After a break of nearly a month, the sixth round of the LG Super Racing Weekend series will see the teams and drivers head over the English Channel to the British circuit of Donington Park, in the Midlands. A popular circuit with everyone involved, the multi-platform series has raced there in both 2002 and 2003. The historic circuit, dating back to after the Second World War, is 4.023 km long. Located next to the Nottingham-East Midlands airport, it has a finely balanced combination of fast, challenging corners and a slow, technical hairpin section, meaning that the car set-up is crucial.
This will be the sixth time that the FIA GT Championship has raced at Donington; last year, the fifth round of the Championship was held there, and it saw the fifth consecutive victory for BMS Scuderia drivers Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi, in their Ferrari 550 Maranello. The duo went on to win the Championship title, as did Stéphane Ortelli and Marc Lieb, who were victorious in the N-GT category at Donington, in their Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3. This year, at the half-way point, the Championship classifications bear a certain similarity to those of last year, with BMS Scuderia Italia and Freisinger Yukos Motorsport in the lead in the Teams Championship. But with three different winners in each category from the first five rounds, no-one has come close to matching the Bobbi/Biagi domination of 2003. Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels took their second win of the season in the previous round in Brno, while in N-GT, Christian Pescatori and Fabrizio De Simone gave new team GPC Giesse Squadra Corse its first win, with their Ferrari 360 Modena CS. Donington should see some new faces in the paddock, with the planned debut of the DAMS Lamborghini, some entrants from the British GT Championship including double winner of the last round, Scuderia Ecosse, Gruppe M and JRW Racing, bearing the colours of event sponsor John Guest.
A LAP OF DONINGTON WITH BMW GREAT BRITAIN'S ANDY PRIAULX
Andy Priaulx, 30 years old, made a very good impression in his first season in the FIA ETCC, when he managed to win three championship rounds in Brno, Spa and Oschersleben, fighting for the European crown till the last race in Monza. Eventually he was classified third, seven points behind Tarquini. This year, only halfway through the season, the Briton has already matched that score, with wins in Magny-Cours, Hockenheim and Brno (the only driver with three victories so far); he is currently second in the Drivers' Championship, with a four-point gap from Dirk Müller.
"Donington is a great circuit! You always see exciting Touring Car races there.The key to success is braking. If you have a good set-up, and the car is balanced under braking, then you have nearly eveything you need in Donington. The tyres wear is not worse than anywhere else.
I hope we have a sunny weekend, because if it rains, the track becomes very slippery, due to the kerosene left by the aircraft landing and taking off at the East Midlands airport. Redgate corner, at the end of the main straight, is not a problem. Even at the start, when the whole field is still packed, everybody finds a way to pass. Problems start downhill at the Craner curves. This is one of the most difficult corners to do in a touring car. With single seater is not a problem, but with a saloon, wow! I think that everybody enjoys that, especially during the first lap, on cold tyres^Å If you make a mistake there, you have good chances to go off at the following corner, the Old hairpin.
But if you do it right, then you have the momentum to go uphill towards McLean's, even if you have ballast on board.
The most important part comes at the end of the Starkey's straight: the chicane, the Melbourne hairpin and Goddards. Here is where you can make it or lose it. And that is where the handicap weight really hurts."
Circuit length : 4023 m
Location : 15 km southwest of Nottingham
Directions : from London, take the M1 Motorway northbound for Nottingham; exit at junction 24 A for Derby - A6; follow signs to the Nottingham-East Midlands airport. The track is on the right, just after the airport.
A thrilling race in Brno saw Bartels and Alzen take their second win of the season, in their Vitaphone Saleen S7-R, despite losing a wheel. This result has moved their team up to fourth in the Teams classification, but after five rounds, BMS Scuderia Italia have a commanding lead, and are currently on 71 points. JMB Racing and GPC Giesse Squadra Corse are joint second, both with 26. Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari continue to lead the Drivers points table, with Matteo Bobbi and Gabriele Gardel, who failed to finish in Brno, nine points behind them. Karl Wendlinger is a further ten points behind them, with Alzen and Bartels just one point below, on 20. The N-GT classification is much closer. A well-deserved win for the Ferrari 360 Modena of GPC Giesse Squadra Corse in Brno close the points up, and Porsche drivers Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Stéphane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard are all tied on 38 points, with De Simone and Pescatori a further 6 points below them. In the Teams classification, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport has a healthy lead over Freisinger Motorsport and GPC Giesse, both of which only have one car compared to the two Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars.
