After an action-packed, high-attrition race at the British track of Donington, the FIA GT Championship proved that this season is one of the most exciting and least predictable ever.
The luck finally turned for Carsport Holland, with Hezemans and Kumpen taking their first win of the season, while David Terrien took the lead in the Drivers Classification. But with both the Lister Storms and the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper going out of the race, the GT title battle will have to wait for the final round in Estoril. The N-GT class saw an extremely close fight, with a fine win for Freisinger Motorsport's Stephane Ortelli confirming him as the 2002 Champion. As for the N-GT Teams title, Freisinger Motorsport has a good option on the title, with JMB Racing trailing by 14.5 points.
WEATHER : Sunny, becoming overcast later; 10 000 spectators over the weekend.
GT CHAMPIONSHIP WIDE OPEN, N-GT DRIVERS TITLE GOES TO ORTELLI
Stephane Ortelli won the N-GT category of the FIA GT Championship to take the title with a race to go, but a series of retirements left the GT category wide open. Jamie Campbell-Walter, driving the nr 14 Lister Storm with Nicolaus Springer, was involved in a collision with the nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello of Andrea Piccini. The damage cost the Lister Storm 20 laps in the pits for repairs, and the Ferrari went out in the second hour with a suspected engine problem.
Christophe Bouchut, who had a 3.5 points lead in the championship before this race, suffered a driveshaft failure in the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper, and failed to capitalise on the demise of the Lister Storm. The race was won by the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans, the pair taking their first victory of the year having led every round this season for at least one lap!
The N-GT title went to Stephane Ortelli, who needed only to finish ahead of the two JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena cars to take the title. Ortelli took his 6th win of the season, sharing the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R with young Frenchman Romain Dumas. They were followed by the nr 76 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Garcia and Felbermayr Jr. The nr 50 Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori and Andrea Bertolini finished third, having recovered from a poor set-up during practice and qualifying, while the nr 51 Ferrari 360 Modena of Andrea Montermini and Iradj Alexander retired with a gearbox failure.
FIRST WIN FOR CARSPORT HOLLAND
Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen took their first victory of the season in their nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. It was by no means a straightforward victory for the Carsport car, which was suffering from gearbox problems in the latter half of the race and Hezemans considered himself fortunate to finish at all. Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Capellari finished fourth after serving a stop-and-go penalty in the last 30 minutes of the race for a refuelling infraction.
The Carsport Holland Viper has led every round of the championship this year for at least one lap, but has been plagued with bad luck. At the opening round at Magny Cours they lost victory through a stop-and-go penalty, while at Silverstone their gearbox failed. At Brno they lost a wheel while leading, at Spa, Anthony Kumpen crashed during the night after contact with a slower car. At Enna Pergusa the car lost its rear window and then refused to start after their final pit stop 15 minutes from the end of the race.
BMS SCUDERIA ITALIA SECOND, PICCINI AND DELETRAZ OUT OF CHAMPIONSHIP RACE
Jean-Marc Gounon, Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari took their first podium finish of the season when the three finished second overall at Donington. Gounon qualified on pole position but lost the clutch on his Ferrari the formation lap and struggled to keep the car on the road. Bryner took over the car for the second stint and Calderari was able to defend his place from the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Chrysler Viper of Fabio Babini and Ni Amorim, which finished fourth. The sister car, of Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini, retired with an engine problem after Deletraz took a trip across the gravel. The pair now cannot win the championship, having gone into the race 15 points behind the leaders and needing two victories to take the title.
TERRIEN TAKES LEAD OF CHAMPIONSHIP
David Terrien has taken the lead of the Drivers classification after finishing fifth in the nr 2 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R shared with Swede Carl Rosenblad. The Frenchman, driving the team's older Viper with the H-pattern gearshift, was split with his regular driving partner Christophe Bouchut for this race, the pair having been tied for the lead of the series.
