WEATHER Friday dawned bright, sunny and warm. LAST YEAR Cold weather and snow flurries interrupted practice and qualifying The race started dry, then became wet, then dried again towards the end. Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc took...
Friday dawned bright, sunny and warm.
Cold weather and snow flurries interrupted practice and qualifying The race started dry, then became wet, then dried again towards the end. Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc took the lead of the championship by winning in their Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper after inspired tyre choices. Carsport Holland lost their early lead in the race when they made an extra pit stop to change tyres and then became stuck in fifth gear. Jamie Campbell-Walter challenged Mike Hezemans in the opening stages before he spun in the wet. Anthony Kumpen and Emmanuel Clerico made a mid-race bid for the lead before Clerico pulled off with a broken fuel pump. Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester won the N-GT category in the RWS Red Bull Porsche, less than a second in front of the JMB Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori and David Terrien.
Three GT cars will start the third round of the FIA GT Championship with 40 kg of ballast this weekend. The championship-leading nr 14 Lister Storm Racing pair of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer won at Magny Cours to pick up the penalty, and finished fourth at Silverstone, meaning they did not lose any weight. Marc Duez and Fabio Babini, driving the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper, won at Silverstone to pick up 40kg. Reigning champions Larbre Competition has its lead car, the nr 1 Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien, on 40kg after two third places so far this season, collecting 20kg each time. Of the N-GT teams, the nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini also carries 40kg after winning twice, collecting half the weight penalty levied on the GT runners each time. The nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Garbagnati and Bertolini runs with 20kg after two third-place finishes.
ENGE IN AT FERRARI
Tomas Enge, the FIA International Formula 3000 race winner in Austria last weekend and current F3000 championship leader, makes his debut in the GT class of the championship this weekend in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello. The Czech shares the Ferrari with Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini. He raced in the N-GT class at Magny Cours last year, finishing third, and here at Brno where he recorded pole position in the Coca Cola-backed Porsche 996 GT3RS. He started his GT programme in promising fashion, posting fastest time in both free practice sessions.
NEW FACES AT FREISINGER
Manfred Freisinger has changed his driving line-up in the lead car, the nr 54 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3RS. Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb now joins Stephane Ortelli in his car for this race, while Bert Longin and Stephane Daoudi share the second car, nr 55. Lieb normally races in the German Porsche Carrera Cup supporting the DTM: but the Porsches are not racing in Donington this weekend. Due to date clashes between the DTM and the FIA GT Championship, Lieb is unlikely to race in the series again before the final round at Estoril.
DOUBLE CHAMPION RETURNS
Double FIA GT Champion Olivier Beretta returns to the championship for a one-off race with Team Art, driving the nr 9 Chrysler Viper GTS-R with Jean-Pierre Jarier. Beretta won his first FIA GT Championship title in 1998, sharing with Portuguese Pedro Lamy, and won again in 1999 with Austrian Karl Wendlinger. He is the most successful Chrysler Viper driver of all time with four international championship titles. Between them, Jarier and Beretta have started no fewer than 146 Formula One Grands Prix, Jarier 136, Beretta 10.
BRITISH CHAMPION MAKES DEBUT
British GTO champion Kelvin Burt makes his FIA GT Championship debut at Brno this weekend, sharing the nr 62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche with Slovak Jirko Malcharek. Burt is racing this year in the British ASCAR series.
FIRST FREE PRACTICE : FERRARI SIGNS THE TIMES
Tomas Enge posted fastest time of the session in his nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello that he shares with Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz. The Czech set a time of 2:00.343s, just three hundredths of a second faster than the nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer. The Ferrari lost time in the pits at the start of the session with an electrical failure, thought to be linked to the problem that forced the car's retirement at Silverstone two weeks ago.
The nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien was third fastest. Bouchut completed most of the session behind the wheel, Terrien driving for three of the 24 laps. Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans, driving the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R, were fourth fastest.
Fabio Babini and Marc Duez had a troubled day in their nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The pair lost time when they had a sensor problem that lost them more than an hour getting the engine started. Duez then reported a spongy brake pedal that lost them further time in the pits. The nr 58 Autorlando Sport Porsche of Toto Wolff and Philipp Peter, second at Silverstone two weeks ago, posted fastest time in the N-GT category. Peter set the time, a 2:06.656, ahead of the championship leader Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini in the nr 50 JMB Ferrari 360 Modena. Their best time was a 2:07.595.
FREE PRACTICE TWO
Tomas Enge again headed the time sheets again in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello. The Czech set the time, a 1:59.236 early in the session, and remained the only FIA GT Championship driver to better two minutes all day. Jamie Campbell-Walter was second fastest in the nr 1 Lister Storm, that is carrying 40kg of ballast, while Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien were third in the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R. Fabio Babini and Marc Duez suffered a left-front puncture in the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R, caused by debris on the circuit. Team owner Paul Belmondo, driving the nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R, suffered an oil leak in the afternoon session in the car he shares with Belgian Robert Dierek.
