Brno: Round four preview

The fourth meeting of the 2003 season will see the LG Super Racing Weekend series head northwards again, to the Czech Republic. The historic Masaryk circuit near Brno, is widely appreciated by teams and drivers alike, and both the FIA GT ...

The fourth meeting of the 2003 season will see the LG Super Racing Weekend series head northwards again, to the Czech Republic.

The historic Masaryk circuit near Brno, is widely appreciated by teams and drivers alike, and both the FIA GT Championship and the FIA European Touring Car Championship have been visiting the circuit for a number of years. Exciting races are usually guaranteed by the Czech track, with its changes of elevation and medium-speed corners, and last year's third round of the FIA GT Championship proved to be a classic, with hours of nose-to-tail fighting resulting in a fine win for the Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer, with the Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Ortelli and Lieb victorious in the N-GT class.

This year, after three consecutive wins for BMS Scuderia Italia in the FIA GT Championship, the Lister, Saleen and Viper cars are all eager for victory, while in N-GT, the first win for EMKA Racing has closed up the points in the classification.

Regular support events, the Renault Sport Clio Trophy and Renault Sport Elf Clio International Cup will be joined in Brno by the Formula Renault 2000 Masters, an international competition for the teams taking part in the various Renault national Championships. The Formula Renault V6 Eurocup will be back at Donington.


Although this is the first year that leading Czech driver Tomas Enge has been a full-season entrant in the FIA GT Championship, he has made a number of guest appearances in previous years. He claimed a podium finish at Magny-Cours for Coca Cola Racing in 2001, with current Minardi Formula One driver Justin Wilson. Last year, he drove for BMS Scuderia Italia at Brno, claiming pole position for the Ferrari 550 Maranello. Enge, aged 26, was a Formula 3000 frontrunner for many years; he also did a number of races for Prost in Formula One.

"Brno is one of my favourite circuits and not only because it is my home race. The track itself is very good and demanding, with mainly middle speed long corners. Elevation changes add attractiveness to both drivers and spectators. You have to know the right line and your laps have to be very smooth to get a good time. The track is quite wide and therefore it is not easy to discover the best line. There are three tricky places on the circuit. The first two are the two right hand corners just before the Stadium section. The track goes downhill when you are braking for the first one; the second one is quite quick and you have to 'send' the car into it in the right way. The third tricky place is under braking to the Schwantz corner -- once again, the track goes downhill. You can make or lose a lot of time there. I hope that I will be able to benefit from my experience as it is the track where I grew up! "

After three wins from three races, BMS Scuderia Italia now has a significant lead in the Teams Championship, while Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi dominate the GT Drivers Championship. However, their current score is only provisional, due to the appeal lodged by their team concerning the exclusion of the nr 22 BMS Ferrari 550 Maranello of Gollin and Cappellari, due to a faulty airbox.

Last year, the Ferrari challenge ended early in Brno, while a breathtaking hour-long battle between the Lister Storm, Larbre and Carsport Chrysler Vipers gave the race a place in among the great GT races. With Lister provisionally second in Pergusa, and Hezemans and Kumpen extremely fast in Pergusa in the Force One Chrysler Viper, an interesting race is in store.

In N-GT, three winners from three races proves how close the class currently is. Lieb and Ortelli won for the first time at Brno in 2002, marking the start of the Monegasque driver's domination of the season. With both Freisinger Porsches retiring in Pergusa, the reigning Champion will be sure to want to repeat its 2002 performance. This will be the home race for Czech team MENX and Polish team Alda Motorsport; they will be joined by a race-by-race entry from Machanek Racing, with a Porsche 996 GT3-RS.

Subject to the ongoing appeal, Bobbi and Biagi will be the first to come under the new handicap rules, which means that a car will only go up to 100 kg if they win with the normal maximum of 80 kg. Excluded from Pergusa, Gollin and Cappellari would maintain their 60 kg in the nr 22 car, while Campbell-Walter and Kinch would take 30 onboard the nr 14 Lister Storm, with Calderari, Bryner and Livio gaining 20 in their nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari.

In N-GT, the Pergusa win means EMKA Racing would have 20 kg in the nr 61 Porsche, with 15 kg for JMB Racing nr 52 and 10 kg for the nr 75 Eurotech Porsche. Seventh place in Pergusa reduces Mullen and Davies to 15 kg in the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires.

Italian team BMS Scuderia Italia first scored a hat-trick of wins in 2002, with Deletraz and Piccini victorious at Jarama, Anderstorp and Oschersleben. Whether the appeal lodged by the team succeeds concerning the exclusion of the nr 22 Ferrari 550 Maranello of Gollin and Cappellari succeeds or not, the team has still managed to repeat the feat of three wins in a row. Current Drivers Classification leaders Bobbi and Biagi inherited the Pergusa win after post-race scrutineering found problems with the airbox on the nr 22 car. "It is a difficult position for me," Thomas Biagi admitted. "For me, a race when I do not cross the line first, and do not get on the top of the podium, it is not a real win. We had bad luck in Pergusa, with a spin and then a speed limiter problem, but I am sure that Matteo and I will have a good race in Brno. I know the track well, and finished on the podium there last year in the European F3000 series. It's very fast and technical, with medium corners and a quick chicane. 100 kg is a lot, but I am not worried - Matteo and I will try to do the best we can." The International Court of Appeal will sit on Wednesday May 21st in Paris, and the decision will be made known on Thursday May 22nd, in the afternoon.

