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 Stéphane Ortelli win the N-GT Drivers title.

In the GT title battle, however, the title fight closed up, with David Terrien taking the Championship lead while contenders Jamie Campbell-Walter and Andrea Piccini clashed. Despite visiting the track much earlier in the season, much is still at play. In the FIA GT Championship, BMS Scuderia Italia has won all four rounds so far, and the Italian team's rivals, with their Lister Storm, Saleen S7-R and Chrysler Viper cars, are keen to take a first win.

In N-GT, four different winners from four races proves how close the category currently is, and Donington is likely to provide yet another closely-disputed race.

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."

After four rounds and four wins for Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi in their nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello, BMS Scuderia Italia has taken a commanding lead in the Teams classification, while the two young Italians have a 17-point lead over Lister drivers Piccini and Deletraz. Lister Racing is currently second behind BMS, after consistent points finishes for both Storms. In N-GT, the four races have resulted in four different winners, with honours even between the Ferrari 360 Modena and the Porsche 996 GT3-RS. British Team Maranello Concessionaires currently leads the Teams Classification by just one point over JMB Racing, while JMB's leading drivers, Bertolini and De Simone, lead TMC's Davies and Mullen in the Drivers Classification. With a grand total of eight British teams entered in the full season, Donington should be very interested.

Having continued to win with 100kg penalty weight, Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi will remain on the maximum score for Donington, while their team-mates Gollin and Cappellari will now have an extra 80 kg in the nr 22 car. Piccini and Deletraz will have 30 kg in the nr 15 Lister Storm, with Campbell-Walter and Kinch reduced to just 10 kg. In N-GT, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari Modena will carry 30kg, with the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena on 25 kg, and the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche on 20 kg, after winning in Brno.

FIVE IN A ROW FOR BMS ? (1st in GT, 62 points)

With four consecutive overall wins, Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi continue to set records in the FIA GT Championship, with their 100% points record and unique run of wins. At Donington, for the second race, they will once more be carrying the maximum of 100 kg penalty weight in their nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello. "I can't wait to get to the track," Biagi explained. "It has been a long time since Brno, and I get bored when I can't race. I'm excited, and I have good memories of Donington, as I had my best Euro 3000 race there, winning in 2001 ahead of Felipe Massa, who is now a test driver for Ferrari. I like the track, it is very nice, but I think it could be very hard on our car with the penalty weight. I don't want to think about winning five in a row, I just hope to work as usual with the team and my team-mate. But I think Lister will be very fast at their home track, and I think it will be a very good race !"

LISTER RACING READY TO START WINNING (2nd in GT, 39 points)

After four rounds of the 2003 Championship, Lister Racing is lying in second place in the classification, thanks to consistent points finishes from both cars and three podiums so far. But the team is still looking for its first win. "It's definitely time to start winning," Jamie Campbell-Walter said. "We should have had a win by now. I am very pleased to be heading for Donington, and I hope we won't have the sort of problems we have suffered from so far this season. We have done a lot of testing at the track, which suits the car well, as it is definitely a 'handling circuit'. The Lister has an incredible record there in the British national series. We were unfortunate there last year, but I am really looking forward to it.

It should be good for Nathan, too, as he knows the track better than some of the others we have visited, and those extra laps should help him. It would be really nice to head for Spa with a win under our belts. Biagi and Bobbi have had some luck in getting those four wins, but they have done a good job. But still, I want to beat them fair and square !"

REPEAT WIN FOR HEZEMANS AND KUMPEN ?

Last year, Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen won their first race of the season at the penultimate round, in Donington, finally winning through after some very unlucky races. This year, racing in the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R, they have also had more than their share of bad luck. "I really don't know what to think any more," Mike Hezemans said about Donington. "I prefer not to make any predictions. The car is fast, but we have had such problems, with two flat tyres, and then a broken differential casting - something that never, ever breaks. We could win... ." Philippe Alliot, David Hallyday and Steve Zacchia will be behind the wheel of the team's second car, the nr 4 Chrysler Viper, which had its best result in Pergusa, finishing 6th.

