Estoril: Penultimate round preview

After two events in the north of Europe, the LG Super Racing Weekend series will be moving southwards for the final two rounds of the 2003 season, first to the Portuguese track of Estoril, on the Atlantic coast, and then to the historic circuit of...

After two events in the north of Europe, the LG Super Racing Weekend series will be moving southwards for the final two rounds of the 2003 season, first to the Portuguese track of Estoril, on the Atlantic coast, and then to the historic circuit of Monza, close to Milan, Italy. With just two weekends of action remaining, a lot remains to be decided in the FIA GT Championship, the FIA European Touring Car Championship and the Eurocup Formula Renault V6.

After an action packed race in Germany, FIA GT Championship heads for Estoril, the circuit which has hosted the final round during the last two years, where the Chrysler Viper, Ferrari, Lister and Saleen cars are due to be joined by two newcomers : the Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT and the Ferrari 575 Maranello. The Championship classification in the GT category remains provisional, pending an international appeal, following the exclusion of the nr 14 Lister. This decision saw BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari of Bobbi and Biagi provisionally inherit the win, taking the team closer to both Team and Drivers titles. In N-GT, a Ferrari one-two-three saw a second win for JMB Racing, with Team Maranello Concessionaires in second and third places. Freisinger Motorsport continues to lead both title chases. Last year, in Estoril, BMS Scuderia Italia were victorious, with a fourth win for Piccini and Deletraz, while Freisinger won in N-GT after a thrilling race, to take the 2002 FIA N-GT Teams Championship.

The Estoril, 4.182 km long, has a good blend of fast and slow corners, with changes of elevation and a long pit straight making it generally popular with the drivers.

The LG Super Racing Weekend in Oschersleben will also include the Renault Sport Speed Trophy, the Renault Sport Clio Elf International Cup,as well as the Honda BPI Cup.


Experienced driver Pedro Chaves has been competing this season alongside two of his compatriots, Ni Amorim and Miguel Ramos, in the nr 8 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R.

"Estoril is a very nice circuit. It was even better in the old days, before they changed the corners and slowed it down, but it is still very good. It's a Grand Prix circuit, with a very good surface, two very challenging corners and with modern, good facilities. It gives me special pleasure to drive there, as it is my own country, and also because I started racing back there in 1985, and it gives me a nice feeling to be racing there again."


With a seventh win of the season, BMS Scuderia Italia has provisionally claimed the 2003 FIA GT Teams Championship, subject to Lister Racing's appeal against their exclusion from the Oschersleben round. The British team had originally claimed its second consecutive win of the season, but the nr 14 Storm was penalised by the Stewards of the meeting following a collision with the nr 4 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper of Philippe Alliot and David Hallyday. Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi inherited the win, while Creation Autosportif took its first-ever podium, with the Lister Storm driven by Bobby Verdon-Roe and Marco Zadra finishing second. The Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello took its fourth podium of the season, propelling Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari into the position of leading rivals to Bobbi and Biagi in the Drivers Championship fight. Andrea Piccini's title hopes ended with a pierced radiator, and the Drivers title will undoubtedly be won by one of the drivers of the 21, 22 or 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello. Bobbi and Biagi have 60 points, with Bryner and Calderari 11 points behind, and Gollin and Cappelli 17 points behind the leaders.

In N-GT, an all-Ferrari podium, with JMB Racing finishing ahead of the two Team Maranello cars, has closed up the rivals for the titles, although Freisigner Motorsport still has a 17-point lead in the Teams classification, while Ortelli and Lieb are 12.5 ahead of Jamie Davies, and 15 ahead of Fabrizio De Simone.

For Estoril, provisionally, the nr 23 Ferrari will have 60 kg, the nr 2 Konrad Saleen and the nr 6 Lister on 30 kg. The nr 21 Ferrari will have 20 kg for a third-place finish, while the nr 22 Ferrari has lost 40 kg after failing to finish in Germany with a clutch problem, and will only have 15 kg. Should the Lister appeal not be heard before the race, the nr 14 Lister would carry 80 kg.

In the N-GT class, the nr 50 Freisinger has lost 15 kg to be down to 35, with the nr 88 Ferrari on 25 after two successive podium finishes. The Oschersleben winner nr 52 JMB Racing will carry 20 kg, the nr 99 RWS Yukos Porsche 15 kg and both the nr 61 EMKA Porsche and the nr 89 Ferrari 10 kg.


The GT Commission Bureau, having checked the performance of the nr 22 and nr 23 Ferrari Maranello cars, and in order to achieve a balance of performance with the new cars, has suggested that the nr 22 and 23 cars be allowed to revert to the original size of restrictors, ie 32.1 mm, instead of the 31.6 mm they had for Anderstorp and Oschersleben. The team has accepted this change, which may be applied from the next race.


Italian team BMS Scuderia Italia took an unassailable lead in the Teams Championship in Oschersleben, with their seventh win of the season placing them 40 points ahead of Lister Racing. However, the results remain provisional, appeal pending. In the Drivers classification, it is now certain that this year's Champions will come from among the drivers entered by the Italian team. Biagi and Bobbi lead, ahead of Bryner and Calderari, with Gollin and Calderari dropping behind the Care Racing duo. "It is great that we will not have the smaller restrictor any more," team spokesman Marco Streparava explained. "This is excellent news for us, as Estoril has a long straight, and we will really need the power. We have now realised that we have provisionally won the Championship, depending on the appeal. The team has continued to work, but we will have nothing new for Estoril. The main factor is that with no restrictor, we have good chance to have the cars running at 100% of their capacity."