FIRST POINT FOR PROTON
The nr 16 Proton Porsche 911 GT2 of father and son pairing Gerold and Christian Ried, sharing with Italian Mauro Casadei, took their first points for three years at Donington. The car ran trouble-free for the three-hour race, and the team was ecstatic. "This is a family team, and it has scored its first point this year," said Casadei. "That is not an easy thing to accomplish in a championship of this quality."
ORTELLI THE NEW N-GT DRIVERS CHAMPION
Stephane Ortelli won the N-GT drivers' championship when he took his sixth victory of the season in the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R. The Frenchman, sharing with Romain Dumas, had a trouble-free run to victory, having needed only to finish ahead of the two JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modenas to take the title. The result means that Ortelli has wrapped up two Porsche titles this year, having clinched the Porsche Super Cup title at Indianapolis two weeks ago. The sister car of Stephane Daoudi and Bert Longin retired with a broken cylinder in the nr 55 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R.
JMB RACING OUT OF LUCK
The JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena team had a troubled ninth round of the FIA GT Championship. Christian Pescatori and Andrea Bertolini needed to finish ahead of Ortelli, but had struggled with the handling of their Ferrari all weekend. Although they sorted out the problem for the race, making their way through the field to finish third, it was not enough. The sister car of Andrea Montermini and Iradj Alexander, which led Ferrari's charge going into the penultimate round, retired with a gearbox failure in the second hour when Alexander was unable to change up through the gears.
BOTH RWS CARS FINISH IN THE POINTS
The RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R of Antonio Garcia and Horst Felbermayr Jnr took second position in N-GT. Garcia started from pole position but was caught and passed by Robin Liddell in the nr 56 EMKA Porsche, and the nr 83 Veloqx Ferrari 360 Modena of Tim Sugden. Garcia fought his way back, however, as both the Ferrari and the EMKA Porsche retired with mechanical failures. The team's second car, driven by the all-Russian line-up of Fomenko and Vassiliev, scored their best finish to date after running in the Championship since late 2000, with a fine sixth-place finish.
STRONG SHOW FOR VELOQX
The British GT Championship Veloqx Motorsport team, which is looking to contest a full season next year, had a strong showing at Donington. The nr 83 Veloqx Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Tim Sugden and Andrew Kirkaldy led during the first hour and was looking strong when Kirkaldy pulled to the side of the road in the second hour with a mechanical failure. The sister car of Jamie Davies and Ivan Capelli was classified as a finisher despite pulling off in the final hour. "It was not an easy weekend," said Davies. "Our Ferraris were very competitive on speed alone, but we need to work on reliability, though this is the longest race that we have ever run with the cars."
Mike Hezemans, nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 1st in GT: "We were just lucky this time, but I think we have earned the luck. We were not the fastest out there, but we pushed all the time, and we won. It was pure luck. I am very happy with the result. At the end the belt came off the gearbox, so I slowed down slightly. "
Anthony Kumpen, nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 1st in GT: "We were not the fastest on the track, the Ferrari and Lister were faster than us, but we won. We've had a lot of bad luck, so it was our turn to have some good luck for a change. It's very nice to have won a race at last - I can hardly believe it."
Jean-Marc Gounon, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 2nd in GT: "I lost my clutch on the formation lap and had to be pushed onto the grid. For the first hour I did not have any trouble, I just had to be careful going through the gears, so as not to destroy the gearbox because of the clutch problem. I had a similar experience here last year when I drove Marco Zadra's Ferrari 333 SP, when we had oil pressure problems but finished second. I would like to thank the team that has allowed me to qualify and race with them, and show that I am still quick."
Lilian Bryner, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 2nd in GT: "I had a problem with the starter motor and with the fuel pump at my pit stop. But the rest of the stint was OK ! "
Enzo Calderari, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 2nd in GT : "I have to thank Jean-Marc Gounon as he proved that we could manage a podium finish although we did not believe in it anymore ! At the end of the race, I was very careful as I had Fabio Babini [driving the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper] getting closer to me and I remembered Pergusa..."
