FIA GT3 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP
The first season of the FIA GT3 European Championship has been an undoubted success, with full grids, exciting races and well-deserved Champions at the end of the first five events. A look back over the season from some of the teams, managers and drivers who took part in this inagural season.
TECH9 MOTORSPORT Phil Hindley
"An incredible finish to the season with our victories in Italy. The drivers skill and achievement in the atrocious wet conditions was admirable, as was the spirit of our team to emerge victorious against the best teams and drivers in Europe.
This is our fourth Championship title in a row, with our National Championship titles in British GT for the last three seasons, now topped with an International Championship win is a fantastic achievement for our team, and all the crew deservedly are thrilled to be part of this memorable success. You can be sure that we will return next season to defend our title, and look forward to being involved in such a fabulous and exciting Championship that hosts the best grid of modern sportscars anywhere in Europe."
RACING BOX by Franco Mondino, Team Manager
"We consider this season to have been quite positive, as, since the beginning of the Championship, we have always been in the higher part of the Classification, both in qualifying and in the races.
We started the Championship with the maximum enthusiasm, understanding the spirit of the challenge. We made a good choice of the brand (Dodge) but we suffered from some mechanical troubles and accidents at vital moments.
For 2007, we hope to confirm some of our drivers and we do not exclude racing next season with a 'double' team with Dodge and another 'set' of 3 cars of another brand."
CARSPORT CALLAWAY, by Ernst Woehr, Team owner
"Very interesting grid, probably the best field worldwide. The race tracks are variable and interesting. The races were super interesting, high tension all along - although they were often too rough, including our own drivers. We believe that the organisers need to keep an eye on this, by warning the competitors. The duration of the races is perfect. One hour, with a change of drivers, is absolutely great.
Finally, there is a good spirit among most of the teams. Everybody is friendly and helpful, we have made many new friends during the season"
BARWELL MOTORSPORT, Mark Lemmer & Chris Needell
"We had a great time racing in the first ever FIA GT3 European Championship, which proved to be the revelation of GT racing in 2006. Nobody will ever forget the sight of over 40 exotic GT racing cars from eight different makes lining up in the pit lane for the start of the first session at Silverstone. It was an honour for Barwell Motorsport to be running a team of three beautiful Aston Martins, and to see our young amateur drivers leading races and finishing on the podium in such an incredible series was very, very exciting."
DAMAX, Robin Ward
"The new and innovative FIA GT3 European Championship presented us with an ideal opportunity to move into international GT racing. However, to have taken what were essentially three standard Ascari KZ-1 road cars and achieved so much in our first season reflects the support of Ascari, the efforts of our drivers, and the dedication of the Damax Team."
Matt Allison, DAMAX driver
"I only did the round at Mugello, where I claimed two second places in the Damax Ascari with Andy Thompson in the pouring rain. I would say that the wide range of cars from so many manufacturers and the amount of multi-national teams meant it really was a highlight of my year (as well as winning the British GTC championship!). The Championship seemed very well organised and the competiton tough but fair. It certainly is a place for a young racing driver to prove his worth. I look forward to maybe racing in the series in 2007."
Albert von Thurn und Taxis, REITER ENGINEERING driver
"I think it is great to keep GT3 away from being a complete pro-series, while allowing the level to be competitive and high for a gentleman series. It gives the GT3 its legitimation that its right behind GT2 and it's a pleasure to measure oneself with well known names of Motorsport."
Gerard Tonelli, LARBRE COMPETITION driver
"Racing driver Julie Tonelli, who died in 2002, was my daughter. I had never driven before, and 2006 was my first year of racing competition.
The creation of the Julie Tonelli Foundation brought me to take this decision. We have the support of all the karting competitors, as well as all those in single-seater competition, but our organisation was not known in GT racing. The new FIA GT3 European Championship came at just the right time. We were able to talk about the Foundation on a European level, the circuits were magnificent, with a paddock worthy of Formula One. For me, this is the best possible way to discover motorsport. It was a first year, we were in full apprenticeship mode. I am sure next year will be better."
CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL, Riverside
"It was a fine reward for me to win the Corvette Cup, even if I must admit it was a surprise! We had so many reliability problems until Dijon, that it was difficult to work together as a team, and to get used to the car. It was also a fine reward for Philippe Charriol, who put in the financial support, and who took the risk of investing in a brand new car. And it is also very satisfying for Philippe Dagostino's Riverside team, which showed both courage and tenacity throughout the season, and which was able to make all three Corvette Z06 cars reliable. I am therefore very happy for the whole team and for the two Philippes (Charriol and Dago). The hard work undertaken this season will pay off in coming years. My congratulations to Stephane Ratel and all his team for the organisation of this sporting, prestigious new Championship, and I hope that I will be part of it again in 2007."
"JMB Racing, a regular competitor of the FIA GT championship was proud to take part in the first year of the European GT3 Championship. This was a great start with numerous cars, and prestigious manufacturers, which will be even more numerous for the 2007 season, for a championship growing ever more attractive and competitive. Like the series, our team made a great start, winning the first-ever race of this new Championship. We hope the evolutions we will bring to the F430 GT3 will allow us to fight for the victory at every race next season. The 2007 calendar appears really interesting, visiting prestigious circuits. We look forward to being back on track!"
BMS SCUDERIA ITALIA
The 2006 season was hotly contested, but at the final round in Mugello, Italy, BMS drivers Massimiliano Mugelli and Marcello Zani were crowned 2006 FIA GT3 Aston Martin Cup Champions, having won five of the ten rounds and just beating Barwell's Machitski and Cocker. However, this accolade has earned them more than just the championship title. Aston Martin Racing promised the winners of this inaugural challenge the chance to test drive the factory's GT1 car, the DBR9. Hackett, Aston Martin Racing's official team clothing supplier, also agreed to design and produce a unique suit for each of the drivers.
"This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the drivers as it will give them a chance to truly test their level of driving" explained George Howard-Chappell, Technical Director for Aston Martin Racing. "It will be interesting to see how well they can adapt their driving skills and knowledge of the DBRS9 to accommodate the increased demands of our GT1 car, the DBR9."