The teams are also close in terms of the handicap weights : the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos and the nr 99 Freisinger Porsche are both on the maximum 50 kg, while the nr 62 Ferrari is on 40 kg. In GT, the nr 2 Ferrari 550 Maranello will carry 100 kg, with the nr 1 car going down to 40 kg. The nr 5 Saleen will also carry 40 kg after its win in Brno, while the nr 17 JMB Racing car, second in Brno, will have 30 kg. Any cars which are new race-by-race entries, or returning after missing a round, will carry 60 kg in the GT category, or 30 kg in the N-GT.
BRNO WINNERS VITAPHONE AIM FOR DONINGTON PODIUM
The Vitaphone Racing Team has been busy since Brno, taking part in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring with a Porsche bi-turbo, which unfortunately went out after 22 hours. But Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels are confident for Donington. "Donington Park is a very beautiful track, with differences in altitude like the Nürburgring Nordschleife. I think the Saleen should be good for a podium finish," Alzen said. As for Michael :"For me,Donington Park is like coming home because I've driven practically everything on four wheels there including Formula 3000 and the Touring Car World Cup. The track has fast bends where you need a lot of courage to drive through very quick. We hope that nothing happens to our car and we can be put up a hard challenge to the Ferrari teams."
CAMPBELL-WALTER LOOKS FORWARD TO DONINGTON
Creation Autosportif's Jamie Campbell-Walter and Jamie Derbyshire are currently the highest-placed British drivers in the Championship. After some consistent runs, they have scored points in the last four rounds and are lying joint 10th. "I am really looking forward to Donington," Campbell-Walter explained. "Although I haven't had much luck at Donington in the last couple of years, it is our home track and the car is good there; it has good downforce, and the smooth surface helps us too. Also, Jamie (Derbyshire) has tested the Lister there, back in March, so he knows it well. We are consistent and reliable, and we just need a bit of luck to get on the podium. I also need to try to qualify a bit higher up the grid, so we don't have so much to make up in the early stages."
MIKE JORDAN RETURNS TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Having finished on the podium during his last FIA GT race, at Monza in 2003, Mike Jordan will be back for Donington, with David Warnock, sharing a JWR Porsche 996 GT3. The duo are currently competing in the British GT Championship. "We won the first race, but we've had gearbox problems in the last couple of rounds. The British series is good, but we do miss the FIA GT Championship and the big, international circuits we went to last year," Jordan explained. "We are really looking forward to Donington. It will be a low-pressure race for us, with no worries about Championship points. Our sponsors, John Guest, are bringing a lot of visitors, so it should be a good weekend. We know Donington well, we've got a good set-up and hope for a good result. I'm really looking forward to it."
INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR FOR SCUDERIA ECOSSE
A new team for the FIA GT Championship - but familiar drivers. Scuderia Ecosse is one of the leading teams in the British GT Championship, with Nathan Kinch - a race winner with Lister last year - and former Veloqx driver Andrew Kirkaldy. The team is entering a Ferrari 360 Modena in the Donington round to try themselves against the international field. Stewart Roden, the Team Principal explained : "This is our first year in GT racing and we're having a fantastic time. Our goal for 2004 is to win the British GT Championship and learn more about international GT racing along the way. The FIA GT event at Donington is the perfect opportunity for us to gauge our position within a strong international field and a great test of our mettle." As for Andrew, he is also looking forward to the race :" It's a tight turnaround for us as we have a British GT race the weekend before. We've already raced at Donington this year so we know how the Ferrari performs there and have a good idea of where to go with the car set-up. Nathan (Kinch) and I won last time we raced at Donington and I don't see any reason why we can't have another good weekend there."
