ETCC: Donington: Round five preview

After a month-long break, the LG Super Racing Weekend series is back in action, heading across the Channel to Great Britain and the popular circuit of Donington Park, for the fifth event of 2003. The track, located next to the busy East Midlands...

After a month-long break, the LG Super Racing Weekend series is back in action, heading across the Channel to Great Britain and the popular circuit of Donington Park, for the fifth event of 2003. The track, located next to the busy East Midlands Airport, recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary since reopening after the Second World War. A finely balanced combination of fast, challenging corners and a slow, technical hairpin section, the car set-up is crucial. The multi-series platform first visited the track last October, for the penultimate round of the season.

An excellent weekend's racing saw Alfa Romeo and Fabrizio Giovanardi claim the FIA ETCC Manufacturer and Drivers' titles respectively, while in the FIA GT Championship, a sixth win of the season saw Stephane Ortelli win the N-GT Drivers title.

In the FIA ETCC, British favourite Gabriele Tarquini currently leads, ahead of British rookie Andy Priaulx, while BMW has a comfortable lead in the Manufacturers points. After missing Pergusa and Brno, the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup will be back in action at Donington, while the Renault Sport Clio Trophy and Clio Elf International Cup will be among the support races, joined by the Volkswagen Racing Cup.

DONINGTON - ACCORDING TO CAMPBELL-WALTER

Jamie Campbell-Walter first raced in the FIA European Touring Car Champion at Donington, back in 1997. He has been a regular competitor since 2000, with Lister Racing, winning the GT titles in 2000 with Julian Bailey, and accumulating a total of 11 wins. This season he is sharing the nr 14 Lister Storm with 21-year old Nathan Kinch, claiming pole in Barcelona and a best result of second at Pergusa.

"Donington is a great track, one of those circuits that all drivers love, with changes of elevation and good quick corners. The hairpin loop changes the rhythm, but the rest is great, really fast. It's one of the few great driver tracks left, which have not been changed. The section from the Craner Curves to the Old Hairpin is great, challenging for any driver. But you need a good car, as the corners vary from very fast to extremely slow -- I would say that the Melbourne Loop is possibly the slowest corner of the year. It is difficult to get the right set up for the car, to get the right balance. Experience helps, too. You need a car which handles well, as well as good aerodynamics, and really good brakes. The track is rather similar to Zolder, in that by the end of three hours, the brakes are getting quite long and spongy, and you can start locking up. If you are racing hard into the last thirty minutes or so, like I was at Brno, this can be a crucial factor. But I am really looking forward to it."

Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2003 season of the FIA European Touring Car Championship will take place at the British circuit of Donington Park. After 8 races, Tarquini leads with a score of 44 points, ahead of sole British driver Andy Priaulx, with Dirk and Jorg Muller third and fourth respectively.

Both Dirk Muller and Andy Priaulx, the Brno race winners, will carry the maximum penalty weight of 40 kg for Donington. Championship leader Gabriele Tarquini will carry 30 kg, while reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi will have 10 extra kilos on his nr 1 Team BMW Italy-Spain car.

TARQUINI DEFENDS HIS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD

After two clever races in Brno, Gabriele Tarquini is now alone in the lead of the Drivers Championship. The Italian driver and his Autodelta Alfa Romeo 156 Gta are followed by three BMW men, Andy Priaulx, Dirk and Jorg Muller, who are lying respectiving 4, 6 and 8 points behind him. "I have high hopes for Donington, because I like the track a lot and it definitely suits better our car than Brno. Last year Donington marked my return to the FIA ETCC and to Alfa Romeo, and I was pleased to finish on the podium. Now I have a much better feeling with the car, thus, despite the 30 kg of ballast I will be carrying, I am confident we can be competitive. Particularly because we have done a lot of good testing in order to optimize the car's consistency over the race distance. This should also help us to reduce the tyre wear and also the gap in performance we usually have between qualifying and the race," said former British Touring Car Champion Tarquini, who remains a favourite with the British fans.