Fabio Babini, nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 3rd in GT: "There was no problem between me and the Ferrari at the end. It was very important for me to finish the race for the championship. We had a good set-up in the final hour but maybe I pushed too hard. The Ferrari was just too fast for me to catch him."
Ni Amorim, nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 3rd in GT: "It' s very good to come back and to be on the podium right away. The car was perfect, and the Pirelli tyres were very good."
David Terrien, nr 2 Larbre Competition Chéreau Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 5th in GT : "I was eager to show that I would do the best I could with the nr 2 car this weekend. I did a very good first stint, and then I had a long final stint, during which the tyres were quite worn, so it was very difficult. As neither Lister nor Bouchut scored any points, I was quite lucky to take the lead of the Drivers Classification - but I am very happy to have done so !"
Christian Ried, nr 16 Proton Porsche 911 GT2 - 6th in GT : "It was perfect ! We had a brake problem on the formation lap for the grid, so we started from the pit-lane, but then everything was fine. I am very happy with my first-ever point in the Championship. Now we will have to see what car we will have for next year !"
Christophe Bouchut, nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R - DNF: "Something was broken at the rear in the gearbox, and I had no more gears. We will lose some weight for the final round, and I think that the car will be competitive."
Philippe Alliot, nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R - DNF : "I don't know what happened, as we were having a good race, but the car just stopped. We could have finished third or even second, ahead of Calderari. It's a shame - but it's looking promising for the future."
Jamie Campbell-Walter, nr 14 Lister Storm - DNF: "Piccini is a clean racer but he missed his turning in point and cut across me. It was my corner and I had nowhere to go. I hit him in the back so I was penalised, but I was on full lock going around a hairpin. The championship is still wide-open. Terrien has taken the Championship lead, and I am happy for him. But Estoril will be win or bust, and we will have to see how we go."
Andrea Piccini, nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - DNF: "Everybody seems to like my back. Jamie pushed me off. I thought I had overtaken him nicely on the outside at the chicane, which is quite difficult to do, but he didn't fight too much. Then we came to the first chicane and it was OK, I was just trying to control him, but in the last corner I missed my braking point, and went wide. When he hit me I was at the apex and I spun. I was very quick to re-start, though and after that the car was very quick. Now the Championship is gone, but I still think that we have done a good job this year."
Stephane Ortelli, nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R - 1st in N-GT : ""I am very happy with this result. We have not been the fastest this weekend and we had to push a lot to finish first. Also Romain Dumas had to fight hard to make a bigger gap on our competitors. If you look at the competition in the N-GT Championship, it is so close ! We are providing a good show and I am very proud to be in this Championship. So I am very happy to win the N-GT Drivers Title, and to have won six races this season."
Romain Dumas, nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R - 1st in N-GT: "I have raced in this Championship twice this year, and won twice with Stephane ! I just came here to help him clinch the title. I switch from single seaters to GTs regularly, so it is not a problem. The more I drive, the quicker I get ! The most important thing is to win all the time !"
Christian Pescatori, nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 3rd in N-GT : "We changed our set-up for the race so it was better in both the fast and slow corners. The problem was with the gearbox, which was not right for this circuit. I stopped for tyres at the front, took on fuel, but it did not change the final classification because the difference between the Porsche and us was too big. But it was a good test for next year, and I think it is possible I will stay with the team again."
Nikolaj Fomenko, nr 77 RWS Motorsport, Porsche 996 GT3-R: "These are not only the first points of this season, but of any season. I am really happy and I hope that we have just opened the box!"
Robin Liddell, nr 56 EMKA Porsche 996 GT3-R - DNF : "Steve O'Rourke went off at Craners, and grass got in the radiator, so it overheated. But the team is very happy to have qualified second, led the race and got the fastest lap. So it's not a bad return to the Championship. If we had managed to test the new set-up for the car in this specification before the race, who knows where we could have finished !"