THIRD CAR AS TMC PREPARES FOR SPA (1st in N-GT, 33 points)

Team Maranello Concessionaires will be entering their third car, normally used for test and development purposes, under the name of Veloyx Motorsport, at Donington. This will allow their additional drivers for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa to get further accustomed to the car. The nr 80 Ferrari 360 Modena will therefore be driven by recent Le Mans winner Guy Smith, and Andrew Kirkaldy, who finished in third place with Veloqx at Estoril last year. The team has also been testing at the British circuit of Snetterton, with regular drivers Jamie Davies, Tim Mullen, Darren Turner and Kelvin Burt. TMC is currently leading the N-GT Teams Classification, with Davies and Mullen joint third behind De Simone and Bertolini. "Since returning from winning the GTS class in Le Mans with the Veloqx Prodrive 550 Maranello, my attention has returned to our challenge for the FIA N/GT title," Davies said. "The TMC crew and I went straight to Snetterton to test ahead of Donington Park and I must say, it felt great to be back in the 360 Modena again. Car 88 feels good, and the team are on a high after our Le Mans victory. I'm looking forward to Donington, I must say. It's a circuit that we all know well and holds fond memories for Tim and I especially - we secured the British GT Championship for Veloqx there last year."

COLLARD TO RACE FOR EMKA RACING (4th in N-GT, 15 points)

Fresh from a class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, French driver Emmanuel Collard will be returning to the FIA GT Championship at Donington, racing alongside Tim Sugden in the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS. Last year, Collard raced for Freisinger Motorsport at Anderstorp and the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, winning on both occasions. The Frenchman, who twice claimed the Sports Racing World Cup with JMB Racing, should take part in all the remaining rounds of the Championship, except possibly for Monza, when he has prior commitments. The EMKA Racing Porsche has performed well this season, winning its first-ever FIA GT race at Pergusa, and finishing fourth in Brno last month. "I'm really looking forward to Donington," Tim Sugden commented. "It's our home track, and although that doens't make any difference to the racing, there will be more people supporting us there. I think it will be very interesting to see what imput Emmanuel will have; he has plenty of Porsche experience, and I am keen to see what he thinks of the car. I've never worked with him before, but I know how quick he is. It can only be good for us !"

MORGAN (RE)JOINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Morgan The Morgan 8 was a popular and unusual competitor in the early days of the FIA GT Championship, and the latest version of the car, the 2003 Morgan Aero 8 GTN, will be making its first appearance at Donington. A great deal of work has been done since the car took part in Le Mans last year, and the team is really looking forward to racing it with their new works drivers, Neil Cunningham and Paula Cook. "We believe that GT racing is currently the most exciting area of motorsport," said Charles Morgan, Managing Director of Morgan Motor Company. "It is a perfect arena for us to demonstrate the Aero 8's capabilities, and for the fans to see true race cars in action - cars that are closely based on the one you can buy in the showroom. We are very grateful to the FIA and our sponsors for giving us this opportunity." This will be the first time that Paula Cook has raced in the Championship, having previously competed in Formula Three and the British Touring Car Championship. Neil Cunningham, from New Zealand, has been racing in the British GT Championship since 1999, and took part in the Silverstone round of the FIA GT Championship last year, finishing 10th with Carl Rosenblad and Peter Cook in a Chrysler Viper GTS-R.

-fia-

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Guy Smith , Darren Turner , Emmanuel Collard , Jamie Davies , Carl Rosenblad , Stéphane Ortelli , Felipe Massa , Philippe Alliot , Matteo Bobbi , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Mike Hezemans , David Terrien , Charles Morgan , Kelvin Burt , Neil Cunningham , Tim Sugden , Nathan Kinch , Tim Mullen , Thomas Biagi , Paula Cook , Steve Zacchia , Peter Cook , Craner Curves