And so the 2004 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend draws to a close - with a truly exceptional three days of racing. For the very first time in its three-year history, the multi-platform series will stage a flyaway race, outside the European...
And so the 2004 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend draws to a close - with a truly exceptional three days of racing. For the very first time in its three-year history, the multi-platform series will stage a flyaway race, outside the European boundaries, when the LG Super Racing Weekend visits the brand-new Dubai Autodrome, in the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The federation was formally established on 2 December 1971. It occupies an area of 83,000 sq km along the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It is surrounded by Qatar to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east. Four-fifths of the UAE is desert, yet it is a country of contrasting landscapes, with sand dunes, oases, mountains and plains. The weather is hot and dry, with temperatures likely to be around 40C and the chance of rain almost nil. The Dubai Autodrome was completed earlier this year; the LG Super Racing Weekend will be the first major international motorsports event held there.
Following the working week in the UAE, where Friday is the day of rest, the race 'weekend' will run from Wednesday to Friday, with short shakedown sessions for the FIA GT cars on the Tuesday and for the FIA ETCC cars on the Wednesday. With the circuit new to all drivers, it should be a very interesting weekend.
Alone among the main LG Super Racing Weekend series, the 2004 FIA GT Championship will not come to an end in Dubai. The series continues to Zhuhai, in China, for the eleventh round, which will take place on November 14th. The previous round, in Oschersleben, saw BMS Scuderia Italia duo Luca Cappellari and Fabrizio Gollin claim the 2004 title, to add to the GT Teams' title that their team secured in Imola. Freisinger Yukos Motorsport have mathematically claimed the N-GT Teams' title, with the only battle still open that between the Ortelli/Collard and Maassen/Luhr line-ups in the N-GT Drivers' Championship. Both Porsche 996 GT3-R-S cars will be carrying the super-maximum penalty weight of 75 kg.
With the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup having come to a successful conclusion in Oschersleben, when Scott Sharp received his trophy, the FIA European Touring Car Championship, the FIA GT Championship and the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup will be joined by the Formula X series in Dubai.
DIFFERENT DAYS, DIFFERENT TIMES
The event will start on Tuesday, with private testing for the Renault V6 cars and a thirty-minute shakedown session for the FIA GT cars. Wednesday will see free practice for the FIA GT as well as free practice and qualifying for the Formula Renault cars, as well as the FIA ETCC shakedown. Thursday will be run according to the usual Saturday schedule, with the FIA ETCC practice and qualifying, the FIA GT qualifying and the Formula Renault Grand Race. Friday's timetable has been rearranged due to the likely temperatures. The Formula Renault Super Sprint race will take place in the morning, with the FIA ETCC races in the early afternoon. The 500-km GT race will take place between 15:00 and 18:00.
DUBAI ACCORDING TO DAVID TERRIEN
David Terrien, 2001 FIA N-GT Champion, with JMB Competition and Christian Pescatori, and runner-up in 2002 with Larbre Competition, is now working at the Dubai Autodrome and has had a good opportunity to get to know the circuit.
"I don't think that anyone knows the circuit better than me. You might expect a circuit in the desert to be flat and uninteresting, but this is anything but ! The track goes up and down and is great fun to drive; there should be plenty of opportunities for overtaking.
Turn 1 is like Paddock Bend at Brands Hatch, although with less change of altitude. This is followed by a fast sequence, right - left - right, in fourth gear, which is very fast. That leads into a very tight hairpin, which is quite complicated to negotiate. Turn 4 is a wide, banked left-hander, taken in 3rd or 4th gear, which could be quite slippery early in the meeting. This leads into the long back straight, over a kilometre long, which goes up and down, slightly like the Donington back straight.
At the end of the straight you have to brake really hard for turn 5, a right-handed corner. Then you are accelerating for turn six, left handed, in 3rd or 4th gear, fast and great fun. You slide from beginning to end, and it goes up and up. By the time you get to turn 7, you have grip and power problems; it is a right-handed corner taken in 2nd or 3rd gear. This is followed by a long downhill section, taken flat out in 6th, which ends in a delicate braking manoeuvre for a left-handed hairpin at the end, slightly banked, which closes at the end.
Coming out of the banking, you accelerate towards a complicated right hander, a classic ninety-degree corner. Then you go uphill for the last corner, which is similar to the last right-hander in Barcelona, although slightly slower, taken in 3rd gear. It is a really great circuit, very interesting to drive."
Circuit length : 5394 m
Direction : Exit the Sheikh Zayed highway at interchange 4, turn left and drive for 7 minutes until reaching the Emirates Highway at the Dubai Autodrome Roundabout.
