FIFTH AND FINAL ROUND AT ISTANBUL PARK:
IT'S ANYONE'S GUESS...
... or nearly, with three out of four titles at play and seven drivers still in the running for the Le Mans Endurance Series' final round at the new facility in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 13.
The very selective layout of this track will for sure make the difference in each of the "LMP1", "LM"P2 and "LM" GT1 categories.
Hayanari Shimoda, the series' only two-time winner in LMP1 this year, heads the Pescarolo drivers Emmanuel Collard and Jean-Christophe Boullion by three points in his Zytek. Shimoda took the lead of the title race with a superb drive to victory at the Nurburgring in September. Driving with Tom Chilton, Shimoda came from the back of the grid to take the win in the final stages of the six-hour event. The young Japanese also won the opening round at Spa in April and needs to finish at least second behind the Pescarolo to claim the title.
Eight drivers have a mathematical chance to win the LMP1 title, including the Rollcentre drivers Martin Short and Vanina Ickx, Creation drivers Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolas Minassian, and Audi's Stephane Ortelli and Allan McNish. The race will be a fascinating battle between the Zytek, a 750kg, high-downforce car which will be effective in the long, sweeping corners, and the Pescarolo. Three-time Le Mans winner Henri Pescarolo has converted a Courage chassis to new regulations and in return has received performance advantages which should give an advantage on the Turkish circuit's long straights.
The battle for LMP2 has taken an interesting turn, as leader Bob Berridge is scheduled to miss the final round. His place on the Chamberlain Synergy Motorsport team will be taken by former Le Mans winner Guy Smith, who will share the car with Gareth Evans and Peter Owen. Evans, with Berridge, leads the series by three points.
The British driver will be hoping to beat the Paul Belmondo Racing drivers Claude-Yves Gosselin and Vincent Vosse, who won twice mid-season but who failed to score at the Nurburgring and consequently lost the lead of the championship. The French pair are level on points in third with the RML-prepared Lola of Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton. Erdos and Newton have finished three times on the podium this season, the most consistent finishing of anyone else in the class, and were fourth at Spa, but believe they have the speed to win in Istanbul.
Matteo Cressoni holds the slenderest of leads over Christophe Bouchut and Alexey Vasiliev in the GT1 class. The BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari driver won at Spa and was second at the Nurburgring in September, where he was able to take advantage of new Pirelli tyres which have transformed the performance of the Italian cars. Cressoni leads Bouchut and Vasiliev by a single point and his own team-mates, Christian Pescatori, Michael Bartyan and Toni Seiler by two going into the final round.
Bouchut and Vasiliev, driving for the Convers Team in their Ferrari 550 Maranello, will be without their regular co-driver Nikolay Fomenko, and have a significant advantage over their title rivals. Both the British team, and the MenX team of Robert Pergl and Pedro Lamy who trail the class leader by four points, contested a round of the FIA GT Championship at the circuit in September, gaining valuable information as they prepare to battle for the championship title this weekend.
The GT2 class has already been decided in favour of Marc Lieb and Xavier Pompidou, neither of whom will race in Istanbul. The three-time winners lead the drivers' table by ten points, ahead of Franco Groppi and Luigi Moccia in their Autorlando Sport Porsche. Groppi and Moccia have yet to win a race this year, and will be looking to Istanbul to finish their season off in style. Their competition will come from the LNT team of Lawrence Tomlinson, Jonny Kane and Warren Hughes, the latter two who won the opening round at Spa. The team will run its TVR Tuscans against the Ferrari 360 Modena of the Scuderia Ecosse and the GPC Sport teams, and the Spyker C8 Spyder, entered by the Spyker Squardon team and driven by Donny Crevels and Jeroen Bleekemolen.