FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
Sunday dawned mild and dry, with blue skies. However, by the time the race started, the sky was extremely overcast and grey. The rain started after 30 minutes, turning into a downpour, and lasting for half an hour. The track then dried, allowing drivers to go back to slick tyres, before the rain started again towards the end of the race. However, this shower was much shorter and less intense, meaning drivers could stay out on slicks if necessary.
Carsport Holland (NED) win to claim second place in the GT Championship
The nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper of Mike Hezemans and Jeroen Bleekemolen took their second win of the season in the final race of 2002, claiming the second place in the GT Teams classification in the process. However, it was not an easy race for the green and white striped Viper, and it was won on pit-stop strategy, with the Dutch car making fewer pit stops than their rivals in difficult weather conditions. "It’s quite a surprise win," Mike Hezemans said. "I think we were very lucky." The two Dutch drivers completed 90 laps of the 4.182 km track in the allocated three hours. They were followed by the nr 1 Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Bobby Verdon-Roe. They had dominated much of the race, but were not able to capitalise, making two extra pits stops due to the weather and an unfortunate tyre choice. The 2001 Champions, Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc, were third, in the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R, along with their new team-mate Tiago Monteiro, who only did a few laps. Fourth place went to the second Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper of Sebastiaan and Michael Bleekemolen, overtaking the nr 19 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Diablo GT in the final laps. The Lamborghini, after an excellent race from Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin, had to slow at the end to avoid either running out of fuel or making a splash and dash– with both options resulting in the loss of fourth place. The final point went to the nr 10 Paul Belmondo Competition Chrysler Viper of Claude-Yves Gosselin and Portuguese driver Louis Marques.
JMB Competition (FRA) and Terrien (FRA) / Pescatori (ITA) take N-GT
Third place in today’s final race of the season for the nr 62 Ferrari 360 Modena was enough to give David Terrien and Christian Pescatori the 2001 N-GT Drivers Championship, and for JMB Competition to claim the Teams title. "This is the result of two year’s work, and the whole team has done an excellent job," team manager Benjamin Durand said. However, the much-anticipated title fight between JMB and RWS only lasted for a few metres, as Luca Riccitelli’s nr 77 RWS Porsche was badly damaged at the start of the race. While the Championship leader moved forward to take the lead ahead of his team-mate Antonio Garcia, starting from pole, the grid turned to chaos as Anthony Kumpen, in the nr 11 Paul Belmondo Viper, slid sideways, gathering a number of Porsches in its path. This included the nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche and both RWS cars. Although Garcia rejoined at the back of the field, Riccitelli had to make his way to the pits, where the team spent ten laps repairing the radiator and other bodywork damage. Riccitelli rejoined, but despite the changeable weather, was not able to make up much time, and finished fifteenth in the category. This gave Terrien a clear field, and despite the Ferrari’s usual slow start, he made good progress up towards the front of the class by mid-race. Pescatori took over, and the Ferrari eventually settled for third place, just ahead of Garcia and Quester, who recovered well to fourth. Although their three points put the two teams on equal points in the Teams classification, JMB took the title thanks to their five wins, compared to RWS’s two. In the Drivers classification, Terrien and Pescatori finished with a three-point lead over Luca Riccitelli. "It’s our second title in two years !" a jubilant Terrien explained.
First win for Perspective Racing
French team Perspective Racing took their first win today, with drivers Michel Neugarten and Thierry Perrier putting in a near faultless performance in their nr 55 Porsche 996 GT3-R. "It’s a great result for us, especially as in the Drivers Classification, we are now equal fifth, with only the JMB and RWS drivers ahead of us. We have really achieved all the goals we set at the start of the season." Despite starting from the 13th row of the grid, after a difficult qualifying session, they made the right tyre choices, only stopped once for fuel, and finished with a lead of 29 seconds over the second placed car, the nr 50 Larbre Competition Chéreau Porsche 996 GT3-R of Sebastien Dumez and Patrice Goueslard. Third place went to the new N-GT Champions, David Terrien and Christian Pescatori, in the nr 62 JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena. The nr 76 RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R inherited fourth after Smith and Babini, in the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche broke down on the final lap. The nr 70 JVG Porsche of Jürgen von Gartzen and Bruno Eichmann took the final point in 6th.
