GARDEL CLAIMS 2005 GT1 DRIVERS TITLE
LIEB AND ROCKENFELLER ARE THE GT2 CHAMPIONS
BEST WISHES FOR CHRISTMAS AND THE NEW YEAR
SEE YOU IN 2006 !
It was the closest and most thrilling season for years ... and the suspense did not end when the chequered flag fell on the Bahrain race at the end of November. Although a fourth-place finish, the highest among the seven title contenders, gave the title to Larbre Competition's Gabriele Gardel, the nr 11 Ferrari was later excluded due to not having the requisite three litres of fuel at the end of the race. Larbre Competition appealed, and the title was pending. On December 8th, the FIA's International Court of Appeal sat to hear the appeal.
Having heard the explanations of both parties and having examined the various documents and other evidence, the Court quashed the decision of the Panel of Steward to exclude car nr 11. Gabriele Gardel was therefore able to collect his trophy during the FIA's Gala Prizegiving in honour of the 2005 Champions of World Motor Sport, which took place in Monte Carlo, as the Salle des Etoiles of the Sporting d'Ete. He joined the other 2005 FIA GT Champions during the evening. Vitaphone Racing drivers Michael Bartels and Timo Scheider joined Team Director Rafael Calafell while Vitaphone President Mr Matthias Quinger collected the 2005 FIA GT1 Team Trophy. Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller collected their trophies after winning the GT2 Drivers Championship. Kenny Chen was present to collect the FIA GT2 Teams Championship for his all-conquering team, GruppeM Racing. The inaugural Manufacturers' Cups were also presented. The GT1 Cup went to Maserati, and was collected by Mr Claudio Berro. The GT2 Cup was awarded to Porsche, and was collected by Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser. A fantastic evening to crown a fantastic season, with more winners and more close races than ever before... in preparation for a 2006 season that looks like being even better!
BALFE MOTORSPORT TO MOVE UP TO GT1
After a successful season in G2 this year, with their Mosler, the Balfe Motorsport Team will graduate to the GT1 class of the FIA GT Championship next season, after taking delivery of an RML-built Saleen S7R chassis. Shaun Balfe will be one of the drivers with the second seat in the car yet to be filled.
"It's been a tough few months making the decision to move to GT1," said Shaun Balfe. "We had an incredible debut season in the FIA GT Championship with the Mosler this year. The organisers were helpful and we were made to feel really welcome. However, in return, we like to compete and present ourselves at the highest level and the FIA GT Championship allows us to do this," he added.
"Whatever we chose for next year, we wanted to move forward. To score points is a must for me and it's also what the team wants to do too. Certainly, the move into GT1 will be tough. But, it's what we as a team at Balfe Motorsport have always enjoyed."
Balfe Motorsport gave its new Saleen S7R GT1 car a brief run at Donington before a winter rebuild in readiness for the 2006 FIA GT season. The run was a chance for Shaun Balfe to get some mileage under his belt and allowed the team to get to grips with what is likely to be involved with running the car. "It was basically a chance to see what we've got and where we stand with it before we get set for next year," said Balfe. "The lads are desperate to get the car stripped and give it a full rebuild ready for testing early next season. But we wanted to see what it was like at this point and it gave me a little bit of time in the car before getting down to more serious testing and development in the new year," he added. "The difference in power and performance wasn't as big as I'd maybe expected it to be, compared to the last three years in the Mosler. When the track dried up and we put a set of slicks on it was really smooth and easy to drive, so it looks good for us initially, for sure."
TIM SUGDEN WINS 2005 PORSCHE CUP
Tim Sugden has been awarded the 2005 Porsche Cup, becoming the first British driver to win it in 25 years. Sugden, who raced for GruppeM in 2005, winning five races in GT2 with Emmanuel Collard, follows in the footsteps of other FIA GT frontrunners, including double Champion Stephane Ortelli, who won the 2004 title, and Marc Lieb, victorious in 2003. The Cup is awarded to the best-scoring independent Porsche driver, and points are scored in all major competitions. Emmanuel Collard was fourth, with Luigi Moccia fifth. Sugden is the second United Kingdom resident to win the prestigious award. His compatriot, John Fitzpatrick, claimed the Porsche Cup in 1972, 1974 and 1980.
"It is a huge pleasure and honour for me to have my name on Cup winners' list. Over the past five years I had always hoped to win it. At the beginning of 2005 I knew this could be my season, as I was driving with two excellent teams: Gruppe M Racing in the FIA-GT series and J3 Racing from Atlanta in ALMS. Actually, ever since I entered GT racing in 1997 I have driven almost only Porsche vehicles. It simply had to happen at some stage."
Tim is one of the rare drivers to have competed in at least one race during every season of the FIA GT Championship. He has claimed seven victories in all, five this year with GruppeM, and two in 2003 with EMKA Racing. He has also two pole positions, both set this year.
RS-LINE TO ENTER LAMBORGHINI MURCIELAGO IN 2006 FIA GT
German team B-Racing RS Line is planning to enter a 2006 version of the Lamborghini Murcielago in the European rounds of the FIA GT Championship. "Thanks to the engagement of main sponsor Neue Medien Munich - all.inkl.com - the team will be able to raise to the top class of sportscar endurance racing," the team explained. German-based Reiter Engineering will be supplying the car for the team, which also plans to enter the Le Mans Series, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Logistics will be provided by RS-Line Race Support.