Bobby Verdon-Roe, British-born but based in Portugal, will be heading for his home race in the knowledge that his team, Creation Autosportif, has finally claimed its first podium of the season. With the team's nr 6 Lister Storm a regular finisher in the points, the podium had nevertheless eluded them before now. "We are all thoroughly excited after the excellent Oschersleben result," Verdon-Roe explained . "However, we are still slower than the Lister Racing Storms; we need to gain a second a lap, and I know we can do it. This weekend, we will be joined by my former engineer Alan Mugglestone, who was with me when I won the Formula Renault championship in 1991. We'll have to see how it goes. As for Estoril, it is very much my home race, and despite the Championship being so competitive, I think we can realistically aim for another podium." Bobby's personal aim is to be the highest-placed Lister driver by the end of the season; he is currently 10 points behind Andrea Piccini.

Team Principal Ian Bickerton was also very pleased with his team's result. "Watch out !" he said. "Estoril is Bobby's home track, we've made a few more tweaks to the car, and he is well fired up ! Marco Zadra has improved enormously, and I think he is now up with the best second drivers. And Gounon is a great guy and is working very hard, doing a really good job, along with Knapfield. Now we have been on the podium, at long last, we want to stay there. Our aim is to get third place in the Teams Championship."


French team JMB Racing should finally see its new Ferrari 575 GTC cars in action at round 9 of the FIA GT Championship at Estoril. The long-awaited cars will replace the two 550 Maranello models, which have shown excellent pace at various times during the season, but which have also had a sequence of engine failures and non-finishes. JMB Racing will be the first team to have two of the new Ferrari 575 GTC, which they will enter in the FIA GT Championship for the final two races. "We will use these races to get our bearings and to gauge the level of competition," the team stated. "This will give us a good opportunity to prepare ourselves for the 2004 season." In the N-GT category, Fabrizio De Simone and Andrea Bertolini had an excellent weekend in Germany, claiming pole position, the win and the fastest lap during the race. Ten points for the victory allowed JMB Racing, currently lying third, to reduce the gap separating them from the leaders Freisinger Motorsport. They are currently 30 points behind, with 36 points still available. Fabrizio De Simone is lying fourth in the Drivers Classification.


Lamborghini The much-awaited Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT, which is due to make its debut in Estoril with German team Reiter Engineering, has just completed two days of testing at the Italian circuit of Vallelunga, with test driver Dindo Cappello at the wheel. The car, which was unveiled at the Frankfurt motorshow, is planning to contest the final two rounds of the 2003 season. The drivers for Estoril have been announced as Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin, with the drivers for the final round in Monza yet to be confirmed.


On a day when the Ferrari cars took the honours in the N-GT category, Freisinger Motorsport still managed to add five points to its impressive tally, with the nr 50 Porsche of Ortelli and Lieb claiming fifth place, and the nr 51 car of Longin and Gardel taking the final point for eighth. This maintained the team in the top place in both the Team and Drivers classifications. Last year, Stephane Ortelli put in an amazing performance in his Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS at Estoril, running away from the rest of the field in wet conditions, to win the race and add the Teams Championship to the Drivers Championship he had claimed in the previous round. This year, it would be possible for Ortelli and Lieb to secure he titles for Freisinger in Estoril, depending on the performance of their closest rivals, TMC and JMB Racing. "I think Estoril should be a good track for the Porsche," Marc Lieb explained. "The long straight should suit us better than the tight infield. But it is definitely a challenging track. My main aim for the weekend, however, is to win the title !"


Two reliable cars and a careful one-stop pit strategy placed the two Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena cars on the podium at Oschersleben, giving the team its best result since the first race of the season. Scoring higher than any other teams during the event, the British team closed the gap to N-GT leaders Freisinger Motorsport. With two races, and a total of 36 points remaining in play, TMC is now fifteen points behind. Last year, the team, running as Veloqx Motorsport, competed in the final two rounds, and took its first podium finish in Estoril. "It is obviously good that we have prior experience with the car there,as we know what is required" Jamie Davies explained. "I presume that the conditions could be changeable like last year. Dry would suit us better than wet, as the wet really suits the Porsches - especially Ortelli. With the Championship in mind, we need to try to win and score more points than our rivals, but it is difficult as you cannot risk pushing things too hard. But we will give it our best shot."


Graham Nash Motorsport had one of its best weekend of the season in Oschersleben, with the two Saleen S7-R cars finishing in fourth and sixth places in the GT category. With three Portuguese drivers in the nr 8 car, Ni Amorim, Pedro Chaves and Miguel Ramos, the team is keen to continue the progress which has been clearly visible over the past few rounds. "We have had some problems this year, but the car is better now," Pedro Chaves explained. "It was very good in Oschersleben, but we were unlucky. I am sure the luck will come, and we will be able to get everything together. I really hope for a good result at home; it is important for the future to have good races at the endof the season " For Thomas Erdos, from Brazil, the Estoril circuit will be yet another new track for him this year. "I haven't driven there before, but I hope qualify in the top three, and to finish in the top six," Thomas said. "We have been working hard this year, and I think we are now almost ahead of ourselves. The team has done an excellent job to get us up this far !"


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Jamie Davies , Ni Amorim , Stéphane Ortelli , Oliver Gavin , Philippe Alliot , Matteo Bobbi , Peter Kox , Marc Lieb , Thomas Erdos , Pedro Chaves , Miguel Ramos , Andrea Bertolini , Thomas Biagi , Enzo Calderari , Lilian Bryner , Bobby Verdon-Roe , David Hallyday
Teams Reiter Engineering