The GT Race Story
The safety car came out after the first-lap chaos, and stayed out for three laps until the damaged cars had been moved away. When the racing restarted, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen took the lead in the nr 4 Carsport Viper, followed closely by his brother Jeroen in the nr 3 car. By lap 8, Christophe Bouchut had moved up into second place, and he took advantage of a mistake from Sebastiaan Bleekemolen to take the lead. Bouchut was later to spin after a touch from the nr 3 Chrysler Viper, dropping down to fourth. However, the Lister Storms, dominant in qualifying, were fighting back, with Jamie Campbell-Walter setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 14. It started to rain, and all the cars eventually came in for wet tyres. Bouchut stayed out longer than any of the other GT cars, leading by 42 seconds from Fabio Babini in the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche on lap 17. By lap 20, the safety car was out again, due to the torrential rain. It stayed on the track for seven laps. When the race restarted on lap 27, the Listers were in the lead and appeared to be running away with the race. Campbell-Walter and Bailey built up a significant advantage over the Carsport Viper and the Prodrive Ferrari. A spin for Campbell-Walter put Bailey in the lead. The track was drying by now, and when the teams came in for their pit-stops, tyre choice became extremely important. Nicolaus Springer took over the leading nr 2 Lister and kept wet tyres on, while Verdon Roe went for slicks on the nr 1 Lister. Just as the nr 2 car came back in to change over to slicks, it started to rain, and it went out again on new rain tyres, but the time lost put the car out of contention. When the nr 1 Lister came back in to the pits to put rain tyres back on, Jeroen Bleekemolen stayed out on slicks and took over the lead of the race in the nr 3 Chrysler Viper, an advantage which he kept until the chequered flag, despite the speed advantage of the Lister, as the British car had to make two further stops– once for tyres and once for fuel.
The N-GT Race Story
Initially led by Sebastien Dumez in the nr 50 Larbre Porsche, Stephane Ortelli, in the nr 57 Freisinger Porsche, took the N-GT category lead after the safety car pulled off the track. When the rain started, Fabio Babini in the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche moved up as high as second overall, with Ortelli close behind. After the second safety car period ended, and the rain had stopped, Ortelli was back in the lead of the category. However, the Freisinger Porsche was less at ease in the wet conditions, and Sebastien Dumez regained the lead, building up an advantage of 21 seconds over Ortelli at the half-way mark. The nr 55 Perspective Porsche was up to third place, with Michel Neugarten staying in the car for the maximum time allowed. By this point, the nr 76 RWS Porsche was in seventh place, but Riccitelli, in the nr 77, was still last of the running cars, having lost 11 laps in the pits. On lap 56, Michel Neugarten had moved into the N-GT lead, and he handed over the car to Thierry Perrier, putting on slick tyres. Terrien, in the nr 62 Ferrari, making steady progress up the field, briefly taking the lead until he pitted to change drivers to Pescatori. The nr 57 Freisinger Porsche retired with a fire in the engine compartment, a disappointing finish after a promising race. The Perspective Porsche regained the lead, with Perrier staying out on slick tyres through the second rainshower, and eventually taking the chequered flag ahead of the nr 50 Larbre Porsche and the nr 62 JMB Ferrari. On the final lap, the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche, which had been fourth, stopped on the track, moving the nr 76 RWS Porsche of Garcia and Quester up one place.
RACE NOTES AND QUOTES
Jamie Campbell-Walter (GBR)– nr 1 Lister Storm– 2nd GT. "We were pretty dominant, in the wet and in the dry. We definitely had the fastest car. It was a very exciting start. I had both Carsport Vipers either side of me. Somehow, I managed to stay in the middle of them. After the safety car period, they were a bit too fast and then it rained. The safety car was out for ages. I ended up driving for two hours and then the wet tyres were gone. So we decided to call for slicks. Bobby went out in the car, did a great job. We had a 30 or 35 seconds lead– it was going to be a cruise to the flag. Unfortunately for us, it rained again and we decided to make a stop for wet tyres. It was obviously the wrong decision as it dried up. I then had an off coming out of the pit lane. I came again in for slicks. We were very fast in the end. But obviously four times in the pits as opposed to two times does not really work. We were very lucky to finish second."
