Hungaroring Friday Practice Report

FIA GT Championship 17 - 19 July 1998 Hungaroring Round Friday 17 July 1998 - Free Practice Sessions For the fifth round of the 1998 FIA GT Championship, the competitors get the chance to explore Hungary, and in particular the city of...

FIA GT Championship 17 - 19 July 1998 Hungaroring Round Friday 17 July 1998 - Free Practice Sessions

For the fifth round of the 1998 FIA GT Championship, the competitors get the chance to explore Hungary, and in particular the city of Budapest, the pearl of the Danube, which has been registered in UNESCO'S World Heritage.

The Hungaroring circuit is situated 19 kilometres from downtown Budapest, in a natural valley surrounded by 50 hectares of sloping ground. Owing to its excellent location, at least 80 per cent of the circuit is visible from any point. The circuit was built 13 years ago in a record time of eight months and welcomed the first Formula One Grand Prix in August 1986. It is a regular venue for the Formula One World Championship, and is considered to be one of the slower tracks.

"It's where I made my comeback," Viper Team Oreca Championship leader Pedro Lamy said, referring to his major testing accident in Formula One. "The track can be dirty, and it's difficult to get the tyres right." The Hungaroring is 3,972 km long.

Rundown

28 cars should line up on the grid for Sunday's race, which marks the mid point of the season. Many teams could not make the trip for this event due to technical problems.

In GT1, Team Hezemans , with its sole remaining Bitter, has problems with the gearbox, which does not seem to comply with the capacity of the engine. The Dutch team hopes to be back with a competitive car for round 7 at Donington Park.

In GT2, Chamberlain Engineering has only one car at the Hungaroring. The team hopes to be able to have the second car ready for the Championship in time for Suzuka.

Cirtek has had continuous problems with the Mustang and has now decided to change over to a Porsche 911 GT2 which they have bought from Roock Racing. The car should be ready for the Suzuka race. The Mustang will be entered by David Prewitt, who is the official Saleen representative in Europe.

The Lamborghini Diablo GT2, which was supposed to make its debut in the Championship here in Hungary, was badly damaged at Dijon during the free practice sessions of the French GT Championship. The car will be re-built during the summer with a new evolution and with lighter weight with the aim of entering the Championship from Donington Park onwards.

Swiss Team Salamin is absent after its two engine failures at Hockenheim and Dijon. They hope to be back at Donington. Hungaroring also sees the return of the Davidoff Classic McLaren F1 GTR, currently 6th in the GT1 classification. Thomas Bscher could not attend the previous race as he was on honeymoon The Larbre '97 Porsche 911 GT1, which joined the series at Dijon, is being driven here by the all-French line-up of Chreau, Goueslard and Leconte.

In GT2, a Hungarian team, Bovi Motorsport, joins the league of Porsche 911 GT2s, while the regulars are all present, making a total of 17 cars in the category

Bigger restrictor in GT2

In order to maximise equality of performance, and in accordance with the Technical Regulations of the 1998 FIA GT Championship, as from the Budapest event, for the Marcos LM600 and the Porsche 911 GT2 cars, the dimensions of the restrictor used may be that of the following column with the current minimum weight unchanged (e.g. for a car with a minimum weight of 1000 kg, 33 mm instead of 32.3 mm).

Roock : a level playing field

"From the beginning of the season I said that we had the potential to do better, but we were not fighting with the same type of weapon. The Vipers are much, much, much more powerful than us, but they had the same restrictors. They have GT1 rims and tyres, 19", and it was impossible to beat them. Now we're starting to see the difference. Now we can beat them ! Give us the same weapons, and we'll show the difference on the race-track. Technically, the car was performing very well in Dijon. There were no major problems. We are betting on this point - the engine is reliable, and the sequential gear-box is now OK after some initial problems - which was normal, the natural development of a new project. Let's do it now !" Roock team co-ordinator, Jorge Silva, on the new restrictors for Porsche 911 GT2 cars.

Driver changes

Uwe Alzen will not be at the wheel of the n8 Porsche 911 GT1 '98 this weekend, as he is retained by the German SuperTouring Championship at Lahr. He is replaced by regular Porsche test-driver Bob Wollek.

