The first round of the 2003 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend series is fast approaching. This year, the seventh season of the FIA GT Championship and the third year of the FIA European Touring Car Championship will share the top billing with the brand new Renault Formula V6 Eurocup. Support events will include the Renault Sport Clio Trophy and the Renault Sport Clio Elf International Cup. At Barcelona, the Trofeo Maserati will also be on the agenda, and other exiting events will join the schedule through the year.
The Superpole, introduced into the FIA GT Championship in 2001 to respond to the needs of live television, will not be used in 2003. It was decided by the teams that when the session was not planned to be transmitted live on television, the Championship would revert to a traditional format, with two 45-minute qualifying sessions, and the combined qualifying time setting the starting grid.
A change of scenery .... Paul Belmondo took part in the 2003 Telefonica Dakar Rally, in a Nissan Terrano. This was his 6th participation in the epic annual event. He finished in a fine 20th position overall, and second in his class.
GRAHAM NASH TO ENTER SALEEN S7
A new car should be joining the ranks of the Ferrari, Lister, Porsche and Lamborghini cars familiar to the FIA GT Championship viewers in recent years. Graham Nash Motorsport is planning to enter two Saleen S7 cars in the 2003 season. "The homologation process is going through at the moment; everything is sorted out and in place, and we are just waiting to press the button to put everything into action," Graham Nash explained.
The team has been competing both in Britain and on the international scene since 1995, and won both the British and the Spanish GT Championships last year. "We are really looking forward to the challenge," Graham continued. "It is a high profile Championship, and will give us a chance to race against some big people. We were able to match the Lister in the British Championship, so I hope we will be able to match the Ferrari as well. If not, we will have to do some development and push on to make the Saleen as quick as the rest."
FIA GT Championship promoter Stephane Ratel commented : "The homologation of the Saleen has long been awaited. I will be in Irvine,California, together with two FIA representatives, on February 11th, and have every reason to believe that the Saleen S7 production requierements are now fulfilled.
In a meeting at the end of last year, the FIA GT teams unanimously expressed themselves in favour of the S7 homologation. The Saleen will be a great addition to the show, bringing to five the number of different potential wining makes in the GT class."
Soon after the homologation decision on February 11th, the team should be able to announce the driver line-up.
BOBBY VERDON ROE TO RACE FOR CREATION AUTOSPORTIF
Bobby Verdon Roe, Superracingweekends.com Creation Autosportif has announced the driver line-up for the 2003 season. Their Lister Storm - which is not the chassis that finished second at Spa this season, as previously mentioned - will be driven by Peter Snowdon, a successful Historics racer and Bobby Verdon Roe, a regular in the Championship for Lister Storm last year.
"Actually, it won't be much of a change for me," the Portugal-based driver explained. "I'll have the same engineer, the same mechanic, the same car -- although it will be a different chassis. It's all new on paper, but they are all known quantities for me, so we will not have much of an excuse not to hit the track and go."
Verdon-Roe had a good season last year, with highlights being a second-placed finish at Silverstone, with Paul Knapfield, and a much-lauded second place in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. "I'm very excited. I met Peter Snowdon at the Autosport International show, and I think he'll be very good. He's already had a test with Lister at Jarama. I think we could be a strong pairing, so I'm quite optimistic. I want to improve on my pair of seconds, and I'll be disappointed if we don't manage to win a race. I'm due a Championship win -- I seem to win every six years -- Formula Renault in 1991, TVR Tuscans in 1997 -- so I'm due a win in 2003 !"
Ian Bickerton, the Team Principal, said that he was delighted to have Verdon Roe and Snowdon as part of his team. "Their combined experience and racing skills make us a force to be reckoned with in our first season," he said. "With the in-built Lister knowledge we now have and the skill set of these two, we have got a strong team in place and can now start our preparations for the new season in earnest."
Snowdon, a double Historic Touring Car Champion, has driven in Group C for the past two years. "Having had a successful test for Lister at the end of last year I'm thrilled to join Bobby at Creation and am now keen to learn from his years of Lister experience."
TWO PORSCHES FOR CIRTEK MOTORSPORT IN 2003 ?
Adam Jones, from gtracing.net Cirtek Motorsport had a successful season in the 2002 FIA GT Championship, scoring points at most races from Anderstorp onwards, with a fine fourth-place finish in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and second place for Adam Jones and Romain Dumas in the final race at Estoril.
"Cirtek will be entering at least one Porsche 996 GT3-R in the FIA GT Championship," Cirtek boss Rob Schirle commented from Australia. "Concerning the second car , we are still in discussion with several potential drivers. One car will be driven by two experienced drivers, with Adam Jones once more leading the driver line up, after several mature performances during 2002. The other driver is new to the FIA GT Championship, and will be announced shortly. "
"Cirtek aims to improve on all aspects of the operation for 2003, with further evolutions of the Porsche available," Rob continued. "We are confident of good results. Dunlop will again provide the tyres. " This will be the tenth consecutive year Cirtek have been involved with the Birmingham based company.
Adam Jones really enjoyed his races in the FIA GT Championship last season. "I am very grateful to Rob for giving me the opportunity to race. I was over the moon to finish second behind Ortelli in the last race. I couldn't remember the last time I'd finished on the podium. The team deserved it too, having worked so hard over the year; the car was always good, and very well prepared. I think I made more progress in my four races in the FIA GT Championship than at any other time in my career. There is still pressure, but it is a different sort of pressure than in single-seaters - in Formula 3, your whole life depends on every result. And the atmosphere is good - for example, Stephane Ortelli really helped me, giving me plenty of advice throughout the season. I would love to do the full Championship this season - with a good team-mate, I think we could aim for a top-three ôverall finish."
THREE FERRARI MARANELLO 550 CARS FOR BMS SCUDERIA ITALIA
BMS Scuderia Italia is extremely busy at the moment, as the Italian team is preparing to enter three Ferrari 550 Maranello cars in this season's FIA GT Championship. "The drivers have not yet been decided for the first car, which is our leading car," Team logistics manager Marco Strepavara explained. "The second car will be driven by Enzo Calderari, Lilian Bryner and Stefano Livio, who won the last Ferrari Challenge in Italy. We have great expectations for him, although it is his first time with such a powerful car. I think this car will be able to do well." The third car will be driven by Luca Capellari and Fabrizio Gollin, moving to a Ferrari 550 Maranello after a successful season with a Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper. The drivers for the leading car will be announced within the next three weeks.
"There is plenty of work for us," Strepavara continued. "22 people will be working on the cars this year. We will be picking up the third car next week, from Clermond Ferrand, where Michelin is undergoing tyre tests." The car is from Prodrive like the two already run by the team this year. "We have a very strong relationship with Prodrive. There is still considerable work to be done on the other two cars, mainly on the electrical systems. We were very happy with last year's performance, with four race wins - more than anyone else - and six pole positions. It would have been even better to have won the Championship, but it was still very good, especially considering that we only received the car two days before the first race. So we are very pleased to have more time and more opportunities to test the car."