Bobby Verdon-Roe (GBR) -– nr 1 Lister Storm– 2nd GT. "It was quite a difficult race as I was on slicks. It was still a bit damp and our tyres take time to get up to temperature. So I had to be careful. The car was fantastic. I got in the lead and it was a bit of a cruise. Then it started raining. It was a very difficult call. We talked on the radio. All I knew was that it was raining and that the track was very slippery. I thought that since we had a good lead, we could make an extra pit stop. So we came in for wets and the rain stopped… It was a gamble."
Mike Hezemans (NED)– nr 3 Carsport Viper– GT race winner . "I think we were very lucky, thanks to Lister, as they were in the pits so much ! We put on very hard rain tyres and this was a bad decision… Even when it was drying, the tyres were still new. So I had no grip. Jeroen then went out on slicks and had to gamble to stay out on slicks. Otherwise, if you come in, you lose everything. We won but we were lucky. Today, the handicap weight did not make any difference; you just had to stay on the track. I had a collision with Rydell. You have to keep the car on the track and make the right choices. And that is what we did. We were not particularly fast but we continued to drive !"
Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED)– nr 3 Carsport Viper– GT race winner : "At the start, it was wet on the inside and I took the inside. I was leading for a short while, but then my brother came round on the other side. He was right in front of me. That was not good. He was too slow in the beginning, so we were very close together. In the end, he made a contact with another car and then I could overtake him and take the lead. I brought the car to the pits leading and I drove it home leading, so I am happy".
Christophe Bouchut (FRA)– nr 7 Larbre Chrysler Viper– 3rd in GT– 2001 FIA GT Driver Champion: "The start was really good. It was important for me to finish in a strong position. The car was really good, although it was difficult to find the right set up with the changeable weather conditions. It was easy to come back to the front positions. I am happy to finish the season on the podium."
Jean-Christophe Belloc (FRA)– nr 7 Larbre Chrysler Viper– 3rd in GT– 2001 FIA GT Driver Champion : "The race was very difficult today. When Christophe pitted, the team put intermediate tyres on but I had no grip and I was fighting only to stay on the track. We had little problems like the radio during the race but probably like all the other teams. I am very happy to be back on the podium."
Jack Leconte (FRA)– Larbre Competition Chereau Team Manager– 2001 FIA GT Team Manager : "After our win in the N-GT class last year, we felt that the level in the GT class was not too high and that we could be competitive. We decided to join with a new car, the Chrysler Viper GTS-R, which was a technical challenge for us. I am happy to prove that my team can compete with any car and in any category. I would like to thank the Stephane Ratel Organisation and the FIA as the Championship offers a great environment for all the competitors with good regulations. I am proud to be part of this Championship".
Anthony Kumpen (BEL)– nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing (DNF) on the start crash : "I was on the left hand side of the track, and two cars in front of me collided. I tried to avoid them, but I was hit from the side, then in front. I had nowhere to go. The radiator broke, and I couldn’t continue. However, I am reasonably pleased with my season, although I think I could have had more podiums, without some bad luck. I’ve learnt a lot of tracks, and it’s all good experience for the next year, when I hope to fight for the Championship."
Oliver Gavin (GBR)– nr 19 Reiter Lamborghini (5th) : "The start was a bit messy, with the first corner crash, but I found my way through the debris, and started to work my way through the pack. Then the rain came. We had a bit of a problem in the pits, when the left rear wheel nut got stuck. So I lost all the positions I had gained, and had to start fighting my way back up again. We next had a problem with the windscreen fogging up ; it was gradually misting over, and I couldn’t move my head to see round it. The track then began to dry up, and I tried to push as much as possible, but I was surprised to see I was up in sixth place. Peter took over and did a really good race. We had planned on making a splash and dash at the end, but because of the rain, Peter backed off, and we realized we could do the whole race on two stops. However, he did the last two laps on empty, and the engine stopped just after the line. Still, we’d hoped for the top ten, so to finish fifth is great, and I’m very pleased for Hans Reiter and the whole team. They’ve been up working until 2 am every night. I hope this can continue for next year– I really enjoyed it !"
Hans Reiter (GER)– nr 19 Reiter Engineering Team Manager : "It is a great result from great drivers . All season, people have been telling me to give up, and after all the problems we had this weekend, I was nearly thinking they were right. But then we were fastest in the warm-up, and fifth in the race. I had two of the worst days of my life on Friday and Saturday but today, the sun shone ! I am extremely happy."
