GT1+3 Zolder Paddock Notes

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Stephen Errity, GT correspondent

The GT3 European Championship grid remained at a disappointing 12 cars for the Zolder event. Round one's single-car Aston Martin team Valmon Racing Team Russia were absent, but in their place was the new Reiter Engineering Chevrolet Camaro GT3 car. Aggressive looks and a thunderous 7.9-litre V8 engine give it more presence than the rest of the GT3 grid combined, but unfortunately it seems there's some work to do on reliability. Reiter's drivers Philip Geipel and Max Sandritter recorded the sixth-fastest time in Friday's first free practice session, but suspected engine failure meant they would take no further part in the weekend, reducing the GT3 complement to just 11 for qualifying and the races.

McLaren MP4-12C team Hexis Racing suffered a torrid start to their GT1 World Championship campaign at Nogaro over Easter, and it seems the newly developed British car is still not completely trouble-free. Electrical gremlins led to Hexis' double retirement from the championship race in Nogaro, and here in Zolder the team had to change the #2 Parente/Demoustier car's entire wiring loom on Friday after more problems in practice. Reliability aside, the McLaren has shown flashes of pace, but according to the team's lead driver Fred Makowiecki, there's still a performance shortfall to be made up. “It's partly because of the Balance of Performance regulations,” he explained shortly after his fourth-place finish in Saturday's wet/dry qualifying race. “We need more power to match the straight-line speed of the others.” The 31-year-old Frenchman also noted that the MP4-12C is slow getting heat into its tyres – a serious problem in the GT1 World Championship's short one-hour races. The MP4-12C's next international outing will be the next GT1 World round, at Navarra on May 26-27. This gives McLaren just over a month to get to the bottom of the car's issues, and maybe request a more favourable Balance of Performance.

The Dutch Supercar Challenge was one of the classes on the support bill for the Zolder GT1/3 meeting – though perhaps 'supporting' is the wrong word, as this series features some of the loudest and most spectacular GT machinery racing in Europe. C5R and C6R GT1 Chevrolet Corvettes, no longer active in international competition, continue to run here, as does older GT2-spec machinery such as the Ferrari 430. But there's room for the newest GT cars, too: Veka Motorsport had a GTE-spec Ferrari 458 entered, and it was interesting to see how much wider, louder and faster it was than the GT3-spec 458s running in GT1 World and GT3 Europe. Other gems to appear in DSC included Mosler MT900 a Marcos LM600, GT1, GT2 and GT3 Vipers, a V8-powered Ford Mondeo silhouette racer, an ex-DTM Opel Astra and a modest-looking Mazda3 hatchback with a screaming rotary engine. The emphasis is firmly on fun and all cars are strictly performance-balanced to ensure close racing. A great part of the weekend's racing.

Over the winter, the GT1 World Championship made the decision to adopt GT3 regulations for the 2012 season. And as the practice sessions at Zolder wrapped up on Friday, news came through of another series' plans to allow entries for what is fast becoming the standard specification for production-based sportscar racing worldwide: the European Le Mans Series (ELMS). The championship's planned second round at Zolder was recently cancelled after consultation with teams, in order to allow enough time to boost the entry list in time for July's race at Donington in the UK. Now, series organiser Peter Auto has announced GT3 cars will be able to race as part of the ELMS' GTC class – originally intended for one-make racing cars such as the Porsche 911 Supercup and Ferrari 458 Challenge. A statement read “The GT3s' level of performance will be adjusted by the ACO through technical solutions that are currently being studied, whose aim is to maintain a level playing field. Models now eligible for the ELMS are the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Audi R8 LMS, BMW Z4, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo LP600+, McLaren MP4‐12C GT3, Mercedes‐Benz SLS AMG and Porsche 911 GT3‐R. This change only applied to the European Le Mans Series: GT3s remain ineligible for World Endurance Championship and American Le Mans Series races.

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