FIA Sportscar Championship Round 8 Preview - Nurburgring 15/16 September
The penultimate round of the 2001 FIA Sportscar Championship takes place at the Nurburgring on 15/16 September where championships in both SR1 and SR2 classes are still up for grabs. With a top supporting line up of F3000, Lotus Elises, Lamborghini's and a full grid of FIA Sportscars, the weekend is set to be the biggest and best of the season.
Scuderia Italia hold the upper hand in the SR1 title battle with Marco Zadra leading the drivers championship and the team themselves staving off multiple challengers in the teams points table. Zadra is almost within sight of his first championship win but the Brescia resident was still in pensive mood after a third consecutive 2nd place at Mondello Park a fortnight ago. " It looks good with a 24 point lead but it will still be a hard race in Germany because there are so many different cars that can win these races," said the 23-year-old.
Marco's team mate for the race will be Christian Pescatori who won his 2000 championship at the same venue last year with the JMB Ferrari. 'Pesca' was in awesome form at Mondello Park in the last round despite a rare spin and came from behind to restore Zadra's advantage at the top of the table. As ever the trio of Angelo Zadra/Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner will double up the Prancing Horses attack in Germany in a second 333SP.
Ferrari's closest pursuers for the championship are the Den Bla Avis Team Goh pairing of John Nielsen and Hiroki Katoh. After scoring their second win of the year in Ireland, the team is still pressuring Scuderia Italia for outright honours. There has been no doubting in the second half of the season the Domes speed, but consistency has been the problem in maintaining a championship challenge. John Nielsen however is still aiming to take honours right down to the wire at Kyalami in November. "We realise that this is probably the last chance so we are all geared up to winning. We are having the new sprint engine at the Ring and Hiroki (Katoh) will be racing on a track that he knows for the first time so we will be looking strong."
Jan Lammers will still be wondering just what he has to do to win an FIA race this year after coming agonisingly close in the last two events. The Dutchman and his 20 year old team mate Val Hillebrand led the Mondello race twice before mistakes by both drivers saw them drop back to what has been there customary finishing position of 3rd. But, team manager Mark Koense believes that all the ingredients are just right for that breakthrough win to happen in Germany. "It goes without saying that we are satisfied with the pace but not with the results," said Koense. "Val knows the track and scored a podium there in F3 last year, so we are as prepared as we will ever be to go for the win again this weekend."
After that famous win at Mangy Course in Round 5, Pescarolo Sport are sure to through a spanner in the championship battles as their Courage C60 Peugeot has proved to be a major force over a sprint race as well as Le Mans. Team boss Henri Pescarolo is relishing the competition at the front of the field as the team aim to double up on that home win at Magny Cours in July. "We showed that we can run with the Judd engined cars and give them a good race if we stay out of trouble," said the four time Le Mans winner. "We will be using the same engine that we used in qualifying at Le Mans and we know that it is a strong unit so the whole team is confident for the race."
Team regular Jean Christophe Boullion will be partnered at Nurburgring by fellow countryman Boris Derichebourg. The Frenchman replaces Laurent Redon who will be racing at Fort Worth in the Indy Racing League this weekend. It will be the second race at the Ring in as many races for Boris as he also raced in the GT event this weekend for Belmondo Racing, finishing 4th.
Ascari will be looking to continue the momentum of their Donington win after a disappointing race at Mondello last week. Having just moved in to their new Banbury headquarters they still have slender championship ambitions and both Ben Collins and Werner Lupberger are always a threat at the front of the field.
On home ground Kremer Racing will be hoping to put all their promise in 2001 in to a hard result as they are based less than an hour away in Cologne. With newly hired engineer Brian Ireland and the 'rookie' of the year so far in SR1 - Sam Hancock, Erwin Kremer and his men will be ultra motivated to repeat their gallant pole position of last year. The team have been hard at work with repairs to the K2001 after a stuck throttle caused Jean Marc Gounon to crash heavily in Ireland, but Sam Hancock thinks that the Ring could see his and the teams best chance of victory so far this year.
Other challengers in the SR1 battle will be GLV Brums who have yet to name a partner for Giovanni Lavaggi, R&M Riley & Scott who are looking to salvage something from a frustrating year and Konrad Motorsport who make their 2001 debut with the same Lola B2K/10 that finished third in the hands of Sascha Maassen and Jurgen Von Gartzen exactly a year ago. Redman Bright too, will be looking to finish their season off with a strong performance in their Reynard 01Q piloted by Mark Smithson and Peter Owen.
Just as in SR1, the 3-litre SR2 class is at judgemnet day as far as the championship is concerned. Stanley Dickens' Sportsracing Team Sweden outfit lead Ray Rowan's Pilbeam Nissan by 15 points and after their spectacular victory in Ireland it is the Swedes who hold the upper hand going in to Nurburgring. The season has been an epic one between these two cars and recently they have made the title battle their own.
Star of the category without a doubt this year has been Thed Bjork, and the young Swede put in a mesmeric display at Mondello to seal the teams third win of the year. The 21-year-old Swede has grown in confidence throughout the year and now believes he and the SRTS team are on the cusp of sealing the title. "It was one of the best races of my life at Mondello and now the team are feeling so positive for the last two races," said Thed. "We can afford to finish second in both races but that is not how we will approach it. We're going to try and finish it off in style, starting in Germany."
Rowan will certainly have something to say about that after just losing out to a hat trick of wins in Ireland. Both Martin O'Connell and Warren Carway are real fighters and will looking to retaliate in the only way they know - another win.
While the championship race is definitely a two horsed one, the race could be a different matter as BM Autosport, Lucchini Engineering and Audisio & Benvenuto will be looking to upset the formbook in Germany.
With Massimo Monti at his best the Tampolli Alfa is always a threat, but the team need to match reliability to Massimo's pace and team mate Nobili's consistency if they are to add to that win at Spa earlier in the year. Lucchini have had a difficult year developing the new 2001 chassis, but lately the car has shown its true potential with numerous podium placings and a front row of the grid lock out at Donington. Giorgio Lucchini's small team from Mantova will be looking for either the Peroni/ Ugeux partnership or the Prospero/Zardo team to break his and the teams duck this weekend.
Hoping to rekindle memories of last years race will be 'Checco' Tonetti and Massimo Saccomanno who scored their only so far at the track in the Adenau forest. With a 2001 spec Lucchini of their own, both drivers will be looking to score their first podium of the year. The Franco Audisio headed team will also field Giuseppe Chinminelli and FIA debutant Ivano Giuliani in a 1999 spec chassis.
Among the ever presents hoping to push the front runners will be Raniere Randaccio and Leonardo Maddalena in the banana yellow Lucchini Alfa. The SCI run car had its best race of the year in Ireland, running 3rd for the first hour, even surviving assaults from Pescatori's Ferrari and Lammers Dome.
Team Sovereign are coming off the back of their best ever performance at Donington last month and the Mike Millard run team will be hoping that Ian Flux will be able to ring as much speed from the Rapier 6 Nissan as he did in Leicestershire.
Two Tampolli chassis are entered once more, one from Renauer Motorsport who are based in nearby Vienna and the Team Swara outfit who will be happy just to finish as so far in 2001 they have only managed to see the chequered flag once in six starts. Phil Andrews and Michael Mallock were up to a superb 2nd at Donington and they will be trying as hard as ever to repeat that form this weekend. The Roy Baker run squad also enters its Pilbeam for the first time since Spa in May with former Renault spider ace Nikki Faulkner and Austrian Frederico Careca. Pierre Bruneau and Marc Rostan complete the entry list in their Debora after achieving a season's best 4th place in the last round.
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