The Portuguese circuit of Estoril, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, is once more the venue for the final round of the 2002 FIA GT Championship. The track hosted the Portuguese Grand Prix from 1984 to 1996 before closing for major renovation work. This weekend's 500 km, three hour race will have to decide three of the four titles, with only the N-GT Drivers Championship having already been claimed by Freisinger Motorsport's Stephane Ortelli.
DRIVING LINE-UPS CHANGE
Vincent Vosse remains in the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R, sharing with Christophe Bouchut while team manager Jack Leconte has drafted in Formula 3000 Champion, and winner of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, Sebastian Bourdais, to share the second car with championship leader David Terrien. Carl Rosenblad will be the third driver in that car.
The JMB Ferrari team has again switched its driving line-ups, with Andrea Garbagnati changing places with Iradj Alexander. Garbagnati will drive the nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena with Andrea Montermini, while Alexander has been moved to the nr 52 JMB Competition Ferrari. Frenchman Jean-Pierre Malcher has moved into the nr 53 JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena with Italian Batti Pregliasco.
Sascha Maassen will share the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R with the newly-crowned N-GT champion Stephane Ortelli. The German is driving in the FIA GT Championship for the first time since Oschersleben in July. The nr 62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R will be driven by Briton Adam Jones, who also drove the car at Donington two weeks ago, sharing with Romain Dumas, who won the Donington race with Ortelli.
LARBRE CHOOSES THE CONSERVATIVE OPTION
The Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper team, whose drivers David Terrien and Christophe Bouchut head the championship for drivers, has chosen to run the nr 1 Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Bouchut and Vincent Vosse with an H-pattern gearshift. The nr 1 car has run all season with a sequential gearshift, but the system has broken twice, at Oschersleben and at Donington.
TEAMS RE-JOIN SERIES
Reiter Engineering has returned to the championship for the first time since the eighth round at Enna Pergusa. However, this car is an updated version of those running in the Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy, upgraded to FIA GT specifications via a kit. This car represents the first stage of a project for 2003 that would see a number of Lamborghini cars running in the FIA GT Championship. Known as the GTS-R Supertrophy Team, the cars would be driven by many of the current Supertrophy stars.
At Estoril, the car will be driven by Emmanuel Clerico, who drove a Reiter Engineering Lamborghini with Oliver Gavin in Sicily, will share the updated Diablo GT car with Lamborghini Super Trophy driver Lee Cunningham.
The Dutch team Zwaan's Racing is also returning to the series after their participation in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa with the nr 34 Chrysler Viper GTS-R driven by Arjan van der Zwaan and Rob van der Zwaan.
The battle for the championship for both teams and drivers may centre on the handicap weights this weekend. Although Championship leader David Terrien has earned 60kg of ballast in his nr 2 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R, as he has been paired with Sebastien Bourdais, the car will instead carry Bourdais' maximum ballast of 80kg. Team mate and championship rival Bouchut will drive the nr 1 Larbre Viper with just 40kg.
The nr 14 Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer carries no ballast after an accident at Donington two weeks ago, though the crash cost them valuable championship points. Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen carry 40kg having won at Donington in the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The heaviest car is currently the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Amorim and Babini, with 85 kg earned after a run of good finishes.
In the N-GT championship, Stephane Ortelli and Sascha Maassen will carry the maximum 50kg of ballast, as will Romain Dumas in the nr 62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R. Dumas won at Spa with Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard, and then went on to win again with Ortelli at Donington in the nr 54 Freisinger Porsche, but the weight follows the driver to the Cirtek team. Christian Pescatori and Andrea Bertolini will also carry the maximum ballast in the nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena as they attempt to secure second position in the championship for drivers.
FIRST FREE PRACTICE
Jamie Campbell-Walter set fastest time in the morning session in the nr 14 Lister Storm. The Briton, 5.5 points behind championship leader David Terrien, set a time of 1m38.829s, half a second clear of Fabrizio Gollin in the nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz were third fastest, the drivers of the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello spending the session setting up their car.
