For the second round of the 2004 season, the FIA GT Championship has headed further south, to the Spanish circuit of Valencia. 4.005 km long, compact, technical and winding, the circuit is totally different from that of Monza. 26 cars are due to...
For the second round of the 2004 season, the FIA GT Championship has headed further south, to the Spanish circuit of Valencia. 4.005 km long, compact, technical and winding, the circuit is totally different from that of Monza. 26 cars are due to take part in Sunday's 500 km, three hour race, among them the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago. This makes a total of six different cars racing in the GT category : the Ferrari 550, Ferrari 575 M Maranello, Saleen S7, Chrysler Viper GTS, Lister Storm and Lamborghini Murcielago.
After a windy night, Friday dawned wet but calm. The circuit remained damp throughout the first free practice session. In the afternoon, it was raining heavily at the start of the session and remained wet. However, the forecast looks better, with dryer weather predicted for Saturday and Sunday.
Last year --
Last year, the FIA GT Championship raced in Barcelona for the Spanish round of the LG Super Racing Weekend, where Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi took their first win in a sequence of five wins for their BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, while JMB Racing's Ferrari 360 Modena was victorious in N-GT; Ferrari had a clean sweep, with all six podium places in GT and N-GT going to the Italian manufacturer's cars. The previous visit of the FIA GT Championship to Valencia, in 2000, saw Lister Racing's Jamie Campbell-Walter and Julian Bailey win the overall race, while Christophe Bouchut and Patrice Goueslard were victorious in N-GT, in a Porsche 996 GT3 car.
Handicap weights ...
Having won in Monza, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello will carry 40 kg and the nr 1 car 30 kg. The nr 11 GPC Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Peter and Babini will carry 20 kg. In N-GT, the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche of Ortelli and Collard has 20 kg, with the nr 62 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena on 15 kg and the nr 69 Proton Porsche on 10 kg.
* Reiter Engineering has returned to the Championship with the Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT, driven on this occasion by Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin. The duo last drove for Reiter in the final round of the 2001 Championship, then in a Lamborghini Diablo R-GT, when they finished in a fine fifth position.
* Val Hillebrand, the 2002 FIA Sportscar Champion, has joined Zwaan's Racing for the rest of the season, in the nr 10 Chrysler Viper GTS-R. This is the first time in a GT car for the 23-year old Belgian, who won the Sportscar Championship in a Racing for Holland Dome, with Jan Lammers.
* Italian driver Gabriele Lancieri, who raced for Lister for two rounds last year, is sharing the nr 28 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7 with Jesus Diez Villarroel of Spain, and Paolo Ruberti of Italy.
* Andrea Garbagnati, a regular driver with JMB Racing in 2002, is replacing Peter Kutemann in the nr 19 JMB Ferrari 575 M Maranello for this race. He will share the car with Antoine Gosse and Stephane Daoudi, both of France.
* Thomas Bliener, of Austria, is sharing the nr 18 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello, with Bert Longin and Ian Khan. He previously drove in the Championship in Estoril 2002, in an N-GT Porsche.
* Wolfgang Kaufmann will share the nr 22 Wieth Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello with Spanish driver Miguel de Castro, who previously raced for Lister, with a best result of second in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa in 2002.
* Czech team Vonka Racing has entered a Porsche 996 GT3 car in the N-GT category. The car is driven by Jan Vonka and Slovakian driver Miro Konopka.
* Another new entry in the N-GT class is the Spanish team Darro Motor Racing. A regular competitor in the Spanish GT Championship, the Ferrari 360 Modena is driven by Gines Vivancos and Luis Miguel Reyes.
First Free Practice : Saleen and Porsche fastest
Walter Lechner Jr set the fastest time during the first free practice session, with a lap of 1:48.069 in the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7, just 68 thousandths ahead of the nr 3 BMS Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, with the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen S7 third. The first session started off wet, and although the rain reduced to a very light drizzle and then stopped during the 90-minute session, the track remained quite damp. Times gradually improved, and towards the end of the session, the nr 29 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago took to the track, after suffering from an oil problem early on, and proceeded to set the fifth fastest time, with Peter Kox at the wheel. The lap of 1:49.097 was just over a second slower than the Saleen, with four different types of car in the top five. The Porsche cars were, as usual, superb in the wet conditions, with the nr 99 and nr 50 cars among the fastest cars on the track in early part of the session. The best time in N-GT was set by the nr 99 Porsche of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, with a lap of 1:51.085, placing them 9th overall. The nr 62 GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 360 Modena was second fastest, with the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche of Ortelli and Collard third.
Second Free Practice : Lamborghini fastest in the wet; Maassen and Luhr still lead N-GT
It was raining hard by the time the second session started, and the rain continued throughout. However, the session was extremely interesting, and saw the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago shine in the tricky conditions, going fastest after quarter an hour and remaining at the top of the sheet for most of the session. Twenty minutes before the end, the nr 10 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper set a new fastest time of 1:54.089, before the nr 27 Creation Lister Storm went fastest with a lap of 1:52.956. Times were still coming down as the chequered flag fell, with the nr 29 Lamborghini regaining the top position, Peter Kox having set a time of 1:51.970. The two RML Saleen S7 cars also improved, with the nr 7 car of Erdos and Newton second, eight tenths behind the Lamborghini, and the nr 8 car of Goodwin and Ramos fifth. The nr 27 Lister Storm was third, with the Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper of Bouchut, van der Zwaan and Hillebrand fourth. The highest placed Ferrari was the nr 2 BMS Ferrari 550 Maranello of Gollin and Cappellari, in eighth place. The Freisinger Porsches led the N-GT class, with Lucas Luhr setting a time of 1:57.703, 7th fastest overall, followed by the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos car of Ortelli and Collard and the nr 77 Porsche of Fomenko and Vasiliev.
Following problems in Monza with a non-homologated steering column, the nr 22 Wieth Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello has been allowed to take part in the event, after receiving the signed agreement of the rest of the competitors. The Stewards of the meeting have decided to allow the car to take part in Valencia. However, any championship points eventually scored by this competitor, both drivers and car, will be allocated only under the condition of obtaining the homologation before the next championship event.