Just two races to go - and much still remains to be decided in the 2005 FIA GT Championship. Seven different drivers, from three different teams, are still in contention for the GT1 lead, giving us one of the closest title races ever. As for the GT2 category, the Championship might have been decided, after Lieb and Rockenfeller took a decisive lead in Zhuhai, but the fight will go on : the new Champions are determined to finish the season with further victories, while the rest of the extensive field of Porsche, Ferrari and Spyker cars, will be keen to claim their moment of glory. The cars, which were packed up immediately after Zhuhai, will be delivered, in their transport containers, at the circuit on November 11th, in order for the teams to check them over and get them ready for the action to begin, on Wednesday November 16th.
Last year's Dubai round was the first race-weekend at the magnificent new Autodrome; this year's event should be equally impressive. As well as the 500-km FIA GT race, the MotorCity GT 500 Dubai, there will be plenty of on-track entertainment, including RallySprint races with Group N and Formula 2 cars, Dragster Demonstration Runs with UAE driver Bade Al Ahli, who holds the Middle East record in drag racing, and parades of Low Rider (Modified Cars), Super Cars and Harley Davidson bikes.
A parade of the GT cars will also take place on the Tuesday, leaving the track at 16:00 to go, under police escort, to the incredible Burj El Arab hotel. The season's victories currently stand at four wins for Maserati MC 12 cars, two each for Ferrari 550 Maranello and Corvette C5R, and one for Aston Martin DBR9. What will be the score after the tenth round of the season ? Could it be a second win for the Aston Martin, this time run by Russian Age and raced by Bouchut and Ortelli ? Or what about the Ferrari 575, increasingly competitive for GPC Sport . Whatever happens, we are certainly in for an exciting end of the 2005 season.
WHAT THE DRIVERS THINK
"I won a beautiful race in Dubai last year, against the Maseratis and Saleen. I am dreaming of a similar result this year, especially with the help of Larbre and Michelin, and I hope we will have the possiblity to impress again. This is one of the best circuits of the year, technical, fast and nice for the show and for my car. It was really fast last year, and I hope it will be equally good this year." Gabriele Gardel, Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello
"The circuit is terrific, especially the grip, which improves continuously. Both the car and the Pirelli tyres responded very well to the track. I am looking forward to having a great time in Dubai." Andrea Bertolini, JMB Racing Maserati MC 12
"It is a very technical track, but I am not sure how our car will behave. Normally the Corvette works well on a bumpy circuit, and also when it is hot - so that last factor should already work in our favour !" Bert Longin, GLPK Carsport Corvette C5-R.
ORTELLI JOINS BOUCHUT IN THE DBR9
After making a convincing start in Zhuhai, claiming pole position on its first time out, the Russian Age Racing DBR9 will have a powerful line-up for Dubai. Triple FIA GT Champion Christophe Bouchut will be joined by two-times Champion Stephane Ortelli. Ortelli has scored the most points in the Championship, with Bouchut in second place; between them they have notched up 26 wins. Both have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and both have also won the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Although they have driven together for Cirtek, this is the first time they have teamed up in the FIA GT Championship. Ortelli was part of the victorious Aston Martin team at Sebring this year, and he is relishing the chance to get back into the DBR9. "I have probably done more miles in this car than any other this season as it was new at the start of the year and we had to do a lot of testing miles with it," he said. Rob Schirle, who owns the Cirtek outfit which runs the Russian Age Racing team, added: "Stephane drives with us just about every year in one-off deals, and works well with Christophe. Given our performance at Zhuhai, where Christophe qualified the Aston on the pole and set fastest race lap ,our first win in the championship is a very real possibility."
VITAPHONE : CLOSE TO THEIR GOAL
With a lead of 31 points in the Teams Classification, and 36 points remaining in the two final races of the 2005 season, the German Vitaphone Racing Team is in a strong position to claim the title, in only their second year in the Championship. The only team which can now beat them is JMB Racing, from Monaco, a winner of the N-GT title in 2001. The four Maserati cars will be out for victory in Dubai and Bahrain ! The AF Corse Maserati finished second in Dubai last year, while the Vitaphone Saleen crossed the line in fourth place. All four Vitaphone drivers are still in the fight for the GT1 Drivers Championship as well, with Bartels and Scheider four points behind current leaders Bertolini and Wendlinger, and Italian duo Babini and Biagi three points behind the nr 9 car drivers. Bartels and Scheider will carry the maximum 100 kg for round 10, while the nr 10 car has lost 20 kg to carry 80kg.