The nr 32 DART Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello completed 15 laps before breaking a crankshaft. The car missed the second session as the team changed the engine.
Tim Sugden was fastest in the N-GT class, setting a time of 1m42.521s in his Veloqx Motorsport Ferrari 360 Modena, a tenth of a second clear of Philipp Peter in the nr 58 Autorlando Porsche 996 GT3-R. Adam Jones and Romain Dumas were third fastest in the nr 62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche. The nr 76 RWS Porsche of Paul Knapfield, making his return to the series after driving the Lister Storm in the opening half of the year, and German Norman Simon stopped early in the session with water leak. The team, which was running a sequential gearshift in the morning only, changed the engine between sessions, but stopped in the second session with a leaking water hose.
SECOND FREE PRACTICE
Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz headed the field in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, Piccini setting a time of 1m38.433s in the hotter weather conditions. Jamie Campbell-Walter was second fastest in the nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm, just four-hundredths of a second behind. Christophe Bouchut was third fastest in the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R. Johnny Mowlem set fastest time in the N-GT class behind the wheel of the nr 60 JvG Racing Porsche, ahead of Sascha Maassen and Stephane Ortelli in the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R. Tim Sugden, leader in the morning session behind the wheel of the nr 83 Veloqx Motorsport Ferrari 360 Modena, did not complete a lap as the clutch failed as the Briton was leaving the pits.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Fabrizio Gollin -- nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R : "We had no problems today; we were mainly testing some new Pirelli tyres, which went well, but we'll have to see tomorrow. It is sure that the Ferrari 550 Maranello and the Lister Storm cars are fast here, but the Viper is not too far behind, and it usually manages to improve. I think Christophe Bouchut and Mike Hezemans will be fast in qualifying tomorrow, and I hope I will too ! I last raced here in F3000 in 1996; I like the circuit, and I like the changes they have made to it since then -- the first and second corners are much nicer. We can still win the Teams Championship if we do really well, so we will have to hope for a good weekend !"
Fabio Babini, nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrylser Viper GTS-R: "I am not happy with the set-up of the car, we have too much oversteer. Ni Amorim tried the car too, and had the same thing so I think it has more to do with the ballast than anything else."
Jean-Denis Deletraz, nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello: "There is a little problem with the set-up of the car, but it is nothing too big. I think that it will be raining on Sunday, and I think that we will be very good during the race."
Emmanuel Clerico, nr 31 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Diablo GTR: "This is the GTR car. It is a development of the old car. It weighs 1280 kilogrammes, which is lighter by maybe 100kg, and it has a new suspension. This car has a rear diffuser which makes a little difference. We have smaller restrictors, but we are still three-and-a-half seconds faster than the old car. The only goal for us is to challenge the best of the N-GT, and be in front of them at the end of the race. This is the first roll-out of the car, so for that development it is very good. Over the winter I think that they should concentrate on developing the engine and next year it will be very good."
Johnny Mowlem, nr 60 JVG Racing, Porsche 996 GT3-R: "At Donington we were third, which was the first time that I drove this car. We changed things quite radically to suit my driving style, and thankfully that suited Ian Kahn as well. In the afternoon at Donington Ian had a slight altercation with the gravel. This morning we only used one set of tyres, and we were second on old tyres but dropped to fifth by the end of the session. This afternoon we slapped on a new set of tyres and went fastest. It just shows when I have good power from the engine, I am as quick if not quicker than anyone."
Jurgen von Gartzen -- nr 60 JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R : "The car did some good times today -- Johnny Mowlem is very fast. The car is good; we have found a good set-up and the Pirelli tyres are excellent, so we are very hopeful. I would prefer to be racing, and I find it more difficult to be managing from the pit-wall, but I can live with it, especially when I have very fast drivers like today."
Adam Jones -- nr 62 Cirtek Porsche 996 GT3-R : "All in all, we are confident for the race. The car is sorted, Romain Dumas and I are confident, and I think this is the best chance we have had this season. We just have to keep on the track ! It should be good."