ETCC: Notes of Interest 2003-02-07

A number of regular LG SRW teams and drivers were busy last weekend, with the first major endurance race of the year taking place at Daytona, Florida. Teams such as JMB Racing, RWS Motorsport, Proton and MAC Racing took part, with frequent FIA GT...

A number of regular LG SRW teams and drivers were busy last weekend, with the first major endurance race of the year taking place at Daytona, Florida. Teams such as JMB Racing, RWS Motorsport, Proton and MAC Racing took part, with frequent FIA GT driver Michel Neugarten and Renault Sport Clio Trophy frontrunner Jérôme Policand among the GTS class winning line-up, driving for Perspective Racing, a race winner in the N-GT class in 2001. The same weekend, FIA GT regular Marc Duez and FIA ETCC driver Eric Cayrolle were in much cooler climes, taking part in the 24 Hours of Chamonix, first round of the Ice Racing Series International. Duez, with Dany Snobeck and Patrick Herbert, finished second overall in a Seat Cordoba WRC, behind their team-mates Yvan Muller and Gilles Stievenart.

CZECH TEAM TO ENTER TWO ^ÊKODA SUPERB CARS

The ^Êkoda Autospektrum Racing Team will join the 2003 FIA European Touring Car Championship, running two ^Êkoda Superb cars adapted to the FIA Super 2000 technical specifications. The cars were built in close cooperation with the ^Êkoda Motorsport factory and will be driven by two young, talented Czech drivers: 22-year old Petr Kolář and 28-year old Ondřej Navrátil. They emerged as the best competitors in recent seasons of the ^Êkoda Octavia Cup. The team, based in the Czech Republic and directed by Otakar Zenkl, has been very successful in the ^Êkoda Octavia Cup, and has also prepared and run ^Êkoda Octavia WRC cars in the European and the Czech Rally Championships. "The victories of the WRC cars should be a good basis from which to start for this new programme," said Zenkl. " We have great expectations for this participation in the FIA ETCC and we hope to create some surprises, opening a new, interesting chapter in the 100-year old tradition of ^Êkoda motorsport." The team has planned an intensive testing programme in order to be ready for the first meeting of the season, at Barcelona on April 6th. This will mark the Czech Manufacturer's comeback to the European Touring Car Championship, in which they competed with works and private cars on a regular basis from the end of the Sixties to the beginning of the Eighties, claiming 26 class wins. In 1981, ^Êkoda won the overall Manufacturers Championship, with a team of three 130 RS 1.3-litre works cars driven by a group of Czech drivers, which included Bretislav Enge (Tomas's father) and Zdenek Vojtech.

MORE TESTING FOR ALFA ROMEO IN VALLELUNGA

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Alfa Romeo returned to the Vallelunga track, spending two days of testing with one Alfa Romeo 156 Gta car. Roberto Colciago and Gabriele Tarquini took turns behind the wheel of the N.technology test machine. As during the previous sessions in Vallelunga and Magione, Colciago had to cope with a wet track; he managed to complete 79 laps, but his times remained relatively slow, with a best lap of 1:27.7. On Wednesday, the sun shone, drying the track, and Tarquini was able to complete 110 laps, carrying on with the technical development. "We have tested new brake discs and pads and we also worked on refining the car's set up and balance. The 156 Gta we ran in Vallelunga represents around 70 per cent of the 2003 car," explained N.technology's race engineer Marco Calovolo. With temperature around 8°C and no rubber on the asphalt ,Tarquini's times were not very fast. His best lap was clocked at 1:18.7, almost one second slower than the fastest lap set one month ago by Dirk Müller in a Schnitzer BMW. Alfa will next test on 18th and 19th February, at Misano.

SEAT RUNS THE ETCC TOLEDO IN ALBACETE

After a few sessions with a hybrid machine, based on a León Cupra Cup car, the SEAT Sport Team has completed its first proper test with the new FIA ETCC Toledo in Albacete. "To tell the truth ,it was almost the FIA ETCC car," driver Jordi Gené explained. "The engine complied with the FIA Super 2000 specifications, although only in its first step. As for the chassis, we tested with the correct suspension and brakes, but 30 per cent of the components still have to be changed. And the aerodynamics package is yet to be developed. My first impression was very good. It looks as if the Toledo has a lot of potential. Now we have to work hard to exploit it. The toughest part will be working on the rear suspension, which must be considerably stiffened."

SEAT Sport Team has planned a very intensive testing programme before the start of the season. They will test in Pergusa on 20th and 21st February, in Monza a few days later (24th and 25th); they will then take part in the official FIA ETCC test in Barcelona on 6th and 7th March, before going to Nogaro from 12th to 14th March. From the test in Pergusa onwards, the team will be able to run their second car for Gené's team-mate, young German driver Franz Diefenbacher.

BMW TEST IN MISANO

On Thursday and Friday, two BMW teams took part in a test session at the Misano Adriatico circuit. Schnitzer Motorsport and Ravaglia Motorsport ran one 320i car each: Schnitzer's car was nearly in full 2003 configuration, with a new engine, brake system and aerodynamics package, while Ravaglia tested with the same 2002 car seen in Vallelunga one month ago. The weather was fine, but extremely low temperatures prevented the testing from starting in the early morning, because of the icy track. On Thursday, at the wheel of the Schnitzer car, 2002 FIA ETCC vice-champion Jörg Müller worked hard to set his new machine up, with a fastest lap time of 1:40.9. At Ravaglia Motorsport, 2002 FIA ETCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and his new team-mate Antonio García took turns behind the wheel. Giovanardi emerged as the fastest driver on day one of the two-day session, clocking his best lap at 1:40.6, but García was only one tenth of a second slower than him, proving he is progressing quickly in his Touring Car apprenticeship.

"I'm quite happy with him. This boy has a lot of talent and I'm sure he will create some surprises during the season," team manager Roberto Ravaglia commented.

On Friday, the progress of the Ravaglia car was halted due to a blown engine, after García had improved to an excellent 1:40.1. Giovanardi was therefore unable to take the wheel again. As for Jörg Müller, he made a drastic improvement, setting the fastest time of the two-day session with a lap of 1:39.5.

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Jorg Muller , Yvan Muller , Jérome Policand , Michel Neugarten , Eric Cayrolle , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Marc Duez , Dany Snobeck , Roberto Colciago