On March 7th and 8th, the Monza circuit welcomed 26 cars from the FIA GT Championship and 17 cars from the FIA European Touring Car Championship for an official test session. In the FIA GT Championship, the fastest overall lap was set by ...
On March 7th and 8th, the Monza circuit welcomed 26 cars from the FIA GT Championship and 17 cars from the FIA European Touring Car Championship for an official test session.
In the FIA GT Championship, the fastest overall lap was set by Christophe Bouchut in Larbre Competition's new Chrysler Viper GTS-R. Three different makes of car were represented in the top four, as Larbre was followed by Carsport Holland's Chrysler Viper, Rafanelli's Ferrari 550 Maranello, and the fastest of the Lister Storms. The first four cars were separated by just over one second, signalling a close and varied season ahead.
In the N-GT category, the EMKA Porsche 996 GT3-R of Tim Sugden and Steve O'Rourke set the best time overall, with a lap of 1:54.110, followed by the fastest of defending Champion Larbre Competition's two cars, driven by Patrice Goueslard and Sebastien Dumez.
The second day of testing was wet, and Lister dominated the time-sheets, with Jamie Campbell-Walter setting the best time, over a second ahead of a group of Chrysler Vipers including Larbre Competition, Carsport Holland, Paul Belmondo Racing and GLPK Racing. The weather further deteriorated in the afternoon, and only 12 cars ventured out onto the track.
In the FIA European Touring Car Championship, Nicola Larini in the Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156 and Gianni Morbidelli in the CiBiEmme BMW 320i were the fastest drivers respectively in the Super Touring and in the Super Production Championships.
On the first day, Larini set the best time of 1:55.576, ahead of Nordauto teammate Fabrizio Giovanardi (1:55.748) and JAS Honda driver Gabriele Tarquini.
In Super Production, Morbidelli set a time of 2:07.198, followed by Peter Kox (Ravaglia Motorsport BMW) and Duncan Huisman (Carly Motors BMW).
On the second day, in the rain, Larini lapped the 5.793 km long circuit in 2:07.422, but Giovanardi closed the gap to 14-thousandths of a second (2:07.436). Tarquini was again third.
In Super Production, Huisman was fastest in the wet in 2:20.616, ahead of Kox and Morbidelli. In the afternoon, most of the cars stayed in the pits due to torrential rain.
On April 1st, the Italian circuit will host the first round of the Eurosport Super Racing Weekends, including the FIA GT Championship, the FIA European Touring Car Championship and the 2000 Formula Renault Eurocup.
FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
Larbre Competition : promising first test session
The French team only received its Chrysler Viper GTS-R on February 19th, leaving just a few days to prepare the new car before taking it to Monza for the first official FIA test sessions. "We were very worried that we would not be ready", team manager Jack Leconte said. "With three cars (one in GT and two in N-GT), the stakes are high and the pressure is on. It was a relief to see that we were not late, knowing that we still have a lot of room for improvement".
On the second test day, on a wet track, the team was second to the Lister Storm. "I was surprised by the Lister's speed in the wet", Jack Leconte said. "It was their weak point last year, they must have worked hard to improve".
French driver Christophe Bouchut signalled a successful move to the GT category by setting the fastest time in Monza. "This is the first real opportunity to see how this year's Championship is going to shape up, and to get a feeling for the provisional hierarchy for the year," he said. "It's good to have set the fastest time, and to see that the team has adapted well to the new car. But I don't think the times should be taken too literally, as Lister had problems yesterday, and, in 2000, they were never as fast at Monza as at other tracks." Nevertheless, Bouchut was happy with his new car. "It's a very original car, and looks extremely aggressive, but it's surprisingly easy to drive, and I managed to get up to speed right away. Belloc and I set nearly identical times, so it's looking positive for the season ahead."
Lister Storm Racing : Coronel joins the team
Lister Storm Racing has announced a number of changes for their 2001 plans. Tom Coronel, the Dutch driver who took a win and a second place while competing in two races for Carsport Holland last year, has joined Lister for 2001, driving alongside reigning FIA GT Drivers' Champion Jamie Campbell Walter. Coronel, who won the Japanese Formula Nippon Championship in 1999, was pleased with his new car. "It's a real racing car, with plenty of power and noise. And it's very good to be competing at an international level again." Tom will miss the Brno and Nurburgring rounds of the championship due to clashes with his Dutch Touring Car Championship commitments, when Julian Bailey will rejoin the team with which he won the 2000 FIA GT Championship.
Ian McKellar will now drive last year's Championship-winning Storm, which will be entered by British team Tech 9 Racing. "We thought that this was best for the team," Lister's Fiona Pearce explained. "Ian is very young, and has no knowledge of the European tracks. And the quality of the opposition, especially of the drivers, has gone up a notch this year. So we thought it would be better if he had the opportunity to learn without everyone watching him." McKellar will be driving with two other British drivers, Phil Hindley, who also runs Tech 9, and former Marcos driver Tom Combrinck.
The two new Storms took part in the Monza test days, with the #2 car, which will be shared again by Nicolaus Springer and Philippe Favre, being run for the first time. "The first day was a bit of a disaster for the #1 car," Fiona continued. "After a mistake in the first session, they spent most of the time in the pits. And in the afternoon there were too many red flags. So it was rather frustrating. But they were happy to set the fastest time in the rain on the second day." The team will continue testing at Donington Park.
Paul Belmondo Racing : more testing planned
Paul Belmondo Racing had two of their three Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars in Monza, with all six drivers attending the test. The third car is currently being assembled, and will be ready for the first race of the season. Team owner Paul Belmondo was quite confident. "It is looking very good. We tried some things on one car, which did not work very well, but the other car was fine. Considering how little time we actually ran, the results are quite promising. It was also good to see that our new driver Anthony Kumpen is up to speed. We now have three full days of testing in Spain."
EMKA fastest in N-GT class
During the Monza test days, the EMKA Porsche 996 GT3-R was fastest in the N-GT category on both days. "I'm delighted," Tim Sugden commented, "I'm really pleased with how it went, especially to be quickest in both the dry and the wet. There is still a lot of work to be done, as the car was not right by any means - we had a problem with the rear suspension. It was our first time on Dunlop tyres, and they worked very well, so everything is looking good. Of course, for nearly everyone it was the first time in the car after the winter break and rebuild, so there is no reason to get too excited. We know how hard it will be, but we have won the first bit -- I just hope it won't be our only one !"
Two cars for RWS Motorsport
German team RWS Motorsport, who were second in last year's N-GT Championship, will enter two cars in the 2001 season. The Red Bull-sponsored cars will be headed by the race-winning combination of Italian Luca Riccitelli and Austrian Dieter Quester, while Hans-Jorg Hofer will share the second car with a driver yet to be named.
JMB Competition : testing the new car
The French team, managed by Jean-Michel Bouresche, attended the Monza test with a brand new car, which had just got out of the factory on Monday evening. "We were not too bad on the dry, considering that we did not have all the chassis evolutions", driver David Terrien said. "With a full fuel tank, we were only 1.8 seconds slower than the best N-GT Porsche."
On the second day, the team was disappointed with the handling of the car, noticing a significant imbalance between the back and the front of the car. The team is looking forward to the first race of the season, although their car is not adapted to the Monza track. "We lack 15km/h top speed at Monza", David Terrien said. "But I am sure that we will be much better on technical circuits".
Two N-GT cars for Haberthur
Swiss team Haberthur Racing is planning to enter two Porsche 996 GT3-Rs in the 2001 FIA GT Championship. The first car will be driven by former touring car driver Laurent Cazenave and Sylvain Noel, winner of the B category of the French Porsche Cup last season. Haberthur regular Patrick Vuillaume will drive the second car. "The fourth driver will be announced soon," said team-manager Christian Haberthur.
The website http://www.gtracing.net has been updated and includes a large selection of photos from the Monza test sessions in the World GT / Gallery section.
FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
Michelin, official tyre supplier for the Championship
Michelin has been appointed as the official tyre supplier of the FIA European Touring Car Championship for both the Super Touring and the Super Production cars. The French company will supply one type of slick tyre and one type of rain tyre in the following dimensions : 19" for the Super Touring cars and 15" for the Super Production cars.
Mathieu Bonardel of Michelin Competition commented : "We have always supported Touring Car racing and we did not want to miss the opportunity of being involved in the rebirth of the European Championship. Our efforts will be equally divided between the two categories. Because we supply only one type of tyre for the whole season, we have made a few changes to the 19" tyres for the Super Touring cars, in order to find a better compromise for all the tracks and types of traction. For Super Production, we have developed a new 15" tyre based on our Super Touring experience; in 2001 this tyre will be available for Super Production competitors only".
