FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
FREE PRACTICE SESSIONS
Although it was grey and damp at the Spanish circuit of Jarama this morning, the weather was relatively warm. It began to rain shortly before the first session, and continued heavily throughout the practice. Drying over the lunch break, the rain returned during the second session, but had stopped once more before the end.
This is the second time the FIA GT Championship has visited Spain, following last season’s race in Valencia. The 3.85 km Jarama track is close to the Spanish capital city of Madrid. Technical and challenging, with a variety of corners and a long start/finish straight, the track is new to many drivers.
32 cars are due to line up for Sunday’s 500 km race, equally divided between the two categories. Among the GT teams, Proton Competition has entered a second Porsche 911 GT2 for Horst Felbermayr Sr and Jr. Reiter Engineering is missing this round, following driver Bernhard Müller’s retirement from motor sport. The Wieth Ferrari 550 Maranello is also absent, further to their engine problems at the Nürburgring. Concerning the drivers, Alain Menu is back in the Prodrive Ferrari, and Emmanuel Clérico returns to Paul Belmondo Racing, which has all three Chrysler Viper cars taking part this weekend. British GT regular Bobby Verdon Roe replaces Tom Coronel in the nr 1 Lister Storm. Eric Geboers, who took part in Proximus 24 Hours of Spa with PSI Motorsport, will share the nr 21 GLPK Chrysler Viper with team regular Wim Daems.
In the N-GT category, Escuderia Bengala, a regular competitor in the Spanish GT Championship, is entering a Porsche 996 GT3-R for team owner Paco Orti and Wolfgang Kaufmann. Italian team MAC Racing has two Porsche 996 GT3-R cars present. With N-GT frontrunners Stephane Ortelli and Philipp Peter missing the race due to their commitments in the Porsche Supercup, Cyrille Sauvage rejoins Freisinger, who have only two cars running this weekend, while F3000 driver Joel Camathias and Andrea Chiesa share the nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche. Laurent Cazenave also returns to the Championship, this time with Art Engineering, sharing the nr 53 car with Andrea Bertolini. Drivers new to the Championship include German Porsche Carrera Cup front-runner Timo Bernhard, driving alongside Antonio Garcia in the nr 76 RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R, and Prisca Taruffi, driving for MAC Racing.
Finishing second at the Nürburgring, the nr 3Team Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper is now the only GT car to have the maximum penalty weight of 100 kg. Finishing out of the points in the previous round, the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper now carries 80 kg, while the nr 15 Prodrive Allstars Ferrari 550 Maranello will carry 60 kg following their second consecutive podium finish. In the N-GT category, the nr 62 JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena and the nr 57 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R both carry 35 kg, with the Larbre Competition Chéreau Porsche slightly lighter with 30 kg. The nr 77 Porsche of Championship-leading team RWS Motorsport only carries 5 kg.
First Practice Session : Carsport and RWS fastest
The first 90-minute session was declared wet, with heavy rain falling throughout. As usual in these conditions, the Porsche 996 GT3-R cars were extremely competitive, with the nr 77 RWS Motorsport and nr 54 Art Engineering cars dominating the start of the session. Both Team Carsport Holland Chrysler Vipers were the next to top the timing screens, with Sebastiaan Bleekemolen setting a time of 1:51.288.
The Carsport Vipers continued to set the pace halfway through the session, followed by the nr 77 RWS Porsche, ahead of the nr 11 and 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Vipers. A number of cars went off due to the conditions, including the nr 21 GLPK Racing and the nr 10 Paul Belmondo Competition Chrysler Vipers, and the nr 53 Art Engineering Porsche 996 GT3-R
Towards the end of the session the rain eased slightly, and the GT cars began to push the N-GTs back down the lists. With ten minutes remaining, the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chéreau Chrysler Viper went fastest, with a time of 1:46.995, while the nr 1 Lister Storm improved to fourth. The Riccitelli/Quester RWS Porsche continued to dominate the N-GT cars, with their time of 1:50.611 placing them fifth overall, ahead of the nr 54 Art Engineering and the nr 52 EMKA Porsches. Just before the chequered flag fell, the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R, driven by Mike Hezemans, set the fastest time of the session, with a lap of 1:46.814. The nr 12 PBR Viper of Vosse and Derichebourg improved to take fourth from the nr 1 Lister.
