HOME WIN FOR JAREK ! JANIS AND BERT TAKE FIRST WIN FOR ZAKSPEED SALEEN
JMB-GRUPPEM VICTORIOUS IN GT2
Brno is renowned for close, exhilarating racing in the FIA GT Championship, and the 2006 edition lived up to all expectations ! Although local hero Jarek Janis and his German team-mate Sascha Bert dominated the race in their Zakspeed Saleen S7, the battles for the remaining positions raged throughout the three hours. The GT2 race was undecided until the very end, with JMBGruppeM Racing's Tim Sugden and Iradj Alexander coming through to take the chequered flag. After morning showers, the rain kept away and the spectators were able to enjoy the very best that GT racing has to offer !
After finishing as the runners-up in Silverstone, Zakspeed Racing's duo of Jarek Janis and Sascha Bert dominated the second round of the FIA GT Championship. Their nr 9 Saleen S7 was fastest in free practice; Jarek Janis claimed pole position, as well as the fastest race lap, and last, but by no means least, Bert and Janis won the race, finishing over a minute ahead of their nearest rivals, the Phoenix Racing Aston Martin DBR9. Phoenix was the only other car to lead the race, Andrea Piccini having taken the lead at the start, holding Janis back for the first 13 laps. "This weekend is like a dream comes true. I'm really happy to be here in the first place." Jarek said. Sascha Bert was equally delighted. "During the winter nobody was thinking about us, but I have a great team-mate, Jarek did a great job, and it is fantastic to be here, in this press conference, in the middle of the table! We are leading the Championship, so I hope we can carry on and do a good result at the next race. With such a team, and partners, and Michelin tyres, it is possible to have more good results!"
The duo has taken the lead of the GT1 Drivers Classification, three points ahead of Silverstone winners Bertolini and Bartels, while Zakspeed is now joint second in the GT1 Teams Classification. If the GT1 race was close, the GT2 battle was epic. Less than ten laps before the end, the class was being led by the nr 59 AF Corse Ferrari 430 GT2, with Aguas at the wheel. Aguas was under attack from a fast-closing Andrew Kirkaldy in the nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari, who had just overtaken his team-mate Tim Mullen in the nr 63 car, who was suffering with its tyres. But as the nr 63 fell back, the two leaders collided, leaving fourth-placed Iradj Alexander to take the chequered flag eight laps later, in the nr 55 JMB GruppeM Ferrari 430 GT2. The car had been on a different strategy from most of the others, after an early puncture forced them to pit early. Tim stayed out until the 50-lap point, nearly at the maximum of the possible driving time, and handed the car over to Iradj, who put in a fine performance, and claimed the win, making up for their Silverstone retirement. "It was an incredible finish, Iradj did a great job at the end, and we are very, very pleased." Tim said afterwards. This was Iradj's first FIA GT victory and he was delighted. The nr 75 Ebimotors Porsche was second, ahead of the nr 58 AF Corse Ferrari; their drivers are in joint lead of the Classification.
PHOENIX AND ASTON MARTIN BMS COMPLETE GT1 PODIUM
After a gap of over two years, Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz returned to the FIA GT Championship podium, with a fine race in their nr 5 Phoenix Racing Aston Martin DBR9. Also Michelin shod, the car led the race for the first 13 laps.
After the first pit-stops, the car lost one place to the nr 23 Aston Martin, but Piccini regained the lost position 18 laps from the end, and held on, despite a train of cars following closely behind him. "We received the car only ten days before Silverstone," Jean Denis Deletraz explained. "However, the experience of the Phoenix Racing team is huge and they immediately did a great job and the right choice concerning the car and Michelin helped us a lot." The Phoenix car crossed the line two seconds ahead of the nr 23 Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9, with Gollin and Babini taking the third podium position.
"The third place was the maximum for today, but very soon it is going to be possible to fight for the first place," Fabio Babini explained afterwards Silverstone winners Bartels and Bertolini finished fourth in the nr 1 Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC 12, recovering after a spin early in the race. The nr 24 Aston Martin BMS DBR9 was fifth, ahead of the B-Racing Lamborghini Murcielago. The nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette took the final point for eighth, despite failing to finish, having spun out further to a collision with the nr 2 Vitaphone Maserati of Thomas Biagi. The Maserati was awarded a stop-and-go penalty for this avoidable collision, which was converted into a 30-second addition to his race time, putting him in 7th position behind the Lamborghini. The B-Racing car, having put in an impressive performance, also fell victim to the nr 2 Maserati. For this second offence, the black and green car was awarded a drop of ten grid positions in its next FIA GT race, in Oschersleben on July 2nd. However, the team has appealed this decision, and the results remain provisional.