PRIAULX EAGER TO PLEASE THE BRITISH FANS

Despite being in his first season in the FIA European Touring Car Championship, Andy Priaulx has scored his first win in Brno at the wheel of his BMW Great Britain-backed BMW 320i. Heading for his home event, he is currently second in the Drivers Championship and the leading BMW drivers. "The secret of our success is the critical approach we have had from the beginning. We work very well together, BMW Great Britain, RBM and myself, although we did not expect to arrive in Donington second in the Championship. Obviously we are looking forward to this meeting and I'm eager to please the British fans, but my knowledge of the circuit won't be an advantage. The competition is so tough and the level of the drivers so high that even the few who don't know Donington will learn it quickly. We'll have two tough and very close races, and having 40 kg of ballast onboard won't help me."

TESTING FOR ALFA ROMEO AND BMW

Alfa Romeo and BMW both spent time testing after Brno. BMW Team Italy-Spain visited Magione, where Antonio Garcia and Fabrizio Giovanardi tested a number of different set-up solutions, with the young Spaniard being fastest with a time of 1:16.2, half a second quicker than Giovanardi. The following week Alfa Romeo works team Autodelta spent two days at Ferrari's own circuit in Fiorano; Gabriele Tarquini focused on testing the car's set-up, while Nicola Larini worked on new engine steps and maps. The two Italian teams then tested together at the Austrian A-1 Ring, where they were joined by BMW Team Great Britain's Andy Priaulx. Again Garcia set the fastest time, with a lap of 1:41.36, only six hundredths of a second quicker than Tarquini's 1:41.42; The best times for Giovanardi and Priaulx were 1:41.62 and 1:42.11 respectively.

SEAT AIMING FOR MORE POINTS

In the points again at Brno, the SEAT Sport team is now aiming to score with both cars at Donington Park. "This is a very good track for the Toledo Cupra, because it suits cars with good chassis. And our chassis is continuously improving. I also like the circuit very much and I have always obtained good results there, since my Formula 3 years," said Jordi Gene, who achieved his only ETCC podium result so far at Donington last year. "My morale is excellent. I know we can do well there, although I can't expect another podium, because we are not yet ready for that. But we definitely have the potential to fight for points, and that is our goal." After Brno, the SEAT Sport team spent two days testing at the Spanish track of Calafat.

HONDA PROGRAMMES STEPS UP WITH JAS

PRO Motorsport and JAS Motorsport have upgraded their partnership. In Donington, JAS Motorsport will be in charge of running the Honda Civic Type-R cars on behalf of the Scottish team. "We will also look after the technical and logistics assistances, and we have revised the cars in our own workshop," engineer Stefano Fini explained. Nine people from JAS Motorsport will attend the FIA ETCC meeting, including Fini as technical director. PRO Motorsport's Alan Martin remains in charge as sporting director. "We expect to make a leap forward in performances. We know the car has a huge potential, we just have to fully exploit it. And I'm sure we will be able to do it thanks to JAS's expertise," said Martin. The team is currently talking to a number of good drivers to join Andre Couto.

FIRST POINTS FOR THE ART VOLVOS?

During the last event in Brno, Rickard Rydell and his ART Engineering Volvo S60 fought for the points. Now both he and the team are looking forward to Donington, where the Volvo cars proved to be very competitive last year. "We are quite optimistic," says team principal Paolo Alessandrini, adding: "We have worked very much on refining the cars' set-up on the basis of the experience gained in the first part of the season." As during last year, the Volvo S60's weak point is the engine. "So far we have suffered from a lack of power and overheating, but we are confident that from now on the situation will improve. We have just received two totally revised engines from Sweden. According to what they told us, all problems have been solved. If this is true, we may be aiming for scoring our first points in the Championship," Alessandrini concluded.

CORONEL BACK IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

After being forced to miss the previous Championship meeting in Brno due to a clashing commitment, Tom Coronel will be back at the wheel of his Carly Motors BMW 320i, which was driven by Donald Molenaar in the Czech Republic. The Dutchman is still leading the Independents Trophy by one point from Clever Cats R&M's Fabio Francia. Coronel's team mate Duncan Huisman and Scuderia Bigazzi's Alessandro Balzan are in joint third position, 8 points from the lead; while second Clever Cats R&M's driver Paolo Ruberti is fifth, one point behind them. "It was very nice of them. They all shared the points in Brno, and none of them were able to oust me from the lead. I really appreciate it," a grateful Coronel commented.

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Stéphane Ortelli , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Nathan Kinch , Duncan Huisman , Andre Couto , Rickard Rydell , Paolo Ruberti , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Donald Molenaar , Craner Curves