Second Practice Session : RWS fastest overall
The sun was shining when the second ninety minutes of free practice started, but the dry track only lasted for a few minutes. The two RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R cars were fastest in the initial part of the session, and although the nr 76 Porsche had dropped to sixth overall when the rain started, Luca Riccitelli continued to lead the times, with a fastest lap of 1:40.394. The session was declared a wet practice, and times dropped sharply. Halfway through the allotted time, the rain ceased and lap times began to come down again, but the track remained damp and slippery. The nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari was among those who went off the track at this point, with Rickard Rydell at the wheel. The Ferrari did not rejoin, being brought back to the pits after the chequered flag. The nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper had a gear-box problem, meaning that Anthony Kumpen did not drive in the afternoon.
By the end of the session, times had still not come down to those seen in the dry. The nr 77 RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R of Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester therefore remained fastest, ahead of the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chéreau Chrysler Viper, with the nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R third and the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Chrysler Viper GTS-R fourth overall and third in GT. The nr 76 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R was sixth overall and second in N-GT, with Antonio Garcia and Timo Bernhard at the wheel. Third in the N-GT was the nr 55 Perspective Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R, driven by Thierry Perrier and Michel Neugarten.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Bobby Verdon Roe (GBR)– nr 1 Lister Storm : "I previously drove in the Championship in 1999, with Lister, at the Monza and Silverstone races. I’m really glad to be back, but I wish it had been dry for my first experience with the modern Storm. The last time I drove, it was at the very start of the GT2 project, and the car feels quite different. I really need some dry running. I only did three laps or so, but at least I got a feel for the track. It’ll be all right– especially if it stops raining."
Jamie Campbell-Walter (GBR)– nr 1 Lister Storm : "We have got no grip, and the puddles make it very difficult. I was behind Hezemans at one point, and he was able to go flat out, while we were just aquaplaning."
Mike Hezemans (NED)– nr 3 Carsport Viper : "I did my best time at the end of the first session with a 1:46.8, but that was in traffic. I know we can go much faster, even in these wet conditions. A 1:45.8 or 45.9 is perfectly possible. I don’t know why the rest are so slow."
Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (NED)– nr 4 Carsport Viper : "We did quite well, as we were fastest until ten minutes before the end of the first session. I’m really satisfied with the set-up. I have raced here in both the Renault Clio and Spider so I know the circuit quite well. I feel it’s almost a bit too slow for these cars– this is nearly the first time we’ve had to use second gear at a track, and here we have to use it on all the short corners."
Christophe Bouchut (FRA)– nr 7 Larbre Viper : "The first session went well, and I was fast at the end, although it was difficult to get a clear lap, as I found myself in a group of N-GT cars. We really need a wet race– we’re quite competitive in the rain. We would like to finish the season with another podium. We’ve won the Championship, scored the most points and won the most races, and the car is still very reliable. So we’re happy to have achieved so much, and hope to do the most we can in the last races. I have raced at the track a few times, and also done a lot of testing here, both for Kremer and for Mercedes AMG, so I know it very well."
Paul Belmondo (FRA)– nr 10 Belmondo Viper. As well as racing in the tenth round of the FIA GT Championship, Paul is taking part in the round of the FFSA Formula France European Trophy, one of this weekend’s support races.
Boris Derichebourg (FRA)– nr 12 Belmondo Viper : "We have some problems when the track is drying, as we don’t have enough grip. We’re fine in the dry, or in really wet conditions, but in between is the worst possible time for us. It sounds as if it could be dry on Sunday, but if it’s damp for qualifying we could miss the Superpole again. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed for either sunshine or heavy rain !"
Alain Menu (SUI)– nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari : "It’s not going too well, as we just can’t get any heat in the tyres, so we’ve got no grip at all, and we’re not too sure why. The forecast is good for Sunday, which is good for the race, but not so good for us in qualifying. Maybe we’ll have a miracle in time for tomorrow, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it." Menu has not driven the Ferrari since Budapest. "The car has quite a lot more downforce then when I last drove it. And of course, it has 60 kg penalty weight, although you don’t notice it so much in the wet. But it does look as if I missed the best races !"
Tim Sugden (GBR)– nr 52 EMKA Porsche : "The conditions were quite bad out there– the track became quite greasy at the end, and before then there was a lot of standing water. The car has been in a billion pieces since the last race; everything has been rebuilt, and it’s not quite as I like it yet. But we’ll get there. This is another new track for me ; there have been four or five this season, and I’m really enjoying it. This one is good, quite technical. The season has been going well for us ; I’ve been competitive in practice, and handed the car over to Steve O’Rourke in second place in the last two races. But Steve is one of the last few real gentlemen drivers left in the Championship, and with more and more teams having two professional drivers, it’s hard for us to compete in the race. But I can’t complain !"
