this race. There is no reason why it shouldn't, but I do think that the Lister will be there to the end of the 24 hours. The engine has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans before, so it could go the distance and is quick. Our preparation is good and I think that we have a very strong line-up of drivers."

Boris Derichebourg, nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing, Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "The car is better than the one I drove with the team last year. The traction is better because of a bigger rear wing. Everything is larger! I love the sequential gearbox too, it is a big improvement all round. This is also the first time that I have run on the Pirelli tyres."

Jamie Campbell-Walter, nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm: "I wanted to do the time early so I made sure I was at the front of the queue. It was my first flying lap, and it was just about perfect, except that I made a slight mistake at Stavelot and had to lift where it should have been flat, so I lost half a second. I wanted to do a perfect lap to practice for Super Pole tomorrow."

Enzo Calderari, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia, Ferrari 550 Maranello: "I saw the doctor on Monday and he told me that I could drive if I really wanted to, but he would think that I was stupid, so I am here! I drove two laps this morning just bedding in brakes. When I go slowly, it is OK, but when I try to go fast I cannot change gear in the middle of the corner because I don't have the strength in my left hand to hold the steering wheel."

Stephane Ortelli, nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R: "It was good. We really don't know about the race or how far we can go on a tank of fuel. We have a sprint engine in for qualifying, and I think that everyone will start the race with a fresh engine. We cannot do any mileage tests, but the standard Porsche parts are very good."

Marc Lieb, nr 55 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R: "The only car that I have taken around here is a Porsche Supercup car two years ago. It is very good to have Bert Longin in the car because he has a lot of experience, especially in the wet. Andre Lotterer is a good driver too, but he has never driven a GT car before, only formula cars, so he needs to get the experience.

Phil Bastiaans, nr 63 System Force Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3R: "We tried a new gearbox this morning but between fourth and fifth gear there is no difference. The second gearbox that we had for this afternoon had a massive difference, far too big. We went from 8000rpm down to 4000rpm between gears so we have to change it again."

Vic Rice, nr 64 Cirtek Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3R: "We had a problem with the brand new clutch, it wouldn't disengage. This is my first time at Spa. I have always wanted to drive here and I was in Europe anyway on a bit of business, so I got this drive. I have to say that this looks like it could become my favourite circuit. At the moment my favourite is at Sears Point, or Laguna Seca."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andy Wallace , Andre Lotterer , Andrea Piccini , Antonio Garcia , Fabrizio Gollin , Norman Simon , Christian Pescatori , Emmanuel Collard , Eric van de Poele , Vincent Vosse , Stéphane Ortelli , Peter Kox , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Sébastien Bourdais , Andrea Montermini , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Luca Riccitelli , Christophe Bouchut , David Terrien , Boris Derichebourg , Dieter Quester , Georges Forgeois , Martin Short , Paul Belmondo , Marc Lieb , Alex Caffi , Andrea Garbagnati , Romain Dumas , Vic Rice , Nicolaus Springer , Frederic Dor , Jesus Diez Villarroel , Fabio Babini , Andrea Bertolini , Bas Leinders , Alexander Frei , Enzo Calderari , Lilian Bryner , Bert Longin , Marc Duez , Toto Wolff , Philipp Peter , Phil Bastiaans
Teams Nissan Motorsports , Larbre Competition