FIA GT Championship 10 - 12 July 1998 Dijon Round Sunday 12 July 1998 - Race Report
At last, the summer has returned to Dijon, and blue skies, sunshine and a slight breeze awaited the 15,000 spectators who came to the French circuit for today's 500 km race. With excellent action around the tight, picturesque circuit, they were presented with a great show, with very few retirements and some great overtaking manoeuvres.
The long-awaited Porsche revival started in earnest during the 30-minute warm-up session, with Dalmas and McNish setting the best time, with a lap of 1:11.368. "We knew we'd be better in race trim," the Scottish driver said afterwards. "Unfortunately, we're behind the Mercedes on the grid." Schneider and Webber were second fastest in GT1, with the second Porsche AG car in third. There were problems for the Persson Motorsport Mercedes CLK-GTR, with Bouchut losing second gear on the car. "It just broke," Bouchut said. "I couldn't believe it !" The Panoz, which broke two prop-shafts yesterday, was fifth. "It was OK. There's less understeer, but it's hard over the bumps," Brabham said. The privately-entered Zakspeed cars were in sixth and ninth places. "We should be fine for the race," Bartels said. "It always goes better than qualifying." In GT2, Beretta and Lamy were once again fastest, with a best lap of 1:17.876, only a second slower than their qualifying time. The Roock cars were going well, with the second best time. The Chamberlain Engineering Viper, which was having problems yesterday, ran well. "It's much better," said Gary Ayles. "But it's a very physical car, and very hot inside. Two stints is going to be very hard."
4th Mercedes victory
AMG Mercedes took victory in the fourth round of the FIA GT Championship - their fourth victory this year. However, it was not the victors of Hockenheim and Silverstone who took the chequered flag, but Ricardo Zonta and Klaus Ludwig in the n02 Mercedes CLK LM. For much of the race, it looked as if we were heading for another Mercedes double, with Schneider pulling away from Ludwig at the start and building up a tremendous lead of 42 seconds by the 34th lap. But on lap 110 out of 132, Mark Webber spun and hit the barriers. He made his way back to the pits, but although the mechanics got the car out again, it came back to the pits 6 laps later. Then the car was given a 60 second penalty for allowing more than 4 mechanics to work on the car at one time. "A tyre went, and the car was too hard to control. It was too unsafe to continue," Webber said afterwards. This incident brought the n07 Porsche AG '98 version of the 911 GT1 up into second place. McNish and Dalmas had a good race, making an excellent start and rising to third place behind the two AMG Mercedes. The second Porsche retired after "something broke in the gearbox". For the second race in a row, third step on the podium went to the DAMS Panoz, driven with style by Eric Bernard and David Brabham. After a succession of problems in qualifying, the car ran faultlessly throughout, and was involved for much of the race in a battle for fourth place with the two Persson Motorsport Mercedes CLK GTR cars.
Double finishes for Persson and Zakspeed
For the first time, both of Persson's Mercedes CLK GTR cars finished in the points, after a strong race. Mayldnder and Bouchut were fourth in the n011, with Gounon and Tiemann in fifth place. "It's strange - it's the first time we've finished in the points, and also the first time the we weren't happy with the car. After losing second gear in the warm-up, we didn't have time to really set things up. But we're happy to have finished in the points. I hope it's a new start for the team, and that Dijon will be the end of our problems, " Bouchut said.
Both Zakspeed cars also made it to the finish line, with Bartels and Hahne taking the final point for sixth place, and the Grau/Schelde lineup a place behind. "The first tyre set was much too soft," Sandy Grau said. "Then we had lots of oversteer, and the car was virtually undriveable. But the last set was perfect, and I went much quicker. I was catching Bartels. Without our earlier problems, we could both have finished in the points." Zakspeed, with 11 points, are currently fourth in the overall classification.
One-Two for Viper
Dijon saw the fourth victory of the season for the Team Viper Oreca line-up of Frenchman Olivier Beretta and Pedro Lamy, with their team-mates Donohue and Wendlinger one lap behind. "We had no problems," Beretta said. "The car was very good, Pedro and I tried to do a good job, and everything went well." With his 1997 bad luck apparently a thing of the past, the Frenchman is happy. "It's a good start to the season," he said. The other Viper finished second in class in spite of big understeer problems, and losing fifth gear in the final stint. "We went in the wrong direction with our set-up," Wendlinger said. "Chrysler and Oreca's hard work has paid off," Donohue added, "And that has given us the upper hand." Until 9 laps before the end, it looked like an all-Viper podium was on the podium, as the Chamberlain Engineering Viper was lying third. However, a problem with a vapour lock when the car was hot, brought Gary Ayles to a standstill. "It's a shame. It happened early in the race too, so we came in early. Then it happened again, and I couldn't get it to start again. After a few minutes, it started perfectly. It would have been a good result - we can't compete with the works cars - Chamberlain is just not in the same league.
Sonauto Levallois : one race, one podium
Third place was taken by the Porsche 911 GT2 entered by French team Sonauto Levallois, regular competitors - and current leaders - in the French GT Championship. With fourth rounds of both championships taking place at Dijon this weekend, Jarier and Lafon have had a busy weekend. Jarier leapt up to third in GT2 at the start, and survived a trip into the gravel after tangling with a Zakspeed Porsche GT1, finally inheriting third when the Chamberlain Viper pulled off the track. "It was a good race - it was fun to take part, and we were so lucky to finish the race. The car is three years old, but we were on a level with the Roock Porsches." Jean-Pierre Jarier - who raced on this track in Formula One back in the seventies - said.
GT1 Press Conference Quotes
"It's very sad for Schneider, as he was doing an excellent job. But for the series it is fantastic because we have a one-two three with three different makes," Klaus Ludwig, AMG Mercedes.
"I was trying to push very hard, and I saw the gap coming down, so I pushed more and more. I think I could have caught up with the other car, but then it's a different matter." Ricardo Zonta, AMG Mercedes.
"We were fifth on the grid, but Yannick somehow, in a tremendous manoeuvre, got us into third past Alzen and the Panoz. With the Mercedes not changing tyres, that dropped us out of contention, so we were just holding position. We would have been happy with third, but we're even more happy with second," Allan McNish, Porsche AG
"The car was still understeering, but we managed to make it 10% better. But we need it to be 40% better. This is a good result for Porsche and good for the team. We've been working hard for 6 months now, and need some success. We had Le Mans, but that's in the past now. This is a good result, but we need to get up another step."
"Anything can happen. But we're not on the pace of the works Mercedes. We need to test more, and work hard." David Brabham, DAMS Panoz.
"I'm really happy - we had problems in practise, with two prop-shafts braking. The car was jumping, and difficult to drive. But I knew that if we had a good performance during the race we could get a good result." Eric Bernard, DAMS Panoz
"We hope Hungaroring will suit the Porsche. But we say that every week. Let's hope it's right this time," Jvrg M|ller