A news update for this weekend's ninth round of the LG Super Racing Weekend series ...
YVAN MULLER AND JAMES THOMPSON JOIN FIA ETCC FOR THE FINAL BATTLES
Tension is growing in view of the two final rounds of the 2003 FIA European Touring Car Championship. Manufacturers and teams are getting ready to fight, as has been proved by Alfa Romeo and SEAT, who have hired two of the best Touring Car drivers around: James Thompson and Yvan Muller, who have been fighting throughout the current season for the British Touring Car Championship title, as team-mates at Vauxhall.
According to Art. 69 of the FIA ETCC sporting regulations, being newcomers to the Championship in one of the final three meetings, Thompson and Muller will have their cars weighed down by 40 kg of ballast.
It should be remembered that both Thompson and Muller, were already hired, by Honda and Alfa Romeo respectively, to compete in the final FIA ETCC meeting in Estoril, back in 2001.
YVAN MULLER JOINS SEAT IN THE FIA ETCC
Yvan Muller, crowned the 2003 British Touring Car champion last weekend, will drive a third SEAT Sport car in the FIA European Touring Car Championship meeting in Estoril. Muller's Toledo Cupra will be run alongside the team's regular cars of Frank Diefenbacher and Jordi Gene. The decision has been taken as part of the SEAT ETCC development programme, and the team expects Muller to use his experience in front wheel drive cars to obtain more information for the evolution of the Spanish machine, supporting Diefenbacher and Gene to improve the performance of the Toledo Cupra. Muller, 34-years old, from Altkirch in the Alsace region of France, has emerged over the last ten years as one of the best Touring Car drivers around; he has driven for BMW (claiming the 1995 French Super Touring championship), Audi and Vauxhall. He took part in the 2001 FIA ETCC finale in Estoril, at the wheel of a works Alfa Romeo 156, claiming pole position, winning the first race and helping Fabrizio Giovanardi to clinch the Super Touring crown. Muller has already driven for the SEAT Sport team in the 2001 International Ice Racing Series, and earlier this season he won the 24 Hours of Chamonix, sharing a SEAT Cupra with Gilles Stievenart.
A FOURTH ALFA 156 FOR THOMPSON
Alfa Romeo will run a fourth works car in both the final FIA ETCC meetings in Estoril and Monza, for James Thompson. A few hours after SEAT Sport announced that they had hired the new BTCC champion Yvan Muller, Alfa Romeo responded by signing his runner-up to support Autodelta regular drivers Gabriele Tarquini, Nicola Larini and Roberto Colciago in the fight for the European crown. Thompson, a 29-year old Englishman from York, won the British Touring Car Championship title for Vauxhall last year, and in the current season finished second behind his team-mate Muller. In 2001 he was already hired by Honda to support his friend Tarquini in the FIA ETCC final meeting in Estoril; however, they failed to beat the Alfa Romeo armada formed by Giovanardi (who claimed the title), Muller (who won the first race) and Larini. Now they will be fighting to help Alfa against BMW. "I'm very happy to have James at my side," Tarquini said. "And I hope we will be able to repeat the same results as in 2001-- to make Alfa Romeo the champion!"
ENGSTROM THIRD IN THE SWEDISH CHAMPIONSHIP
The first national Touring Car Championship run under the FIA ETCC technical regulations ended on Sunday in Mantorp Park, Sweden. Fredrik Ekblom, who competed in last year FIA ETCC with a BMW Great Britain car, claimed the first Swedish Touring Car Championship title for FIA S2000 cars in a KMS Audi A4. The runner-up was Jan Nilsson in a Flash Engineering Volvo S60, while Tomas Engstrom was classified third in a JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic Type-R. They are all familiar faces in the FIA ETCC paddock: Nilsson and his Volvo have raced on a number of occasions, while Engstrom has been racing for PRO Motorsort since the meeting in Anderstorp, proving to be a competitive independent driver in the team's Honda Civic. The two final races of the season in Mantorp Park, saw victory go to two former FIA ETCC cars. Richard Goransson won Race 1 in a West Coast Racing BMW 320i (a former Ravaglia Motorsport 2002 machine), from Ekblom and Engstrom. In the second race Niklas Karlsson (who took part in the FIA ETCC meeting in Anderstorp with the Podium SEAT Sport Sweden team) gave Euroracing its first success of the season in a former Clever Cats R&M Alfa Romeo 156 Gta; on the podium Karlsson was joined by Nilsson and Engstrom.
A NEW BMW FOR TOM CORONEL
Carly Motors' Tom Coronel will benefit from an upgrade for the last two meetings of the FIA European Touring Car Championship. The Dutchman, who is currently second in the Independents Trophy, behind his fellow countryman and team-mate Duncan Huisman, will move from the 2002 BMW 320i he has driven so far, to a brand new 2003 car, similar to the one driven by Huisman. Coronel tested the car for the first time in Oschersleben, on the Monday after the latest FIA ETCC rounds. The car was then transported to the nearby workshop of Carly Motors' German partner Schubert Motorsport for the final adjustements. "This is a big effort for our team, which has only been made possible thanks to Tommy's own sponsor," Carly Pellinkhof explained. "We are hoping for some great results in the final races, with the aim of establishing a solid basis for our campaign in the 2004 FIA ETCC."
LAMBORGHINI MURCIELAGO DELAYS FIA GT DEBUT
The Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT, unveiled at the Frankfurt motorshow and developed jointly between Audi Sport and Reiter Engineering, has had its debut postponed. The car was due to race during this week's ninth round of the FIA GT Championship, at Estoril, but will miss the event due to the availability of spare components from suppliers. The car will now run competitively for the first time in Monza, on October 17th - 19th. The car underwent two days of testing at the Italian track of Vallelunga, with Dindo Capello at the wheel. "There is so much potential with the car," Capello explained. " We managed to put in quite a few miles of running and kept improving the car each time out."
FABIO BABINI : "THE FERRARI 575 GTC IS BEAUTIFUL"
JMB Racing will be entering its two new Ferrari 575 GTC cars in final two rounds of the 2003 FIA GT Championship. Fabio Babini, who shares the nr 9 car with Philipp Peter, is really looking forward to the event. "It is a completely new car, which has been developed in quite a short time, along with N.technology. I have tested the car twice, and it will be interesting to see how it performs in race conditions. I really adore the car; it is really beautiful to look at - the lines, the headlamps, everything - it is a true racing car. It's lovely and it is fast ! It will be excellent for JMB Racing if we can finish the season with some positive performances with the new car. The Pirelli tyres are very good, as the team has proved in the N-GT category. Estoril will be a test for the new car, but it would be great to have a good race ! " The second car will be driven by Christian Pescatori and Boris Derichebourg.
PERGL AIMS FOR TOP TEN
For Estoril, Robert Pergl will be joined in the nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena by his young compatriot Jarek Janis, who will be racing the car for the third time this season. "I am happy that I will not lose my grip on racing, as the Formula 3000 season finished a few weeks ago," Janis explained. "I am looking forward to Portugal, because it is a nice country, but I will be focused on my job ! I drove at Estoril in Formula 3000 two years ago, and therefore I will just need a few laps to refresh my memory. I want to do a good job and to help the team and Robert to get some more points, because the midfield competition is quite close." Pergl is also hoping for points in Portugal. "The season is coming to an end, and therefore it is very important to score points, as I would like to finish within the top 10 - I am just one-and-a-half points behind. I have nice memories of the Iberian peninsula, as we finished 6th in the first race of the season, and we would like to equal this result or better it !" The team's best result to date was third in the N-GT category in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa.