ETCC: Eurosport Super Racing Weekend's February news

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP GT CHAMPIONSHIP LARBRE ANNOUNCES 2002 PLANS The 2001 FIA GT Championship-winning team, Larbre Competition Chéreau, has announced its plans for 2002. The French-based team will enter two Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars in the ...

FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP

GT CHAMPIONSHIP

LARBRE ANNOUNCES 2002 PLANS
The 2001 FIA GT Championship-winning team, Larbre Competition Chéreau, has announced its plans for 2002. The French-based team will enter two Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars in the Championship. The two new cars, both with all of the latest specifications from Oreca, will continue to use Michelin tyres, but the engines will now be tuned by Swiss company Mader.

Current FIA GT Champion Christophe Bouchut will share one car with the 2001 N-GT Champion, David Terrien. “ I think we are going to be a very strong line-up,” Bouchut said.“ We will be doing everything to try and win the Championship again.” 25-year old Terrien is moving up to the GT class after his victorious season with JMB Competition, when he drove a Ferrari 360 Modena with Christian Pescatori. “ From a sporting point of view, this is a very good thing for me. I really wanted to move up to the GT class and to keep on winning, so this is the best possible option. I know there will be a lot of pressure, but it is healthy pressure, and I intend to do everything possible to do well. It will also be excellent to drive alongside a renowned driver like Christophe, who has won everything in endurance racing.”

The second car will be shared by Belgian FIA GT regular Vincent Vosse and Swedish driver Carl Rosenblad. Vosse, who has spent two seasons with Paul Belmondo Racing, said he was very happy to have signed with Larbre for 2002. “ I think Larbre has proved to be one of the best teams in the Championship. I drove with Carl at Le Mans last year, and we had a good feeling together, so I think it will be quite good. I believe we can do a good job and fight for the Championship.”

Carl Rosenblad is making a return to the FIA GT Championship. The 32-year old Swedish driver drove alongside Christophe Bouchut in the Kremer Racing Porsche GT1 in 1997, and made a one-off return in 1998 at Dijon, racing for Larbre Compétition in a Porsche 911 GT1. Since then, he has competed in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, also taking part in the final two races of the 2001 FIA European Touring Car Championship. “ Racing in Sweden for four years was good, both for my career and my racing skills. However, it is exciting to be back in international racing, returning to the classic European tracks, and it is great to be with the winning team. Vincent and I raced together at Le Mans, and we got to know each other well, so it is good to be teamed up with him. My aim is as always to do my very best and to score as many points as possible and hopefully end up as a winner.”

LISTER MOVES TO DUNLOP
2000 FIA GT Champion team Lister Storm Racing announced that they would be using Dunlop tyres in 2002, a development contract having been signed between the British team and the tyre company. Lister will be testing their new tyres at Magny Cours over the weekend of 16th and 17th February, with Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer at the wheel. “ I am really looking forward to working with Dunlop,” Laurence Pearce explained. “ It will be exciting to work on the development of new tyres for the GT cars, and we look forward to winning more races and Championships with the GT Storms on Dunlop tyres.”

REITER LAMBORGHINI ON 2002 GRID
Hans Reiter is planning to enter his Lamborghini Diablo GT in the 2002 FIA GT Championship. The car created a sensation in the final race of 2001, when, driven by Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin, it finished in fifth place, to take its first points. “ That gave us a real boost,” Reiter explained. “ We knew that the car could be fast, but we had to prove we could do it in competition.” For the new season, Reiter hopes to have at least one professional driver included in the line-up. “ We want to do well, and it is essential to have a professional, as it makes such a difference to the times. We are much further ahead than we were last year, but we still need to invest more time. There is a lot of work to do on the engine– the one that ran at Estoril was at least 60 bhp less powerful than the Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper, for example. We are lucky that the season starts relatively late, as it gives us more time to prepare.” The team, which could also run cars in the Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy support event, hopes to make a final announcement about their 2002 plans later this month.

APP PLANS PORSCHE TURBO
Dutch tuner and Porsche specialist APP hopes to enter a Porsche 996 turbo in this year’s FIA GT Championship. Aart Andriessen has been working on the car since before the start of last season. “ The car is looking very good,” he said. “ The engine is performing very well, and produces over 600 bhp. We have both a sequential and a normal gearbox, and I think it should be competitive against the other cars in the Championship. However, we still have to find the budget to run a whole season. We are a very small company, but we wanted to show that we could build this car. It is very satisfying.” The team plans to test in March. “ I will do everything I can to be at the first race!” Andriessen concluded.

N-GT CHAMPIONSHIP

SYSTEM FORCE JOIN THE FIA GT
System Force Motorsport, from the Netherlands, has announced that it intends to race a Porsche 996 GT3-R in the 2002 FIA GT Championship. Team co-owner Peter van Merksteijn will drive the car, which will be collected from the Porsche factory within the next week. The second driver will be announced later. Van Merksteijn, who started his career in rallies, moved over to circuit racing in 1995, and has since competed in a variety of series, including the Ferrari F355 Challenge, the Renault Sport Clio V6 Trophy, the Porsche Pirelli Supercup and the Dutch Touring Car Championship. Team manager Gerard Grouve, who was van Merksteijn’s co-driver in his rallying days, is looking forward to the challenge of racing in the FIA GT Championship. “ The team is very busy preparing for the season. We want to collect as much information as we can, to try to make this year a success. Peter’s style of driving means that after three or four laps, he is up to speed, and his rally experience means that he is particularly good in changing weather conditions.”

FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP

ALFA ROMEO, BMW AND VOLVO OFFICIALLY REPRESENTED IN 2002
The grid for the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship is taking shape, with three manufacturers confirming that they will be officially represented in the Championship. Alfa Romeo will enter a minimum of seven 156 GTA cars. The factory team GTA Team Nordauto will run two of the cars, with a further two being entered by Scuderia Bigazzi. AGS Motorsport is planning to run one car. “ We still have to decide between naming a fourth team to enter two more cars, or to give Nordauto a third GTA,” explained Mauro Sipsz, chief of Alfa Romeo’s development team N.Technology.

BMW have confirmed that at least six 320i cars will be entered in the Championship. Two will be in the hands of works team BMW Team Germany Schnitzer, with a further two cars for Ravaglia Motorsport and two for Carly Motorsport. Belgium-based team RBM is currently working on finalising a programme to run one or two cars. Finally, Swedish manufacturer Volvo will be entering the FIA European Touring Car Championship this season, with two Volvo S60 cars entered by British team Prodrive.

RJN CONFIRMS TWO NISSANS
Two Nissan Primera cars will take part in the 2002 European Touring Car Championship, privately entered by British team RJN Motorsport. The team will start the season with two 2001 Super Production cars, upgraded to Super 2000 specifications. “ This is a programme we are developing on our own. Later in the year, we hope to bring in the new Primera,” team principal Bob Neville commented. “ We are working very hard on this project.” Norwegian Tommy Rustad has already been named as one of the team’s drivers.

HONDA TO HOMOLOGATE CIVIC IN SUPER 2000
Although Honda will not be officially represented in the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship, William de Braekelaar, Head of Honda Europe Motorsport, has confirmed plans to homologate the new Civic R-type in Super 2000. “ It is part of our strategy to launch this model; we have applied for homologation in Group N and Super Production, so it is logical to apply for Super 2000 as well. This will give private teams an opportunity to race in the FIA European Touring Car Championship.”

JAS Motorsport team principal Alessandro Mariani added:“ We have not given up the idea of taking part in some of the final rounds of the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship with the Civic.”

HANSON JOINS RYDELL AT VOLVO
24-year old British driver James Hanson will be joining Volvo and Prodrive for the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship. He will be driving the second Volvo S60, alongside Swedish driver Rickard Rydell. Hanson drove an Edenbridge Racing BMW 320i last season, with his best result being a third place at Jarama. “ James is a young driver with huge potential,” team manager Dave Benbow commented.“ What he did in the 2001 FIA European Touring Car Championship in his first touring car season was outstanding ; not only was he able to outpace his more experienced team-mate but also achieved a podium result.” Hanson, who took part in the Michelin test days at Vallelunga, was excited by the prospect of driving for Volvo and Prodrive. “ The team has an excellent reputation in touring car competitions, and has proved capable of winning in every category. I have already seen that their approach to this Volvo programme is very professional. To work and drive alongside Rydell will be an excellent opportunity for me, as he is considered one of the best touring car drivers ever, and it will be very interesting to be able to compare myself to him. It will be my first year in a front-wheel drive car, but I can bring some experience to the team concerning Super Production cars, which form the basis of the Super 2000 regulations. I also know most of the circuits, so hopefully we can help each other to develop the car in the shortest time possible.”

MICHELIN CHOOSE THE 2002 FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP TYRE
Michelin held a three-day test at the Italian track of Vallelunga between February 8th and 10th, in order to choose the new 17” slick tyres that will be supplied to the Championship competitors this season.“ We are quite satisfied for the results of the test”, said Mathieu Bonardel of Michelin Compétition.“ The weather remained sunny and dry, which gave us an opportunity to test ten different tyre variations on the three Super 2000 cars present, the Alfa Romeo 156, BMW 320i and Volvo S60.” Over the three days, more than 350 tyres were used, with the cars covering nearly 3000 kilometres.“ At the end, we compared the results, and, after listening to the opinions of the technicians from each team, we chose the tyre which proved to be the best compromise in terms of speed and durability, which also suits both the front and the rear-wheel-drive cars.” The new tyre has a smaller diameter than those previously used in Super Touring, 17 inches instead of 19, but has a larger tread (24 cm instead of 21), in order to maintain the same footprint.

