FIA GT Championship
First Qualifying Session
The weather is extremely changeable today in the Estoril area, with blue skies and sunshine following brief, heavy showers. Although the rain had stopped an hour before the first qualifying session started, the track was still extremely wet. The sun was shining, but the track took a while to dry.
First qualifying session
A close and exciting first qualifying session took part on a slowly drying track. The tyre choice became extremely difficult and decisive, and the traffic was extremely dense on the 4.182 km track, adding to the drivers’ difficulties. The fight in the N-GT category was very close, with the order changing almost continuously, and the second to sixth-placed cars lapping within a second of each other.
Lister on provisional GT pole
British team Lister Storm continued to perform well at Estoril, with Jamie Campbell-Walter setting the best time in the first qualifying session. He took the lead early in the session, and stayed there throughout, improving gradually to 1:51.139. Mike Hezemans put the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper in second place early in the session, and despite trying hard, was not able to improve on his time, staying half a second slower than the Lister. The second Lister improved to third place late in the session, pushing the Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello down to fourth place. Carsport Holland’s second Chrysler Viper, driven by Michael and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, improved right at the end of the session to make the top six, just ahead of the GT Champions, the nr 7 Larbre Viper of Bouchut, Belloc and local star Tiago Monteiro. Emanuele Naspetti had placed the nr 24 Racing Box Chrysler Viper in the top six until close before the end, but the last-minute improvement by the nr 4 Carsport Viper put him down in seventh. The nr 19 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini had a good session, setting the eleventh time in the GT class. None of the Paul Belmondo Chrysler Vipers made the Superpole, caught out by the difficult conditions.
Art Engineering on provisional N-GT pole
The N-GT class had an extremely close and exciting session. The top six were changing constantly, with the situation of the two teams fighting for the Championship varying as the session progressed. Early on, the JMB Ferrari was the fastest of the N-GT cars, while the nr 77 RWS Porsche was well down the times. Once the nr 77 changed tyres, it took the lead, while the nr 62 began to drop down the time sheets. However, even Riccitelli and Maassen were not able to withstand the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche, with Fabio Babini setting a time of 1:54.403, half a second faster than Sascha Maassen’s best time in the nr 77 Porsche. The nr 70 JVG Porsche of Jürgen von Gartzen and Bruno Eichmann was third fastest, improving right at the end of the session, and pushing the JMB Ferrari out of the Superpole. The nr 50 Larbre Porsche, the nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche and the second RWS Porsche also qualified for this afternoon’s Superpole session.
09:30 Green flag. The session was declared a wet practice.
09:35 nr 53 Art Engineering Porsche spins off the track Jamie Campbell-Walter is fastest with a lap of 1:55.432 in the nr 1 Lister. Terrien leads N-GT in the nr 62 JMB Ferrari
09:37 Christophe Bouchut takes the lead with 1:53.569 in the nr 7 Larbre Viper
09:38 The nr 21 GLPK Viper spins on the track and continues
09:39 Iradj Alexander, in the nr 99 Ferrari 360 Modena, is fastest in N-GT. The nr 1 Lister regains the overall lead
09:40 GT : 1– 7– 21– 12– 9– 10 - 4 N-GT : 99– 62– 57– 69– 76– 63– 72 09 :42 The nr 77 RWS Porsche appears to have problems– returns to the pits.
09:43 Terrien regains the lead in N-GT with a lap of 1:57.476
09:45 Extremely grey clouds cover the circuit. Hezemans improves to second with a lap of 1:52.67; Campbell-Walter remains fastest, improving to 1:51.828
09:47 nr 72 Bengali Porsche spins off the track; restarts
09:48 Luca Riccitelli on N-GT provisional pole with a time of 1:55.960 in the nr 77 RWS Porsche
09:50 GT : 1– 3 - 15– 7– 11– 17– 9– 21– 4– 2 N-GT : 77– 52– 99– 62– 50– 57– 69– 54
09:57 nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche improves to second in N-GT
09:58 The nr 2 Lister Storm improves to third overall; Naspetti in the nr 24 Racing Box Viper improves to 6th.