Jurgen von Gartzen headed the N-GT time sheets in his JVG Racing nr 60 Porsche 996 GT3 RS, more than two-tenths of a second faster than Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb in the nr 54 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3RS. The two JMB Racing Ferraris were third and fourth, Garbagnati and Bertolini in the nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena quicker than their team-mates Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini in the nr 50 example.
The session was stopped prematurely when Mauro Casadei's nr 16 Proton Porsche 911 GT2 dropped oil on the circuit, causing both Andrea Garbagnati in the nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena and Carl Rosenblad in the nr 2 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R, to spin off.
NOTES AND QUOTES
David Terrien, nr 1 Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Larbre Competition -- Chereau: "The other cars are simply more competitive. If the Ferrari team put two professional drivers in the car, it would win all of the races. The car is quicker than the Vipers and could even be quicker than the Listers."
Olivier Beretta, nr 9 Chrysler Viper GTSR, Team ART: "The team is good, they are learning the car. I have no experience with the Pirelli, so it all quite new to me. Back in 1999, I was here to try to win the Championship; today I am here to help another team. I am happy to be here, the atmosphere is quite nice, and there is no pressure!"
Jamie Campbell-Walter, nr 14 Lister Storm, Lister Storm Racing: "We have got a good race car, but we have too much understeer for a one-off lap. The tyres are performing well, we did 38 laps on them this morning, and did a 2:01 on a 38th lap. A stint is 29 laps round here, so we are happy with that. The 40kg penalty is hurting us here on the uphill bits. Nicolaus is also going OK, he has done a 2:05, which is not that bad considering it is such a long circuit, so we are quietly confident.
Mauro Casadei, nr 16 Porsche 911 GT2, Proton Competition: "I looked in my mirrors and saw some white smoke, so I immediately switched off the engine but I had already gone round two corners. There was no oil missing from the engine, so it must have come from the gearbox. I am very sorry for those drivers who went off on my oil."
Tomas Enge, nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello, BMS Scuderia Italia : "Last year I drove a Porsche in the N-GT class; this year, I am driving this big car which I enjoy a lot. You get on the power out of turn one, and the acceleration is just amazing. I would say this is the fastest car that I have ever driven here, it is fantastic. We had an electrical problem with the car, so we lost almost 20 minutes at the end of the first session and I was slightly surprised to be fastest. This afternoon, it is warmer and I was on new tyres. I don't know what the others were running, but this morning everyone had the same conditions."
Toto Wolff, nr 58 Porsche 996 GT3RS, Autorlando Sport: "We didn't go out on new tyres this afternoon, we preferred to run a race set-up. I did the time this afternoon on tyres that were four laps old, but this morning, Philipp was on a new set. This is a very abrasive surface that ruins tyres. We could do a very fast time, but what would happen during the race?"
Ian Khan, nr 60 Porsche 996 GT3RS, JVG Racing: "Juergen is very experienced around here, but this is my first time and I was only 1.5 seconds off his best, so I am not too uncomfortable. I put two wheels on the dirt on the outside of turn one. The thing with these Porsches is that if you lift off you have understeer, which is the last thing that you want when you are on the marbles. I know that now. I have a lot to learn about Porsches, that is for sure!"
Kelvin Burt, nr 62 Porsche 996 GT3-R, Cirtek Motorsport: "I haven't had time to get used to things yet, as I only arrived this morning. We are struggling for grip, but both the Dunlop Porsche teams are saying the same thing. We are sliding around a lot. It feels fantastic out of the pits but that is as good as it gets. I don't know much really. I turned up this morning and I have only driven this car once before, so I am a bit in the dark."
Nikolaj Fomenko, nr 77 Porsche 996 GT3R-S, RWS Motorsport: Fomenko is extremely well-known in his native Russia. An actor both on stage and in film, a television presenter of entertainment programmes and a radio presenter, he is mobbed by autograph hunters wherever he goes. The Russian shares his Porsche with Alex Vasiliev, his partner since he first entered the FIA GT Championship in 2000, behind the wheel of a Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R. Using his considerable media connections, Fomenko is planning to introduce a new television programme, "The Wheels", onto Russian television and would like to bring the FIA GT Championship to Moscow one day, to further increase already growing support of the sport in his home country.
"I won two Russian championships, in 1997 and 2000 with a Honda Civic," Fomenko explained. "When we went to the Lausitzring for the first time in the Freisinger Porsche two years ago, it was a big shock for me. I went from a slow, slow car to the Porsche; it was a completely different world. However, we are improving, and there are many potential sponsors in Russia, such as oil companies, looking to take part in motorsport."