FIA GT Championship 15 - 17 May 1998 Silverstone Round Friday 15 May 1998 - Free Practice Sessions _________________________________________________________________ The British Empire Trophy This is the 37th edition of the Trophy, which was revived at Silverstone in 1990, after a 12-year break. As part of the 50th anniversary of Silverstone, the nominations for the Silverstone / BRDC's Golden Jubilee Award were announced today. Among the possible winners are reigning GT2 Champion Justin Bell's father Derek, and Mercedes driver Klaus Ludwig. The award will be voted for by the public via Ceefax. Weather Unbelievably, the sun shone at Silverstone today, and the weather forecast looks excellent for the weekend. The rumour says that there has not been a dry race week-end at Silverstone for eighteen months Rundown 29 cars will be taking part in the 500km race, which starts at midday on Sunday. Of these, 13 are in the GT1 category, with the two brand new Bitter GT1 joining the grid and Jean-Luc Maury-Laribière entering his McLaren F1 GTR. The remaining 16 are in GT2, with Cirtek's car ready for action after problems at Oscherleben. Among various driver changes, Bob Wollek is replacing an injured Yannick Dalmas at Porsche. Christian Vann is racing alongside Becker and Euser in the Marcos, while David Warnock joins Rob Schirle in the Cirtek Ford Saleen Mustang. Former BTCC driver Tim Sugden joins Peter Owen and Andre Arhle in the Roock Sportsystem Porsche 911 GT2. Porsche back on track The 1998 season started badly for the Porsche 911 GT1 98 cars, after both cars failed to finish at Oscherleben after dominating qualifying. But they are hopeful for this race. We have found the problems, Jörg Müller said. The German 1996 F3000 champion is happy to be driving for Porsche. I really like the GT cars. You are aware of the weight, but the speed is good, especially in the corners. Müller also likes Silverstone, where he tested for F1 team Arrows last year. I also raced here in F3, but that was some time ago. First laps for the Bitter After making a first appearance at the Dijon test days, Jan Lammers took the Team Hezemans Bitter GT1 out on the track today, completing five laps. He was driving the car for the first time, having missed the tests due to Le Mans commitments. It is absolutely not ready, but we have to start somewhere, Lammers said afterwards. The car is based on the Lotus Elise he drove last year. But all the weak links from last year have been strengthened. The new Chrysler V10 engine is very nice. The Gemini gearbox is absolutely lovely. The chassis is good, the handling and brakes are good, and the aerodynamics are in the ball park. It's quite impressive.
Will the car be able to challenge the GT1 leaders, Porsche and Mercedes ? Or even Panoz ? That may not be realistic, but you have to give Hezemans the credit for trying. It's simply too early to judge. First Practice Session. With two 90 minute sessions programmed for the first day, the Porsche GT1 cars dominated in the morning stint, with all four cars in the top two places. The Zakspeed cars were ahead, with Michael Bartels setting a time of 1:42.239. Alexander Grau, in the #5 Zakspeed Porsche GT1, was second fastest. The car is going really well, and the tyres are ideal for this circuit, he said afterwards. The two factory cars were fractionally slower, with all the Porsche cars setting times in the 1:42s. They were followed by the Panoz and the four Mercedes CLK-GTRs. The long-awaited Bitter cars did not emerge from their garages, due to problems.
In GT2, Cirtek showed their promise with third best time, in spite of starter-motor problems, behind the ever-dominant Team Oreca Vipers. The #27 McLaren stopped out on the circuit, while Goncalo Gomez put the # 53 Chamberlain Viper off at the first corner. He's a young man. He does things like that, his more experienced team-mate Ni Amorin joked. They expect the car to run well here, as the Viper likes fast circuits. Joining the Viper in the gravel at the first corner was the Krauss Motorsport Porsche GT2. Neither of the cars were damaged. Second Practice Session Fastest man in the afternoon session was Porsche AG's Jörg Müller, who lapped the 5.14km circuit over a second quicker than anyone else on the track. Bob Wollek, at the wheel of the other factory-entered Porsche, was second for most of the session, until David Brabham in the DAMS Panoz put in an excellent lap to relegate the Porsche to second. There were problems for Zakspeed, with GT novice Andreas Scheld forced to bring the #5 Porsche GT1 back slowly to the pits, trailing liquid due to a gearbox failure. However, their other car finished in fourth place, just ahead of the fastest of the Mercedes, driven by Schneider and Webber car in 5th place. The #9 Bitter took to the track at last, with Jan Lammers at the wheel, and managed a time of 1:50.405 in spite of only completing 3 flying laps. Jörg Müller was inflicted the penalty of blame by the Stewards of the Meeting after he touched the Porsche n° 62, causing it to crash. In GT2, Porsche struck a promising note when Roock Racing's Ortelli and Hürtgen set the fastest time, ahead of theTeam Oreca Vipers of Lamy/Beretta and Wendlinger/Bell. The new Roock Sportsystem line-up of Sugden, Owen and Ahrlé were fourth, ahead of Euser and Becker in the Marcos and the Cirtek Saleen Mustang. The #53 Chamberlain Viper was filled with gravel for the second time when Ni Amorin took it off the track at Priory. Press Conference Quotes. I think we have made lots of improvements in the handling. The car was better at Le Mans, and that has translated into an improvement here. I like Silverstone - it has changed since I last raced here and it's more flowing. But it's hard on both driver and car. Allan McNish, Porsche AG. I was a big fan of the old circuit, when McNish and I drove in F3000. But the car suits the track. Last year we were second on the grid, which might have been a bit lucky. But fourth or fifth would be a good result for Panoz. I think people don't take us as seriously as they should. But this week, they should ! David Brabham, DAMS. My program for this year is five races and Le Mans. But things can change. Reigning GT2 Champion Justin Bell. We are playing catch-up at the moment. I'm pleased to be in the top six. We'll see tomorrow. Rob Schirle, Cirtek Motorsport. I've never had the chance to do a modern championship, so I'm determined to make the most of this year. If that means taking 2 or 3 races to get ready, that's OK. We have a new sequential gear-box, and I'm taking the day to get used to it. Martin Stretton, racing for Konrad, who is better known as a historic racer. Final Word A podium finish would be a real boost to morale, David Brabham, DAMS.