A third Cibiemme BMW for Paolo Ruberti in the SPC
Former F3000 driver Paolo Ruberti has joined the CiBiEmme Engineering team to drive a BMW 320is in the FIA European Super Production Championship, alongside Gianni Morbidelli and Stefano Gabellini. Ruberti, 26, from Verona, has previously raced in single-seaters. He finished 5th in the 1993 Italian Formula Europa Boxer Championship and took part in Italian Formula 3 for four years, finishing third in the 1997 Championship. He then competed in the FIA Formula 3000 Championship, in 1998 with Prema Powerteam and in 1999 with Durango Formula.
Carly Motors to run two BMWs in the SPC
Dutch team Carly Motors will take part in the FIA European Super Production Championship with two BMW 320is. Since 1996, the Carly Motors BMWs have won three Dutch Touring Car championships, with Duncan Huisman in 1997 and 2000, and with Cor Euser in 1999. Per-Gunnar Andersson and Duncan Huisman will be driving for the team in the European Super Production Championship.
Andersson, 44, from Sweden, is an experienced Touring Car driver. In the 1980s, he took part in the European Touring Car Championship and the DTM in a Volvo 240 Turbo. In the DTM, he finished 7th with two wins in 1985 and 8th in 1986. He also won the Nordic Championship three times, in 1986, 1988 and 1995 and the Swedish Championship four times, in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1992.
Huisman, 29, from the Netherlands, has been part of the team since 1997. He won the 1997 and 2000 Dutch Touring Car Championships and the 1997 Euro Final at Zandvoort in the team's Super Production BMW.
Volvo to compete in selected FIA European Touring Car Championship rounds
The official Volvo team from the Swedish Touring Car Championship, Flash Engineering, will take part in four rounds of the FIA European Super Touring Car Championship. Two Volvo S40s will be entered at Monza, Italy (April 1st), Brno, Czech Republic (April 16th), Jarama, Spain (September 30th) and Estoril, Portugal on October 21st.
The team's regular drivers will race the cars : Jens Edman (23, 4th in the 1999 and 2000 Swedish Touring Car Championships) and team principal Jan Nilsson (40, twice Swedish Touring Car champion).
Norman Simon to drive for Ravaglia Motorsport
German 24-year old driver Norman Simon has joined Ravaglia Motorsport to drive the team's second BMW 320i in the FIA European Super Production Championship. At the age of 16, Simon finished second in the German Karting Championship. He then took part in the British Formula Ford Championship in 1995 and finished third in the 1996 Formula Lotus Euroseries.
He won rounds of the 1997 and 1998 German F3 Championship before taking part in the FIA F3000 Championship in 1999 and the American Le Mans Series in 2000. His teammate at Ravaglia Motorsport will be Dutch Touring Car driver Peter Kox.
Edenbridge signs Ferrier
Edenbridge Racing has signed 19-year-old Tom Ferrier to complete its two-car BMW team in the FIA European Super Production Championship. With his 24-year-old team mate, James Hansen, they will form the youngest drivers' crew in the series. After good results in both karting and Formula Vauxhall Junior, Ferrier first raced a Touring Car at the beginning of last season. He finished 8th in the British National Saloon Championship at the wheel of a Super Production Alfa Romeo 156 entered by GA Racing. He also took part in selected rounds of the British Touring Car Championship, finishing third in the B Class on his first appearance at Brands Hatch.
JAS to enter three-car team in the STC
JAS Engineering is aiming to finalise a three-car line-up in the FIA Super Touring Championship. The Italian team, runner-up last year in the European Super Touring Cup, has signed two drivers for its Honda Accords : former Formula One driver and 1994 British Touring Car Champion Gabriele Tarquini and promising French driver, Fabrice Walfisch, who has recently competed in Formula 3 and the FIA Formula 3000 Championship.
The third car's driver will be signed in the next days.
A PRO Motorsport Nissan in the STC
The Scottish PRO Motorsport team will enter the FIA European Touring Car Championship with a Super Touring Nissan Primera to be driven by Italian Touring Car specialist Sandro Sardelli.
Last year, PRO Motorsport raced its Primera in the British Touring Car Championship's Independents Trophy with Colin Blair and David Leslie.
Sardelli, who won the Group N class at Nurburgring 24 Hours in 1996 and Spa 24 Hours in 1997, finished second in the 1998 Italian Supertouring Championship's Independents Trophy. He also took part in the 2000 European Super Touring Cup in a BMW 320i.