The first driver for the team has been named as Austro-American Norbert Walchhofer. The multiple Ferrari-Challenge Champion will integrate his sponsorship package into the new team.
The first test with the Lamborghini Murcielago took place at the Adria Raceway in Italy, on December 20th. The Lamborghini Murcielago first entered the FIA GT Championship in Monza 2003, but engine problems saw it withdraw before the race. When Reiter Engineering ran a car for Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin at Valencia in 2004, the car finished on the podium and could well have won the race. This year, Reiter Engineering has run the car in a number of events. showing the obvious potential of the car, and claiming the car's first point of the year in Oschersleben.
Walter Lechner Jr. has been much missed on the track in 2005, since the talented young Austrian - a six-times pole position holder at the age of just 23 - was diagnosed with leukeamia earlier this year. His fellow drivers in the FIA GT Championship have not forgotten him, as witnessed by the traditional end of season group photo. "It was a really nice gesture, which made me happy," Walter said afterwards. "It's nice to know my colleagues are thinking of me. I can really use their good wishes in my fight against this disease." Walter continued : "I would like to thank everyone for what they did for me this year. The FIA GT is a very nice series to drive in, and I hope to be back soon !"
ALEXEI VASILIEV TO COMPETE IN 2006 DAKAR
FIA GT Championship regular, Russian Age Racing driver Alexey Vasiliev is going to take part in this year's edition of the world-famous rally raid, the Dakar. The Russian team in the T1 class will consist of 4 crews, driven by famous Russian drivers.
Vasiliev will drive a Mitsubishi Pajero prepared by the French team Rally Raid Concept. The launch for the Dakar rally took place in Moscow's Red Square on December 19th. The rally will get underway in Lisbon on December 31st, and will last for two weeks.
TWO CORVETTES FOR PSI EXPERIENCE
Belgian team PSI Motorsport was a regular in the FIA GT Championship in 2001 and 2002, with a Porsche bi-turbo. Since then, the team has continued to prepare their Porsches, competing in various National GT Championships with success, as well as returning to the FIA GT annually for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa.
The company has now been taken over by Frenchman Philippe Tillie and has been renamed PSI Experience.He has invested in two Corvette cars. The first is a C5, run by PCM in this year's American Le Mans Series, and is one of the most updated C5 cars around. The C6 car is a 2005 factory car, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and its class in the ALMS. Although no plans have been finalised, the team is planning to return to international competition at the highest level, with the FIA GT Championship high among their priorities.
"We are in negotiations with a number of people," team driver Markus Palttala explained. "The whole team is keen to get back to international racing, and we would really love to make a full return to the FIA GT Championship. We know that the level of the FIA GT is really high. But we also know that both Corvettes will be very competitive."
JMB RACING CELEBRATES TEN YEARS ANNIVERSARY
Monaco-based team JMB Racing celebrated its tenth anniversary in style, at the Automobile Club of Monaco, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, and numerous Monaco celebrities and sports personalities.
The team finished second in the 2005 FIA GT Teams classification, while drivers Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger were in the chase for the overall drivers title until the final round. In its press release, the team stated "JMB Racing will set off, more determined than ever, to conquer the 2006 FIA GT title!". JMB already won the N-GT title in 2001, with a Ferrari 360 Modena driven by David Terrien and Christian Pescatori.
BIAGI TESTS FOR FORMULA ONE
2003 FIA GT Champion Thomas Biagi, who remained in contention until the very end for the 2005 title in his Vitaphone Maserati MC 12, received a call-up to test for Formula One this month. "Everything went very well," Thomas said. "First of all, I drove a Jordan F1 car during the Bologna Motorshow. It was fantastic, as it was the last official outing for the Jordan name, so I am very proud to have done that. It is a very short track, but it was nice to see the crowds, and a good opportunity to gain confidence with the steering, engine and the F1 car. Later, I went to Jerez de la Frontera, with the new Midland F1 team - so I was there for both the first and last days ! The team was really happy with my performance, where I did more than I had expected. I think it shows that the FIA GT Championship is a good category to step up to Formula One, as I had no problems at all with the car. I did 91 laps, and I was physically in a good shape. In total, I did over 400 km, which is a lot for my first time in a Formula One car. My times were good, too. My time in the FIA GT has helped me to be good in this car too." And what about next year ? "My target at the moment is to remain with the Vitaphone Maserati, as it is a fantastic team. It is very professional, and Michael Bartels is a very good guy. But as the Formula One testing went well, and the team were happy, I would be very happy to carry on testing if I am asked. I really enjoyed the opportunity."
BUSY WINTER FOR PHILIPP PETER
The season might be over, but that does not mean that the drivers can relax until next year. "January looks like being a busy month," Philipp Peter explained. "At the moment my plans are to do the 24H of Dubai around the 10-13 of January with Duller Motorsport in a BMW, and then hopefully the 1000 miles in Interlagos with GPC, and last but not least the 24H of Daytona with Farnbacher Racing with a Porsche." Peter explained. The Austrian driver claimed two pole positions and two podium finishes in 2005 : "The Championship is growing more and more competitive; it has to be good when the title is decided at the last race. Overall it's very positive."