EBIMOTORS SECOND IN GT2
For the second race in a row, the nr 75 Ebimotors Porsche 996 GT3 RSR has finished in second position, Emmanuel Collard and Luca Riccitelli making up for disappointing qualifying performances by the strong race times. Although the Porsche cars may not be as dominant as they were in 2005, when they won all 11 races, their reliability and strength, especially in difficult conditions, meant that they still have an excellent fight in GT2. "It was a bit special at the end today, the five last laps were crazy," Emmanuel Collard said. "We did not expect such a result at the beginning of the weekend, and it is good for the Championship. It is good fun, and I hope that it is going to be like this during all the season." With another eight points, Collard and Riccitelli are in the joint lead of the GT2 Drivers Classification.
AF CORSE RETAIN CHAMPIONSHIP LEADS
Despite the disappointment for the nr 59 car, which went out when it was leading the class, and for which offence the nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2 will receive a penalty of ten grid positions in the next race, AF Corse's nr 58 car of Bobbi and Melo finished in third position. This has placed them in the joint lead of the Drivers classification, with Collard and Riccitelli, and has allowed AF Corse to maintain its lead in the Teams Classification, two points ahead of Ebimotors. "To be honest I'm not very happy with this result," 2003 Champion Matteo Bobbi explained. "The car was good, we did a good job, and we were obviously fighting for the victory. But we took a drive through penalty[for refuelling violations - Ed], and after that the race was finished for us."
FIRST POINTS FOR SCUDERIA ECOSSE
The nr 62 Ferrari 430 GT2 ran strongly for much of the race, but a mistake meant that the car went back out on old tyres and it dropped back in the closing stages, meaning that Tim Mullen, who had started from pole, and his new team-mate Phil Bennett, finished in fourth position in GT2. This was the first points for the British team, after problems meant neither car finished in Silverstone. They were followed by the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche of Moccia and Busnelli. The nr 59 AF Corse Ferrari of Salo and Aguas was classified sixth after the accident with the nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse car, with Christian Ried and Horst Felbermayr Jr seventh. The final point went to the second JMB GruppeM Ferrari, of Antoine Gosse and Peter Kutemann.
DRAMATIC END TO GLPK-CARSPORT RACE
After setting the fastest time in the wet warm-up, the Brno race took a disasterous turn for the GLPK Carsport Corvette in the closing stages. Fourth at the end of the first stint. a problem with a wheel wrench saw the yellow car lose a place. Longin was then involved in a long battle with an Aston Martin, which ended with both cars spinning. Hezemans took over the car, and was lying fifth, when a collision with the nr 2 Maserati, a lap behind, took him out of the race. The Corvette was classified in 8th position in GT1, scoring one point, while the nr 2 Maserati received a 30-second penalty and a drop of 10 grid places for the next race. The team has appealed the decision, meaning the results are provisional. "It's a crying shame," Anthony Kumpen said. "We would surely have finished fifth, but a podium place could have been possible."
MISFIRES END BALFE MOTORSPORT'S RACE
The Balfe Motorsport team was forced to retire from the second round of the FIA GT Championship at Brno in the Czech Republic at the weekend with an engine misfire. The team had made improvements to the Saleen S7R between the opening round at Silverstone and Brno. A more responsive and better handling car gave drivers Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire optimism for the race. A solid start by Balfe kept him in touch with the rest of the GT1 cars in the opening laps. He also took advantage of a couple of mistakes to make up a couple of places. The first half of Jamie's stint went well, with him settling into his run quickly. But, he radioed the team to say that he was feeling a loss of power and he was brought into the pits to check on the problem. As a precaution the team decided to retire from the race in case any damage was being done to the engine, meaning its first retirement in over a year. "It was disappointing to not finish the race, especially after the car ran so reliably at Silverstone," said Shaun Balfe. "There are still issues to overcome with the outright pace of the car. But we weren't going to know whether we'd closed the gap on the rest of the field until we got to Brno. The car was definitely an improvement from Silverstone, which is a positive step. We just need to make a few more to be where we want to be. We will definitely be working hard in the long break before the next round at Oschersleben in Germany at the beginning of July. We certainly don't intend to stand still between now and then. We know that we're up against some of the best teams there are. We intend to show that we can run with them and be competitive," he said.
A BUSY MONTH...
Although there are no FIA GT races in June, that does not mean that the teams and drivers will be idle. While some will concentrate on testing and working on their cars, others are busy with the two major endurance races which will take place in June : the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, both taking place on June 17th /18th.
Some teams, such as Aston Martin Racing BMS and Scuderia Ecosse are taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with many of their regular FIA GT drivers.
Maserati, however, is entering the Nurburgring race, where Silverstone winners Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini will be driving a Vitaphone-liveried GranSport 'Laboratorio' car. And Zakspeed will enter its Dodge Viper, Sascha Bert being among the drivers.
At Le Mans, some drivers have been called up to complete prestigious line-ups, such as Andrea Piccini, who will drive for Aston Martin, and Philipp Peter, joining the 'Swiss Spirit' team where he will represent the Italian-speaking part of the country. Riccitelli is in the IMSA Performance Porsche LM-GT2 car, while Collard is driving a Pescarolo Judd LM-P1 car - joined during the test weekend by 1993 Le Mans winner Bouchut.