LESLIE AND WHIGHT JOIN RUBERTI AT GRAHAM NASH MOTORSPORT
Another of the regular teams facing their home round is Graham Nash Motorsport. The team had its best-yet weekend at Brno, qualifying an excellent fourth with the nr 28 Saleen S7, and finishing 10th in GT. "We are hoping to further improve on our excellent Brno qualifying position of 4th at Donington next weekend," Graham Nash explained. "We particularly look forward to Donington as it is our home race and we want to take the opportunity to build on what we have achieved so far this season. Paolo Ruberti, who has been with us all season, will be joined in the Saleen S7R by Paul Whight (GBR) and David Leslie (GBR), who both did some testing with GNM earlier in the season. Leslie has driven with us previously in the British GT Championship in 2000, and we welcome his return. Overall, we are confident that we can continue our success of the last race and do well at Donington."
FIA GT NEWS IN BRIEF
BRNO RESULTS DECLARED FINAL. The results of the Brno race were declared final, after the satisfactory results of the supplementary checks on the nr 5 Saleen.
GOODWIN LOOKS FORWARD TO HOME RACE. RML driver Chris Goodwin is really looking forward to his home race at Donington. "I haven't raced there since the first FIA GT race, in 1997, when I was in the Parabolica McLaren. On that occasion, we ran in fourth position for much of the race, ahead of one of the AMG cars, until a wheel fell off. I hope we can repeat that sort of form in the Saleen S7 - but get to the end this time ! We have shown good race pace in the last two rounds - hopefully Donington will be the one where we get a good result."
MORBIDELLI JOINS GPC GIESSE SQUADRA CORSE. It has been announced that former Formula One driver Gianni Morbidelli will be joining GPC Giesse Squadra Corse, to share the nr 13 car with Emanuele Naspetti. Morbidelli was a race-winner in the FIA Super Production Championship in 2001, and has since then competed in a number of rounds of the FIA ETCC, most recently for SEAT Sport Italia in Monza. Morbidelli already tested the Ferrari at Vallelunga, along with Vincent Vosse and Frédéric Bouvy, who will drive for the team in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa
MELO AND WENDLINGER FOR JMB RACING. After finishing in second place at Brno in his first-ever FIA GT race, Jaime Melo should be back in the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello, alongside Karl Wendlinger. "My last win at Donington was in 1999, in the FIA GT," Wendlinger said."The atmosphere at British circuits is very good, with a lot of people and a lot of interest, and I am really looking forward to going there again."
MARCO GADOLA NAMED TO GT COMMISSION. BMS Scuderia Italia's Technical Director, Marco Gadola is to take up a seat on the GT Commission, as one of the two Teams representatives. As well as his work for BMS, the 38-year old also holds the chair in Vehicle Dynamics at the University of Brescia. "With his experience in GT and motor racing in general, he has the right experience for the commission; we are very happy for him and for this recognition of his work," Sporting Director Marco Streparava explained.
TVR WAITING FOR ACCEPTANCE. Two TVR Tuscan T400R cars are hoping to take part in the Donington round, as long as they are accepted. One will be the RSR car, which took part in the pre-season test at Monza, and will be driven by Laurence Tomlinson and Nigel Greensall; the second is the Synergy Motorsport car of Bob Berridge.
PETERSEN RETURNS. Jens Petersen will enter his Porsche 996 GT3 in the Donington race; he will be joined, as in Magny-Cours, by Oliver Mathai and Jan-Dirk Lueders.
MAYALL FOR WIETH RACING. Wieth Racing's Ferrari 550 Maranello should be back for Donington. Mark Mayall, a JVG driver in 2003, will be alongside Wolfgang Kaufmann, with a third driver yet to be named. "We will know more after a test session at Oulton Park on Tuesday," team manager Florian Hebel explained.
MAASSEN WINS AT LE MANS. Currently leading the N-GT category, Sascha Maassen was victorious in the LM-GT category at Le Mans, while his team-mate Stéphane Ortelli, with Freisinger Motorsport, finished third. Oliver Gavin, who finished third at Valencia in the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini, was one of the winning team in the GM Corvette in GTS, with Olivier Beretta, the record-holder in terms of FIA GT race wins, and FIA ETCC driver Jan Magnussen.