10:00 Nr 3 Carsport Viper slow on the track; nr 7 Larbre Viper spins into the gravel GT : 1– 3– 2– 15– 7- 24– 4– 9– 11– 17 N-GT : 77– 54– 52– 76– 50– 99– 70
10:03 Terrien improves to 5th in N-GT in the nr 62 JMB Ferrari The nr 19 Reiter Lamborghini is 9th overall, with a time of 1:54.865
10:04 The nr 24 Racing Box Chrysler Viper slides off the track, stopping just short of the barriers
10:05 The two RWS Porsches are now first and third in N-GT, with the JMB Ferrari fourth
10:09 The nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche takes provisional N-GT pole with a time of 1:54.653
10:10 GT : 1– 3– 2– 15– 7– 24– 4– 11– 9- 19– 12 N-GT : 54– 77– 50– 69– 76– 62– 70 - 53– 52– 57– 99
10 :14 Jurgen Von Gartzen improves to third in N-Gt, putting Terrien out of the Superpole ; the nr 30 car slides off the track in to the gravel The nr 9 ART Viper is stranded by the side of the track, out of fuel
10:15 Chequered flag Riccitelli improves to 1: 55.105 on his final lap, remaining second. Final results GT : 1– 3– 2– 15– 4– 7- 24– 11– 9– 17 N-GT : 54– 77– 70– 50– 69– 76– 62– 53– 52– 57
NOTES AND QUOTES
Jamie Campbell-Walter (GBR)– nr 1 Lister Storm : "That was a nice session. It is helping having no penalty weight. The car was good yesterday in the dry, and it’s going well today. It went well here last year too, so I think this track suits the Storm. It’s nice to have the provisional pole. Now we’ve got to try and keep it for the Superpole, as we would love to start from the front row again. But the Superpole has been the bane of our lives this year. We have to hope we’ll have no gremlins, as currently, the car is perfect, and nice to drive."
Mike Hezemans (NED)– nr 3 Carsport Viper : "I slowed down at one point, because there was so much traffic out there, and I really wanted to get a clear lap. I did a lap in 1:51.6, and I saw Bouchut behind me on intermediate tyres. He seemed to be going quite quickly in some areas, so I decided to try intermediate tyres too. I think I pushed a bit too hard, and I couldn’t improve on my time. The intermediate tyres didn’t help much, and I nearly went off the track. It was very difficult to get a clear. However, we’re in the Superpole, which is the main thing. And the nr 4 Viper has solved its problems, which were due to shock absorber problems, so it has also got in the Superpole."
Christophe Bouchut (FRA)– nr 7 Larbre Viper : "I’m happy– it’s good to have qualified for the Superpole for the last event of the season. I would have been a bit unhappy if we’d missed it. It wasn’t an easy session. We put intermediate tyres on too early, and it wasn’t working well. We also had a brake balance problem, and the combination of those factors sent me off into a sand trap. I lost some time, but the car wasn’t damaged. The conditions were very unpleasant out there. You have to stay out and do the laps in case the conditions improve, but it can be very tricky. We’re sixth fastest, and we can still improve in the afternoon. We have a new engine this weekend, which is supposed to be more powerful, but given the conditions and a number of minor teething problems, we aren’t really sure of how much of a benefit it will be."
Vincent Vosse (BEL)– nr 12 Belmondo Viper : "Boris did the session, but we made the wrong tyre choice, which was turned out to be decisive. The car is good, but we were not able to make the most of its potential."
Alain Menu (SUI)– nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari : "I’m quite happy– it was a good session. I only did three timed laps on wet tyres, then decided to wait to see what the weather would do. Then I went out on intermediate tyres, which was perhaps a bit too soon, and we dropped from second to fourth. But we’re in the Superpole, which is the main thing. The track stayed wet for a very long time, which could be a decisive factor for tomorrow’s race."
Oliver Gavin (GBR)– nr 19 Reiter Lamborghini : "It’s been an interesting few days, learning to drive the car and getting used to Estoril again. No one would dispute that it has been difficult, and there are a number of things we need to get right. But we are making progress, and the car was not bad in the rain. With more time it could be good, but it’s slow progress. It’s nice to be racing back in Europe after two years in the USA; it takes some time to get back into the European style of racing. There always seems to be more pressure over here. The Championship seems good, with a good level of drivers, and the racing should be close. I’d quite like to come back and race here– I’m really enjoying it. As for this weekend, there are no miracles, but we were up in the top ten for a while in qualifying. We’re making steps in the right direction."