GLPK : LOOKING FOR A THIRD WIN
GLPK Carsport took its second win of the season in Zhuhai, putting in a faultless race and making the most of their relative lack of penalty weight. Heading for Dubai, the trio of drivers, Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen and Bert Longin, are hoping to finish the season on a positive note. "It was great to win in China, the atmosphere is great there and the people are really autosport-minded," Bert commented. " Here in Belgium, it really sparks everyone's imagination to think of winning a Championship race in Asia. We really hope that we can repeat this succes for the last two races."
This will be the Corvette's first time in Dubai. " The heat of Dubai and Bahrain is no disadvantage for us; normally the car reacts well under these conditions. I know that Pirelli is doing its best to perform well for the last 2 races, they really want to show a top level performance. How the car will react on the circuit remains a question. The Maserati and Ferrari cars are a step ahead because they already drove there last year. But still in the mood of our last victory we will certainly go for the win !"
WENDLINGER AND BERTOLINI - IN THE LEAD
Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Bertolini, drivers of the nr 15 JMB Racing Maserati MC 12, have been in the lead of the Drivers Classification since the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, where their second-place finish, along with Philipp Peter, propelled them to the top of what has been a very close fight this season.
Now they are heading back to Dubai, where both drivers competed last year - Bertolini in an AF Corse MC12, and Wendlinger in a JMB Ferrari 575 M Maranello. On that occasion, neither driver finished the race, but they are definitely hoping for better results this time. "I have a good feeling", Karl said, "I like this circuit, although I had some medical problems last year. But I am sure, that this year the weather will be better than in 2004. It will be a very important race in terms of the Championship. We must try to finish ahead of the two Vitaphone Maserati MC 12s. For me, the favourites for victory in Dubai are the Aston Martin and the Ferraris." As for Bertolini , he is also looking forward to the race. "I really hope to get a good result, in order to move a step closer to the title. Last year, I enjoyed the track very much, despite the heat. I hope to have a great time in Dubai !"
LARBRE COMPETITION BACK WITH TWO CARS
Gabriele Gardel is the only non-Maserati driver still in contention for the 2005 FIA GT Championship; he is currently six points behind leaders Bertolini and Wendlinger. The French team will be fielding a strong line-up for the Dubai round. Carrying less weight than the Maserati cars, and after his win in the BMS Ferrari last year, Gardel hopes to remain in contention until the very end : "I think that the Championship needs to be open until the last race to give a good show. With the help of Larbre and Michelin, we have the possibility to impress again."
In order to help Gabriele, the second Larbre Ferrari 550 will also be present. It will be driven by Steve Zacchia, who has driven the car in the early part of the season, Vincent Vosse, who was with Gardel in the nr 11 for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, and French driver Jean-Luc Blanchemain, a regular competitor at Spa over the years.
LISTER'S FIRST TRIP TO DUBAI
This will be the Lister Storm's first trip to the beautiful and challenging Dubai Autodrome, as the team did not make the journey last year. Team drivers Liz Haliiday and Justin Keen are looking forward to the experience, after a promising but ultimately disappointing end to their Zhuhai adventure. Justin made a great start, climbing from the back of the grid to sixth after just ten laps, but an apparant oil pump failure took them out of the race towards the end of Liz's stint. The team barely had time to remove the fire extinguisher debris before putting the car in the container, bound for Dubai. "I think this will be an exciting race location for the FIA GT Championship," Liz said. "It will also be quite a deciding factor in points for many teams as it is the penultimate round of the championship.
Dubai as a place and a circuit is somewhere that I have always wanted to go. I don't know much about the circuit yet, but the Lister has been pretty good at all of the tracks we have been to, so I am just looking forward to learning the track and spending more time in the car. "