Marc Duez of Belgium will be driving alongside Karl Wendlinger in the n 52 Viper this weekend, as David Donohue has racing commitments in the USA. Duez won the GT2 category at Spa-Francorchamps last year, with Justin Bell.

Roock Racing's n56 Porsche GT2 sees the return of Le Mans winner Stphane Ortelli, absent in Dijon due to Porsche Supercup commitments.

Weather

The city of Budapest awoke to damp streets, but the sky was clear when the cars took to the track, and good weather is forecast for the weekend.

1st free practice : Porsche leads in Hungary

It became clear during the first free practice session that the twisty, interesting circuit of Hungaroring was a complete change from Dijon. The fastest car - the factory-entered Porsche 911 GT1 driven by Allan McNish - lapped the 3.968 km track in 1:33.340 - over twenty seconds slower than at Dijon, although the track is only 172m longer. This means the 126 laps on Sunday will last well over three hours.

With a confident McNish setting the best time, followed by the DAMS Panoz and the n 8 Porsche driven by Wollek and Mller, the Mercedes CLK-LM cars could only manage fourth and sixth fastest, with Schneider setting a time of 1:34.304, and Ludwig four tenths slower.

The older Team Persson Mercedes cars were seventh and eighth. The Bouchut/Mylander car returned to the pits on a truck, after a repeat of the rear-suspension failure which first happened at Oschersleben. "It was very violent," Bouchut said afterwards. "In about four metres I spun twice - It was quite scary."

Porsches topped in times in GT2 as well, with the fastest time being set by the n56 Roock Porsche, driven by Stphane Ortelli. He was around four hundredths of a second faster than the unbeaten Viper pairing of Beretta and Lamy, with the second Viper and the Marcos in third and fourth.

2nd free practice : Panoz leaps ahead

With the sun shining brightly, the second free practice session was faster than the morning, with the DAMS Panoz car finally setting the fastest time of the day towards the end of the 90-minute session. With a lap of 1:31.760, David Brabham was slightly faster than the man of the morning, Allan McNish, whose afternoon best was 1:31.925. The times of the Mercedes cars also improved, with Schneider's time of 1:32.330 earned him third place, and Ludwig fifth. In GT2, Team Oreca Viper's Pedro Lamy set the fastest time with a lap of 1:39.230, ahead of team-mate Wendlinger in the second car. They were followed by the two Roock Porsche GT2s, with the Marcos fifth.

Mini Interview : Schneider

1997 FIA GT Champion, Bernd Schneider, lost the Championship lead at the previous race in Dijon, and has been fourth and third in today's practice sessions. "At least we improved," he said of today's times. "One more place tomorrow, and again on Sunday, and we'll win !" he said with a smile. "At Dijon we had the advantage, especially with the tyres. But here we have no advantages. Porsche and Panoz are both competitive. It's good for the Championship, but not so good for us. But we won't give up, and will push hard for a good result on Sunday."

Schneider admitted that their retirement from Dijon had been a disappointment. "But we showed our potential, and the level of our team-work." As for the amazing lap which got him pole : "It was perfect. We have good experience with qualifiers, but it's always a gamble. This was close to being one of my best laps ever." Concerning the Hungaroring : "I drove here in Formula 1. It's slow, tight and overtaking is very, very difficult."

Quotes

"I think this circuit suits our car," Cor Euser, Marcos Racing International

"I don't want to be typecast as a historic racer. I know I can win there, but this is important to me," Martin Stretton, Konrad Motorsport

"The track is difficult - it's a driver's track. But Axel Rohr has no problems. It's slightly more difficult for Uwe Sick - he's quick in the corners, but slower outside. The larger restrictors give us more power, but it can put more pressure on the engine, and give us problems there." Rolf Steuer, Stadler Motorsport team manager.

"We have problems on this track. We can't find the right set-up. Grip is low and we can't find the rhythm. We hope to find something tomorrow." Marcel Tiemann, Team Persson Motorsport.

Final Word "I would like to think we'll have another win, but it's a long way to go, and a hard race." Pedro Lamy, Team Oreca Viper.

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers David Brabham , Allan McNish , Karl Wendlinger , Marcel Tiemann , Pedro Lamy , Bernd Schneider , Uwe Alzen , David Donohue , Cor Euser , Martin Stretton , Bob Wollek , Thomas Bscher , Marc Duez
Teams Persson Motorsport , DAMS