Sebastien Dumez (FRA)– nr 50 Larbre Porsche : "I was rather nervous going out on the circuit in the wet for the first time in qualifying, but it went quite well, and we’re in the Superpole again. Globally, I’m very happy with my season, because at the beginning I didn’t know exactly what I’d be capable of in terms of getting used to new tracks and in my first season on international competition. It’s looking very good for next year. The doctors have also managed to sort out my medical problems, which is a great relief. "
Fabio Babini (ITA)– nr 53 Art Engineering Porsche : "I’m very happy with provisional pole, especially for the last race of the season, and in such difficult weather conditions. The car has been very good all season, and today I just went step by step. The intermediate Pirelli tyres were very good in these conditions, and the car was going very well. I finished ahead of Riccitelli, which is quite a reference. The team has worked hard this weekend, as the mechanics were changing the gear-box until three o’clock in the morning."
David Terrien (FRA)– nr 62 JMB Ferrari : "We made the right tyre choice, and the car was very good at the start of the session, really well balanced. But as the session progressed, the car became less good. It was good on the dry sections, but oversteered on the damp patches, which made it very difficult to drive. Of course we’re disappointed not to be in the Superpole, but we’ve started from worse positions and still managed to win. For us, unless we start from the front row, it really doesn’t matter whether we’re 4th or 7th in N-GT. We usually get overtaken at the start, so it shouldn’t really make much difference for the race."
Philipp Peter (AUT)– nr 69 Orlando Porsche :"The main thing is that we’re in the Superpole, but I’m disappointed because on wet or damp conditions, I am usually fastest. We thought the track was drying, so we kept a dry set-up on the car, and it was not working at all well in these conditions. We had no mechanical grip at all, so it was a real struggle up until the end to keep inside the top six. Now we know that we need to change the set-up of the dampers and suspension for these sort of conditions. The track has quite a strange surface– it’s really slippery in the wet, and a lot a grip if it is dry. Also, the strong wind means that a lot of sand and dirt is blown onto the track."
Jürgen von Gartzen (GER)– nr 70 JVG Porsche : "That was a good result. The last five or six laps were getting gradually faster, and it was possible to do a time. My second lap might have been quicker but I was having problems with the fuel distribution. I’m happy to get into the Superpole again."
Antonio Garcia (ESP)– nr 76 RWS Porsche : "I’m quite pleased, as it was a little bit difficult. The track was wet at the beginning, and we thought it would dry. Dieter did his three laps in the middle of the session, when the track was really quite good. About 20 minutes before the end, I asked the team to put enough fuel in the car so that I could run until the end. In conditions like this it’s really important to stay out on the track for every possible lap, to make the most of the situation. I was afraid it would start to rain and keep raining until the end. I had intermediate tyres on, and I managed to improve to third. I think the last three laps were the best, but I couldn’t improve, as my tyres were beginning to go off, there was a lot of traffic, and a number of cars spun in front of me. I was also the first car to take the chequered flag, so I lost that lap too. Still, I’m sixth and doing the Superpole for the first time. I haven’t done that since my first season in Formula Nissan."
Sascha Maassen (GER)– nr 77 RWS Porsche : "In the beginning, Luca went out on intermediate tyres, but the conditions were too wet, and he came back in to change to wets. He then immediately went up to first. I went out later, and improved a bit more, although we couldn’t get back on provisional pole. The main thing is that we are in the Superpole, and the Ferrari is not– and that is very important for us. And the nr 76 car is also in the Superpole– Garcia did a very good job."
Philippe Brocard – nr 90 Porsche, team manager. "Kalliste is a new team, created this year, and we ran four cars in the French GT Championship and a Porsche Cup in the French Cup. As that Championship’s season is over, we decided to come and try the FIA GT Championship. Our long-term aim is to race here full time, but it was too much for a first year. We have no pretensions about our performances this weekend. The technical specifications are rather different between the two Championships, and we had to change the ride height of the car. This meant that all our set-ups needed to be changed - and we have three gentlemen drivers, who do not know the track. However, we came to see what we thought of the Championship, and we like it. The atmosphere is very good and the teams are all very friendly. We will see for next year, although we already have a busy scheduled planned between the French GT Championship and the Carrera Cup. But it remains our goal, either for 2002 or 2003."