FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS FROM THE FIA GT TEAMS The first race of the 2002 FIA GT Championship, which will be held at the French track of Magny Cours, will get underway in five weeks time. News follows from some of the teams which will be taking...
FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
NEWS FROM THE FIA GT TEAMS
The first race of the 2002 FIA GT Championship, which will be held at the French track of Magny Cours, will get underway in five weeks time. News follows from some of the teams which will be taking part.
PAUL BELMONDO RACING ANNOUNCES 2002 PLANS
Paul Belmondo Racing has announced that Marc Duez and Fabio Babini will be driving one of the team’s two Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars this season. Belgian driver Duez has been an occasional participant since the start of the FIA GT Championship in 1997. Last season, he shared one of the Team Rafanelli Ferrari 550 Maranello cars with Günther Blieninger, finishing third at Zolder, as well as joining Larbre Competition Chéreau to win the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa with Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc. “ I am very pleased,” Duez said. “ This is the first time I will be able to compete in a full season of the Championship. Belmondo has made an intelligent choice in remaining with the Chrysler Vipers, and by choosing to concentrate on running two cars. I am also very happy to be driving with Fabio Babini, who is an excellent driver. I think we can say that we are strong outsiders for the title.”
Babini took part in his first season in the FIA GT Championship last year, driving an Art Engineering Porsche 996 GT3-R with Luigi Moccia. Five podium finishes, as well as a win at Zolder, placed him eighth in the N-GT Drivers Classification.
“I think they will be one of the best line-ups,” Belmondo commented.“ The cars are the same as last year, but they have been entirely reconditioned, and are like new. We have also included a number of evolutions. They should be very competitive.” Another change for the French-based team sees them move over to Pirelli tyres. “ We have tested with Pirelli, and we are delighted,” Belmondo continued. “ They are extremely motivated, and I think we will have a very good season.”
RWS MOTORSPORT MOVES TO THE GT CATEGORY
German-based team RWS Motorsport has decided to enter its Porsche 996 GT2 car in the GT category this season. The car will be shared by regular drivers Dieter Quester and Luca Riccitelli. RWS has been one of the strongest contenders in the N-GT class over the past two seasons, and finished on the same number of points as eventual N-GT Champions JMB Competition in 2001. “ This is a big change, but it is what our sponsor, Red Bull, wants,” team owner Rudi Walch explained. “ We will not have as much power as the Vipers or the Lister cars, but we will try hard and see what happens. We do have a slightly better fuel consumption than the bigger cars, but I think we will still have to do two stops. However, it will be a new experience for us. We are real rookies in this category, but we will do our best and try to make a bigger step up in the future. I hope we will have many wet races this season, which might improve our chances !”
RWS will also enter one Porsche 996 GT3-R in the N-GT class, for the two Russian drivers Alexei Vassiliev and Nicolaj Fomenko.
SECOND CAR FOR LISTER STORM RACING
Lister Storm Racing will be entering two cars in the FIA GT Championship this year. After previously announcing Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer for one Lister Storm, the team has now confirmed that the second car will be shared by British drivers Paul Knapfield and Bobby Verdon Roe. Verdon Roe drove for Lister at Jarama and Estoril last season, finishing in second place in Portugal. Knapfield drove a Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R in a number of rounds last year. “ We will have two Professional / Gentlemen driver teams this year,” team press officer Fiona Pearce explained. “ Paul tested the car at Jarama for the first time, and obviously it will take him some time to get used to the car. Bobby drove for us last year, and should be fine. We will still be aiming for podium finishes, and hope to pick up some points.”
The team spent two days testing at the Spanish track of Jarama, running with the new Dunlop tyres. “ I am very impressed with the Dunlop tyres for the race runs; we are making big strides forward,” the 2000 FIA GT Drivers Champion Jamie Campbell-Walter said afterwards. Nicolaus is also happy with the progress he is making. “ The Dunlop tyres have given me the confidence to drive the car on the limit,” he explained.
LEHMANN SPORT JOINS THE FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP
New German team Lehmann Sport will be entering a Chrysler Viper GTS-R in this year’s FIA GT Championship. “ This is a new thing for me,” team owner Walter Lehmann explained. “ My father was a racing driver in the 1960s and 1970s with Lola, and I wanted to start a team of my own. We have chosen the FIA GT Championship to make our debut.” The team has been in contact with a number of drivers, and a final decision concerning the line-up should be made shortly. “
We are looking for drivers with Viper experience,” Lehmann explained. “ I believe that with a good team, and good drivers, good results should follow. Our aim this year is to learn as much as possible, and to try our best.” The team is expecting the delivery of its new Chrysler Viper GTS-R from Oreca at the end of March. “ We hope it will be in time for the FIA GT test days, but if not, we will organise private testing before the first race of the season.”
FATHERS AND SONS AT PROTON COMPETITION
Proton Competition will be entering two Porsche 911 GT2 cars this season. One will be driven by Gerold and Christian Ried, while the second car will be shared by Horst Felbermayr and Horst Felbermayr Jr. The team has been working on a new Porsche 996 GT2 car over the winter break, but eventually decided to remain with the older cars “ It was a difficult decision,” Christian Ried explained. “ We know that the cars are not really competitive, but if you enter a brand new car, you will have many problems at the beginning.” Proton has been a regular competitor in the FIA GT Championship since 1997, with the team’s best result a fourth place at Silverstone in 1998. Horst Felbermayr father and son, from Austria, have also taken part in many rounds of the FIA GT Championship, both in a Porsche 911 GT2 and in a Chrysler Viper GTS-R.
JMB COMPETITION ANNOUNCES LEAD DRIVERS
The 2001 N-GT Teams’ Champion, JMB Competition, has announced that its leading Ferrari 360 Modena car in the 2002 Championship will be driven by two Italian drivers : 2001 Champion Christian Pescatori and former Formula One and CART driver Andrea Montermini. This will be Pescatori’s third season with the French team, with whom he won the Sports Racing World Cup in 2000 before claiming the FIA N-GT title in 2001.
The team will be entering a total of four Ferrari 360 Modena cars, two under the title of JMB Competition and two under the name JMB Racing. All four will use Pirelli tyres. As before, the cars will be prepared in collaboration with Italian company Michelotto. The rest of the drivers are still in the process of being determined, and the final line-ups should be announced shortly. The team also has a new sporting director, experienced French driver Jean-Pierre Malcher, who drove for the team in 1995 and 1996, in the Andros ice-racing Trophy and the Porsche Supercup.
CAMATHIAS TO RACE FOR AUTORLANDO SPORT
Swiss driver Joël Camathias has announced that he will continue to compete in the FIA GT Championship in 2002, combining programs in the Autorlando Porsche 996 GT3-R and the European Formula 3000 series. “ This is a big opportunity for me to gain experience on a number of international tracks,” Camathias explained. He should race in four rounds of the FIA GT Championship, including the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. “ I am especially looking forward to driving in my first 24 hour race. I wanted to do it last year, but conditions should be better this year.” Camathias enjoyed driving the Porsche 996 GT3-R last year. “ It was difficult at the beginning, as it was the first time I had driven anything like that. But by Estoril, I had a good feeling for the car, and I really enjoyed it. I think it is very important for me to compete in the GT Championship. Although my main program is still in single-seaters, realistically speaking I know that it will be difficult to get to Formula One, and I have more hope of a good career in endurance racing.”