FIA GT Pre-event News:
Dubai will be the first 'overseas' race for the FIA GT Championship since late 1999. In 1997 and 1998, the Championship visited the United States of America and Japan, while in 1999, the first Zhuhai round took place at the end of the season. Since then, however, the Championship has concentrated on Europe. With nine rounds completed, the last two 500 km races will take place in the United Arab Emirates and China. The Dubai round should see a fascinating battle between the Chrylser Viper, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche and Saleen cars. With few of the drivers having prior experience of the brand-new circuit, the teams should be on an equal footing, and the race promises to be fascinating.
HANDICAP WEIGHTS FOR DUBAI
Three cars racing in Dubai will be carrying the 'supermaximum' penalty weight, awarded to cars which manage to win while carrying the maximum penalty weight. This means that the Championship-winning nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello will be on 150 kg, while both the nr 50 and nr 99 Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars will be carrying 75 kg. However, Oschersleben's results saw a number of cars lose their penalty weight, with the nr 1 BMS car down to 5 kg, the nr 11 GPC Ferrari down to 15 kg and the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen down to 30 kg. The nr 8 RML Saleen will carry penalty weight for the first time, with 30 kg, while the nr 17 car goes up to 50 kg. Neither Lamborghini will have weight, while the nr 33 and 34 Maserati cars will be on 100 kg and 40 kg respectively. New or returning cars carry a minimum of 60 kg in GT and 30 kg in N-GT, added to any previous weight they might have had. (all information provisional)
TITLE FOR GOLLIN AND CAPPELLARI; BIAGI RETURNS
Two weeks after helping their team, BMS Scuderia Italia, to claim its second successive FIA GT Teams Championship, Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari claimed their own title, the GT Drivers' Championship, having led the classification throughout the season. "I am lost for words," a delighted Gollin said afterwards.
Outgoing Champion Matteo Bobbi and his Swiss team-mate Gabriele Gardel are determined to keep second place in the classification. "Dubai will be a new challenge for the teams and the drivers, and an excellent opportunity to meet new people. I am really looking forward to the races in Dubai and China," Bobbi said.
Dubai will also see the return of Bobbi's 2003 team-mate and fellow Champion, Thomas Biagi. The Italian will be driving the nr 3 Care Racing Ferrari 550. "The whole team is delighted to have Thomas back," Marco Streparava explained. "We have remained in close contact throughout the year."
FREISINGER YUKOS CLAIM N-GT TEAMS TITLE
German team Freisinger Yukos Motorsport maintained its dominance of the N-GT category in Oschersleben; with its two Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars finishing second and fourth, the team moved beyond the reach of all their other competitors, claiming the N-GT Teams Championship for the third successive year. Russian drivers Fomenko and Vasiliev were delighted after the Oschersleben race: " There are two more races till the end of the season, but after nine FIA GT rounds, we are already the Champions! Nobody will catch up Freisinger YUKOS in N-GT! Of course, such an achievement of the team with two Russian drivers and a Russian partner, the YUKOS oil company, is great!" An equally delighted Vasiliev commented : "We are going to Dubai with excellent feelings. It is going to be hard because of the hot weather, but that doesn't worry us much. On the contrary, it's pleasant to go to the UAE now, when in Russia it's already rather cold. I think the competition will be great because all the teams and drivers will race there for the first time!" However, the N-GT Drivers' battle is still ongoing. Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard, in the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, have a 6.5 point lead over Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, in the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport car.
KARTHIKEYAN TO RACE IN DUBAI
Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan will be joining the FIA GT Championship in Dubai, sharing the Scuderia Veregra Chrysler Viper GTS with Anthony Beltoise and Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, President and CEO of the A1 Grand Prix series. Karthikeyan has been recently competed successfully in Formula Three and the World Nissan Series. "I am happy to be taking part in the FIA GT Championship, and I think Dubai will be a great circuit. It is a great opportunity to be sharing a car with drivers like Sheikh Al Maktoum and I will give my 100% percent. Since Dubai is home to a large Indian population, I feel as if I will be on home ground." French driver Beltoise was an LG Super Racing Weekend regular in previous years, racing successfully in the Clio Trophy.
BEST RESULT YET FOR GOODWIN AND RML
Chris Goodwin and his new Portuguese team-mate Jose Pablo Fontes gave RML its best result of the season in Oschersleben, when the nr 8 Saleen S7 crossed the line in fourth place, but inherited second in GT following a steward's decision. Chris Goodwin commented "It was great to finish on the podium and the car ran really well. The team carried out some faultless pit stops to enable us to keep pace with the leaders, it is a long deserved result for them". The second car of Erdos and Newton also finished in the points after losing time during the first safety car period. RML is lying sixth in the GT Teams Classification, three points behind Care Racing. Fontes should be back alongside Goodwin in the nr 8 Saleen for Dubai, while Erdos and Newton share the nr 7 as usual.