Cyrille Sauvage (FRA)– nr 57 Freisinger Porsche. French and European Formula Renault Champion in 1995, Sauvage then competed in F3000 for four seasons, with his best result a second place at Jerez in 1997. With Stephane Ortelli missing the Jarama round due to a clash with the Porsche Supercup, Sauvage is returning to the Freisinger Motorsport team, for whom he drove in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Along with Ortelli and Chiesa, he finished in second place in the N-GT Championship. For this round, he will be driving alongside British driver Robin Liddell, who put in an excellent performance alongside Ortelli at the Nürburgring, finishing second in the category. Liddell has recent experience of the track, having raced here in the European Le Mans series earlier this year, also in a Porsche 996 GT3-R.
Sylvain Noel (FRA)– nr 61 Haberthur Porsche : "It was a good session, we have a few settings to improve, but generally things went well. The rain is almost an ally for us– it really levels the field. We wouldn’t complain if it rained all weekend. It’s my first time here– it’s a nice track."
David Terrien – nr 62 JMB Ferrari : "The car isn’t bad at all, and towards the end it was quite good. We had a little understeer, but as Christian Pescatori had done most of the session, the team decided to leave me out there instead of bringing it in to make further modifications. We’re within two seconds of Riccitelli, and I did my best time on a lap where I was bothered by traffic. There is still a lot we can do ; we’re not aiming to take pole position, but we should be able to fight. The car is really much better than it was at the Nürburgring, nice to drive and reacting to the changes we’re making."
Prisca Taruffi (ITA)– nr 67 Mac Porsche. Prisca is one of the rare women to race in the FIA GT Championship, joining the ranks of Claudia Hürtgen, who last competed in the Championship in 1999, and Vanina Ickx, who drove for Freisinger Motorsport at Spa earlier this year. Prisca is the daughter of Italian driver Piero Taruffi, who won the 1957 Mille Miglia in a Ferrari. Racing since 1984, in both rallies and on circuits, Prisca is now a journalist with Italian TV station RAI 1, and also teaches in a driving school in Rome. This is her first time in a Porsche 996 GT3-R, and her first time at Jarama. "This morning was quite difficult because of the rain, as it’s my first time in this car and at the track. But this afternoon I tried a few laps on slicks and it went a bit better. We also have some small problems with the set-up. But it’s difficult for me as I don’t know the car at all, and the circuit is quite tricky. I raced last weekend in the Porsche Supercup, but the cars are quite different– this is a real racing car, and quite tough to drive. Recently, I haven’t had the opportunity to race such a competitive car, and I really need more time to feel at home with it. At least this Championship gives you plenty of time in the car, which is a great point in its favour. I would really like to see other Andrea Chiesa (SUI)– nr 69 Orlando Porsche : "The car is well set-up and has a very good balance ; Philipp Peter has worked well on it, and has given us a good basis to work with. Also, Joel Camathias knows the track well, having raced here in Formula Nissan, so he has been able to give me some advice. Now we just need to get some dry running !"
Antonio Garcia – nr 76 RWS Porsche– "We’ve had four months of good weather and now it rains !" For the first time, 2000 Formula Nissan Champion Garcia is driving the Porsche 996 GT3-R on a track he knows.
"I think the result of the second session is not realistic, as there were only one or two dry laps at the start. Second in N-GT is quite good, although I was nearly four seconds slower than Luca Riccitelli. We were then working on the set-up, but towards the end of the session, when the track was drying again, I was also setting good times. Timo is also very fast, and our lap times were within one second of each other, which is very good for the race."
Dieter Quester – nr 77 RWS Porsche– "Everything is OK– the track is not bad in the rain, and I was surprised at how much grip we had. The car is not perfect, but we just have minor changes to make. I did have some visibility problems, with the car steaming up at the front and the rear. Our youngsters, in the nr 76 car, did very well too."
Luca Riccitelli – nr 77 RWS Porsche– "We would really like to claim the Drivers Championship at this round, which we can do if we win and JMB is third or lower. But I think it’s going to be difficult– the Ferrari 360 is strong under braking and in the corners, so I think this circuit will suit it. If it’s raining, we can do the race on one pit-stop, which puts us level with them. If it’s dry, we can work to a strategy. If it’s changeable, like at the Nürburgring, we can lose out altogether. But it’s also good that we have two very fast drivers in the nr 76 car."