Thierry Perrier (FRA)– nr 55 Perspective Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R– N-GT race winner : "We had a bad qualifying and were very far back on the grid. Before the race, we calculated how long we could stay out before the driver change-over. It was around 2 hours. We started on slick tyres and stopped exactly when it started to rain. The lap after, the safety car came out. Our car was blocked at the pit exit. At the next stop, I stayed on slicks. I made a mistake as it was raining but after that, the car was fantastic."
Michel Neugarten (BEL)– nr 55 Perspective Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R– N-GT race winner : "We had a good start, with the help of the Belmondo car. It was a pity for the Red Bull car but that’s racing… We came in for tyre change at the right moment. The Dunlop tyres were very good in the rain. I had a good fight with David Terrien. It was easy as I knew that he would not take any risk. I overtook him and I was happy. I also had a good fight with Ortelli. I tried to keep the rain tyres as long as possible. I stayed out in order for Thierry to use the slick tyres".
Patrice Goueslard (FRA)– nr 50 Larbre Porsche 996 GT3-R– 2nd in N-GT : "It is not too bad to finish second as we stopped twice for tyre changes as Michel only stopped once. We would have liked to win one race this season but finished twice second. We had a good season with Sebastien. And our team has won the GT Championship. So tonight we will still be celebrating !"
Stephane Ortelli (MON)– nr 57 Freisinger Porsche : "I was very quick at the beginning, taking lots of risks and leading the category easily. The car was very good on slick tyres, but I couldn’t fight in the rain. Finally the camshaft broke and started an engine fire. I really thought we were going to win today ; I knew we could do it, it wasn’t too late. But once again things went wrong."
David Terrien (FRA)– nr 62 JMB Competition Ferrari– 3rd in N-GT– 2001 N-GT Driver Champion : "With Christian, we have now won two Championships together. Perhaps we should try again for a third year ! The race today was very quiet for us. We had two sorts of intermediate tyres depending on the amount of water on the track. When the rain started, we chose the one for the light showers, which was the wrong decision. Even behind the safety car, I could not keep the car on the track. When the safety car pulled away again and the track dried, I struggled for another 4 to 5 laps but then the car was very well-balanced and I could go back to fourth. When I came back to the pits to give the car to Christian, we were second. Our team did a very good strategy. I wanted to come in for rain tyres but the team would not let me ! In the end, that is why we won the Championship. The team made very good choices throughout the season and was also very quick during the pit stops."
Christian Pescatori (ITA)– nr 62 JMB Competition Ferrari– 3rd in N-GT– 2001 N-GT Driver Champion : "I had only one problem today. I started my stint on intermediate tyres. Anyway, I am glad that the season is over as there was a lot of pressure throughout."
Benjamin Durand (FRA)– Team Manager JMB Competition– N-GT Team Champion : "This win is the result of two-year’s work. We started last year with the Challenge car. This year, Michelotto was part of the team and did a stunning job. We did not expect to see the car at this level so soon. All the team– the drivers, the mechanics– did a great job and the sponsors helped us from the start of the programme. I would also like to thank RWS Motorsport because we had a fair fight throughout the season. It has been a very sporting Championship".
Wolfgang Kaufmann (GER)– nr 72 Bengali Porsche : "At the beginning I was getting heat from the Lamborghini, which put his nose into my left rear wing, and sheered off the tyre valve. I pitted for a new tyre, but we had a series of little problems after that ; the windscreen wipers weren’t working, and then some vibrations started. Eventually we had no more electrics, and the race was over. I had a feeling it was not going to be a usual race today."
Rudi Walch (GER)– RWS Motorsport Team Manager : "It’s terrible for us– I really can’t believe it. We have always been the fastest, all season, and to lose the last race like this is unbelievable. We had two cars in the front, and the Ferrari was at the back, our strategy was the right one, we had a good set-up, and we knew we had to stay in front of the Ferrari. We had two fast drivers and we knew we could do it. All we can say is that it wasn’t our fault. It’s not good to finish like this, with the race effectively over after 100 metres. But we kept racing, and we finished equal on points. We will fight again– we know we can do it !"