New team Creation Autosportif has had a good start to its first season, scoring points at each round with the first privately-entered Lister Storm. However, team manager Ian Bickerton admits that they are slightly disappointed not to have finished on the podium. "Most of us in the team have worked for top teams before, and we're used to winning ! But we do realise we have to walk before we can run. The car is right, the tyres are right, and the drivers are good, so we are actually doing really well. The car was very quick in Enna, close to the leading Lister Racing car and ahead of their second car. But we really want to win with a privateer Lister, and we have the drivers to do it !" Bickerton has plans to run a second car. "Possibly after Spa, definitely next year. Maybe another Lister, or perhaps a Saleen, and run a mixed team. We want to be here for the next few years, and you need two cars to go for the Teams title."

Proton Competition is one of the oldest and most faithful competitors in the FIA GT Championship. The German team, run by Gerold Ried, has entered Porsche 911 GT2 cars since 1997, only missing a handful of races over the six seasons, while Ried has raced in more rounds of the Championship than any other driver. Although their Porsche has gradually been outpaced by the Chrysler Vipers, Lister Storms, Ferrari and Saleen cars, the team did manage to finish 6th in Donington last year, scoring its first point since 1998. Now, things are changing for the team. "We bought a new Porsche 996 GT3-RS yesterday, and we will be entering it in the N-GT category, starting from Brno," 24-year old Christian Ried explained. "I really hope we will now have a car that is capable of running for three hours without problems. However, I have never driven another car than the Porsche 911 GT2 - I started driving it in 1999, and have continued to do so until now." The days of the Porsche 911 GT2 in the GT category might not yet be over - the team is currently considering entering the car for Mauro Casadei, Moreno Soli and another driver yet to be named. A decision will be taken later.

British Team Maranello Concessionaires had a difficult race in Pergusa, with mechanical problems for both the nr 88 and 89 Ferrari 360 Modena cars. After the team solved suspension and gear linkage problems, the cars continued to finish 7th and 8th, with the team still leading the Teams Classification. "Despite a disappointing race result for cars 88 and 89 in Enna-Pergusa, TMC are delighted to still be leading the Team Championship at this early stage in the season," TMC Commercial Director John Newman explained. "The Drivers' Championship is extremely close too, and with Brno being a circuit that we know very well, we are confident that the team can return both cars to the podium next weekend. Our qualifying and early race speed in Sicily are a good indication of both cars' impending performance in the Czech Republic."

With a second place in Enna-Pergusa, added to their win in Barcelona, Fabrizio De Simone and Andrea Bertolini are currently leading the N-GT Drivers Classification by one point. In the Teams classification, JMB are three points behind Team Maranello Concessionaires, having scored points with both their Ferrari 360 Modena cars at the last race.

The 2003 season has not been so easy for the team's two Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, running in the GT category. Although they have shown great speed, with the nr 9 car running especially strongly in Pergusa, the cars are yet to finish a race.

FIRST WIN FOR EMKA RACING (6th in N-GT, 10 points)
Tim Sugden has raced in the FIA GT Championship on numerous occasions, generally alongside EMKA Racing Team owner Steve O'Rourke. After two second-place finishes in 2000, and a third for Veloqx Motorsport in 2002, Pergusa marked the first win for Sugden, his team-mate Martin Short and the team. "It was really good," Sudgen said. "I have led so many races without managing to win, so now we'll try to do it again. Obviously there are some circuits which favour the Porsche, and some which favour the Ferrari, but I think Brno has elements of both, and we should be very evenly matched there. I went really well at the track two years ago, in the wet; the car is very well sorted out, and Martin is in a very confident mood, having adapted his driving style to the Porsche. I am really looking forward to it. "

This is also the home race for Polish team Alda Motorsport, which scored its first-ever points in Pergusa, finishing in 5th place. "We did a lot of testing at Brno during November," Wojciech Dobrzanski said. "The temperatures were down to minus 5 degrees, so not the ideal conditions for a racing car! Grip and balance are very important at Brno. It's easy to spin on the long, fast corners. I have some experience in this matter ! We are hoping for another good result after our surprising fifth place at Pergusa. Brno is only 3 hours drive from the Polish border, so many our fans should come to the Moravian capital. For Alda, it is our home race and the highlight of the season." His team-mate, Andrej Dziurka, is also very familiar with the circuit. "I have been racing there for ten years, and although it is not my favourite circuit, I respect it, as it is very challenging for the drivers."

HOME RACE FOR MENX (10th in N-GT, 3 points)
Czech team Menx is heading for its home race after two successive non-finishes. "I am really looking forward to Brno, as it is one of the few opportunities I have to race in front of my home fans, and the Masaryk circuit is one of my favourites," Enge said. His team-mate Pergl agrees : "It is by far the track that I know best from the whole Championship. I feel that with each race I am more comfortable in the car, and I hope to continue this trend in Brno." Team technical director Ivo Horn has mixed feelings about the benefits of a home race. "The plus side is obviously very good knowledge of the track, and no long trips. But on the other hand, there is a lot more pressure, as the home fans always want the best possible result. Hopefully, we have had all our bad luck for the season, and we want to score more points."


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Tomas Enge , Justin Wilson , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Martin Short , Mauro Casadei , Christian Ried , Gerold Ried , Nicolaus Springer , Tim Sugden , Andrea Bertolini , Thomas Biagi , Steve O'Rourke
Teams Proton Competition