CLOSE FIGHT FOR SECOND BETWEEN JMB AND GPC
Monaco-based team JMB Racing is involved in a close battle for second place in the GT Teams classification with Italian team GPC Giesse Squadra Corse. The teams are remarkably even, both racing two Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars, and with two former Formula One drivers on their team : Karl Wendlinger and Tarso Marques for JMB Racing; Emanuele Naspetti and Gianni Morbidelli for GPC Giesse. Eight points separate them, with a total of 36 points remaining to be claimed for the two-car teams during the two races. GPC will see a change of line-up for Dubai, with Babini sharing one car with Morbidelli and Peter driving with Naspetti.
JMB Racing's Bert Longin won the Belcar championship for the third time at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, in a GLPK Chrysler Viper he shares with Anthony Kumpen. Longin will be back in action in Dubai, sharing the nr 18 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello with Sergei Zlobin and Chris Buncombe. They finished eighth in GT at Oschersleben, with Zlobin and Buncombe claiming their first-ever GT point. "I am looking forward to driving on a circuit that hardly any of the drivers know; it is quite a challenge. I also think it is fantastic that the FIA GT is going outside the European boundaries once more," Longin explained.
FIA GT News in Brief
LAMBORGHINI MAKING PROGRESS : the two DAMS Lamborghini Murcielago cars made definite progress during the Oschersleben round of the FIA GT Championship, their second race of the season. The nr 24 car, driven by Piccini and Deletraz, put in a fine performance and was lying sixth and closing when a driveshaft failure took the car out of the race. The nr 26 car of Gabbiani and Ortiz finished in 18th position, having lost time due to a puncture. Neither car will carry penalty weight in Dubai.
THIRD RACE FOR MASERATI MC12 : The two Maserati MC 12 cars, entered by AF Corse, will be competing in their third non-Championship race in Dubai. Having finished second in Imola, the nr 33 car, driven by Mika Salo of Finland and Andrea Bertolini of Italy, went one better in Oschersleben, taking the chequered flag to win the race, a fitting celebration for Maserati's 90th anniversary. They will have to carry the maximum penalty weight of 100 kg in Dubai, while the nr 34 MC 12 of Herbert and De Simone will only have 40 kg, after finishing eighth in Oschersleben, following problems with a rear wheel.
ROCKY AGUSTA RETURNS TO THE FIA GT: Rocky Agusta, from Italy, who entered a Callaway Corvette in the 1997 season of the FIA GT Championship, will be making his return, driving the Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7. He will share the car with fellow Italians and team regulars Paolo Ruberti and Gabriele Lancieri. Upon signing for GNM, Agusta commented "I am so excited to be back in the FIA GT championship and in such a competitive front running car. I am lucky to be sharing with 2 very talented drivers." The Saleen S7 put in a great performance in Oschersleben, qualifying 3rd and running in the top group for most of the three-hour race. The team also plans to enter their Porsche 996 GT3 in the N-GT category; Rob Croydon will share the car with former Group C driver Del Bennet.
VITAPHONE HOPES TO MAKE UP FOR OSCHERSLEBEN DISAPPOINTMENT : the Vitaphone Saleen S7, after leading, finished the Oschersleben race 13 laps down after suffering a steering problem. Nevertheless, Bartels and Alzen are confident and looking forward to the next round. "We have had again bad luck at the last race in Oschersleben, but Michael and I will do our best to get on the podium.Our ambition will never get broken by such bad luck. We will fight to finish on the podium in the last two races," Alzen commented. "I am very excited to drive on a new track and modern circuit like the Dubai Autodrome. It will be a new experience for all teams and an interesting atmosphere around the circuit," Bartels agreed.
DOUBLE N-GT FOR GPC : GPC Giesse Squadra Corse plans to enter two Ferrari 360 Modena cars in Dubai. The nr 64 would be shared by Marco Lambertini, Luca Drudi and Vincent Vosse, who finished third in Oschersleben with Christian Pescatori in the nr 62. As for Pescatori, he will share the nr 62 Ferrari 360 with Jaime Melo, last seen in the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari.
SECOND PROTON PORSCHE : Proton Competition, currently fourth in the Teams Classification and just four p(c) DPPI / FIA GT oints behind GPC, is also entering two Porsches, one to be driven by another father and son combination, Austrian drivers Horst Felbermayr and Horst Felbermayr Jr.
WELCOME BACK, GRUPPE M EUROPE : the Gruppe M Porsche 996 GT3-RS, which finished third in Donington and put in a fine performance at Spa, will return for Dubai, the car to be driven by former N-GT race-winner Tim Sugden and 2003 N-GT Champion Marc Lieb.