ALFA ROMEO FASTEST AT VALLELUNGA
Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nicola Larini shared the wheel of the new N.Technology Alfa Romeo 156 GTA during the three-day Michelin test session at Vallelunga. The two Italians were the fastest drivers on the track, with Giovanardi setting a time of 1:17.85, two hundredths of a second ahead of Larini. “ The car has evolved significantly since the previous test in Misano two weeks ago,” Giovanardi said. “ A lot of things have changed, and we now know for sure that our car has huge potential. There is still a lot of work to do on the technical development, but the speed is already very good. In Vallelunga we exceeded 225 km/h, only seven or eight kilometres below the Super Touring maximum speed.” Engineer Sergio Limone, who has designed the GTA as well as a number of previous Lancia and Alfa Romeo race and rally cars, was also happy with the results. “ Looking at the times, I have to be satisfied, although it is difficult to say at which stage our competitors are. Currently, we are at a good point, a bit ahead of the rest of the field. One of the secrets of motor sport success is the amount of testing. We completed 8000 km of testing before winning the 1993 German Touring Car Championship. In this case, we have a two-month delay, but we have still planned to test every ten days before the first round in Magny Cours. We want to focus on general reliability and the transmission.”

RYDELL CLOSES ON THE ALFA DRIVERS
Prodrive tested an interim version of the Volvo S60 during the Vallelunga test days. “ They were running the prototype car which was built before the final adjustments to the Super 2000 regulations,” Volvo Motorsport director Olle Odsell explained. “ The car has been partially modified, but is still a mix of solutions. The final race car will start testing in the UK in early March.” However, the car was extremely reliable in Vallelunga, completing nearly 1000 km with no technical failures. Rydell did most of the testing, setting a best time of 1:17.93, only eight hundredths slower than Giovanardi. “ We are roughly where we expected to be, a little behind the Alfa and quite close to the BMW,” Rydell stated. “ We know that once the final aerodynamics package has been fitted, we will get more downforce, and the handling will change slightly. However, I think we still have to focus more on speed.”

FIRST TEST FOR SCHNITZER IN THE 2002 FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
The Schnitzer team has a long history in touring car racing, with 4 European Touring Car Championship titles and the 1987 FIA Touring Car World Championship in its career record. Returning to the new version of the FIA European Touring Car Championship with BMW Team Germany, team manager Charly Lamm said :“ This is where our team’s history started, and we have a lot of good memories. The last time we raced in the European Touring Car Championship was in 1988, and since then, everything has changed, as it previously consisted of long-distance races. Although we had experience of sprint races in the 1990s in the German, British, Italian and Japanese Championships, we have to recall that experience, and I would have to say that, for the new style European Touring Car Championship, we are rookies.”

BMW works drivers Jörg Müller, Dirk Müller and Fredrik Ekblom all tried the Super 2000 BMW that the team will run during the 2002 season. Although an engine problem forced Dirk Müller and Ekblom to use a Super Production engine, the team nevertheless completed a number of laps, testing various aerodynamics solutions.

RAVAGLIA MOTORSPORT SIGNS GENE AND DE SIMONE
Ravaglia Motorsport has signed Jordi Gené and Fabrizio de Simone to drive the team’s two BMW 320i cars in the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship. “ I am happy to have these two strong drivers racing for me,” team owner Roberto Ravaglia commented. “ They are a very good combination, and both impressed me during the recent testing. Gené was very good in Misano, driving with slick tyres on a wet track, and then in Vallelunga, where he covered more than 1000 kilometres in three days with no visible signs of fatigue. De Simone is also a very fast driver.”

Jordi, the elder brother of former Formula One driver Marc Gené, won the 1996 Spanish Super Touring Championship. Over the past seasons, however, he has been racing sports cars and trucks.“ I needed a long drive to get used to the touring car driving style again,” the 31-year-old Spaniard explained.“ I like the car very much. I know we are still in the early stages of development, but it is already very good”

De Simone, a 31-year old from Rome, previously raced in the British and Italian Super Touring Championships. This season will mark his return to the sport, having competed in only a few races over the past two years. “ I really wanted to come back; I was just waiting for a good opportunity like this one,” De Simone explained. “ I only completed a few laps in Vallelunga, but it was enough to discover that I like the car.”

The Super 2000 BMW 320i had a new aerodynamics package at Vallelunga, although the car is not yet in its final configuration. “ We still want to test a number of different wings,” said BMW Motorsport technical Andreas Bellu.

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Marc Gene , Christian Pescatori , Jorg Muller , Carl Rosenblad , Vincent Vosse , Oliver Gavin , Peter Kox , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Christophe Bouchut , David Terrien , Paul Belmondo , Nicolaus Springer , Fabrizio de Simone , Peter van Merksteijn , Rickard Rydell , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Roberto Ravaglia , Andreas Bellu , Charly Lamm , Tommy Rustad
Teams Nissan Motorsport , Larbre Competition