Imola: Race report

A hot and busy race round the challenging and technical Imola circuit saw the Vitaphone Racing Team --Saleen S7 of Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels take a fine win, crossing the line ahead of the two Maserati MC 12 cars, entered on a non-Championship...

A hot and busy race round the challenging and technical Imola circuit saw the Vitaphone Racing Team --Saleen S7 of Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels take a fine win, crossing the line ahead of the two Maserati MC 12 cars, entered on a non-Championship basis. With Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari scoring the points for second place, BMS Scuderia Italia has taken an unassailable lead in the GT Teams Classification. In N-GT, GPC Giesse Squadra Corse's Ferrari 360 put in a dominant performance, crossing the line ahead of the reconstructed Freisinger Motorsport Porsche of Luhr and Maassen, and the Championship leaders Ortelli and Collard. However, afterwards the nr 62 Ferrari was excluded due to an airbox problem, giving the nr 99 Porsche the win. The team has appealed the decision, making the N-GT results provisional.

Extremely hot and humid; temperatures were estimated at between 37 and 39C.
The track was estimated at between 44 and 46 degrees, while drivers reported temperatures of well over 60 in the cockpits.

20,000 spectators came to Imola, which is one of the highest non-Formula One attendance figures at the circuit.


In front of Mr Saleen himself, the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen S7 put in an excellent performance at Imola today, claiming the win with a 43 second lead over the two AF Corse Maserati MC 12 cars. After the team's disappointment in Spa, this was an excellent return to form, with Uwe Alzen taking the lead on lap 11 out of 97 and, barring the first pit stops, leading throughout.

Despite the heat and the traffic, the Saleen withstood the pressure from the Maserati cars, setting the fastest race lap, and with Alzen putting in some fast and consistent times in the last hour, when the nr 33 closed to within 7 seconds of him. "This was a very important race for us," Uwe Alzen said.

"It was very tough, and I was to thank not only Pirelli, but also Franz Konrad, Mr. Saleen and our guests from Vitaphone for the great work they've been doing. We were lucky here, but I hope for a repeat performance during the next races."

The track suited the Saleen cars, which had run well all weekend. The nr 28 Graham Nash Motorsport car had a very good run with its all-Italian crew, was lying in the top sixth for the first two stints, until a problem with an oil pressure light meant some extra pit stops. The nr 7 RML Saleen took the final point for eighth.


Crossing the line fourth today, Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari, in the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello finished second in the GT category, while their team-mates Bobbi and Gardel finished fourth, after an incident-packed race. Thirteen points turned out to be a lucky score for the Italian team, as it secured the GT Teams Championship for them, for the second consecutive year. The Ferrari 550 Maranello cars proved to be reliable and consistent in the blistering temperatures, with the nr 3 Care Racing Ferrari finishing third in GT for Bryner, Calderari and Livio. The BMS trio was followed by the two GPC Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars, scoring a group finish in to remain second in the GT Teams classification, with the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari of Melo and Wendlinger seventh and RML eighth. In the Drivers classification, Gollin and Cappellari have 70 points, 16.5 ahead of Bobbi and Gardel, with Babini and Peter a further 9.5 behind. Wendlinger is 7th on 40.5, while Alzen and Bartels are on 38, equal with Bryner and Calderari, in joint eighth position.


Christian Pescatori and his new team-mate Iradj Alexander of Switzerland claimed victory in the eighth round of the 2004 Championship, making up to some extent for their disappointment at Spa. Their Ferrari 360 Modena dominated the event, starting from pole, withstanding the pressure from the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche in the early stages and crossing the line with a 27 second lead. However, their car was later excluded due to an airbox failure, meaning that Maassen and Luhr inherited the win.

Considering that their car, the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche, was badly damaged during Friday's free practice, and that the drivers thought their weekend was over, this was an unexpected result. The nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Motorsport Porsche inherited second, despite the 75 kg of penalty weight carried in the car driven by Championship leaders Ortelli and Collard.

Provisional third place went to the nr 77 car of Vasiliev and Bergmeister, with the Mik Corse Ferrari 360 of Alex Piccolo and Giovanni Berton moving up to fourth on their first appearance in the Championship. Petersen, Mathai and Lueders were fifth in the Jens Petersen Porsche, with AB Motorsport sixth for Antonio De Castro, Renato Premoli and Bruno Barbaro. Seventh place went to Proton Motorsport, with the Vonka Racing car provisionally taking the final point for eighth.

In the classification, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport have 111 points, and their sister team Freisinger Motorsport has 63.5, with 54 points left to be distributed this season. GPC Giesse is third, with Proton fourth after a very consistent point-scoring season. Ortelli and Collard continue to lead the Drivers' Classification with 72 points, 8.5 ahead of Maassen and Luhr, with Pescatori fifth, on 46.


French team DAMS was entering its two spectacular orange and black Lamborghini Murcielago cars in the race for the first time this weekend. Having only received the cars in the last fortnight, and with minimal testing, the team has had a steep learning curve this weekend. With the nr 24 car of GT regulars Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz crossing the line, team owner Jean-Paul Driot pronounced himself satisfied with the progress achieved. "We are especially pleased to have one car that finished the race. Imola is a very difficult track in terms of setting up cars, and it was always going to be difficult this weekend. Now we have to analyse as much as possible to fix all we can before Oschersleben. We made steady progress through the weekend; in his last stint, Andrea Piccini was lapping the 4th fastest of the cars out there, which shows that the car has potential. But a lack of time and knowledge for the team with this particular car made it difficult. But that is why we are doing the four last races, to iron out all these problems and to be up to speed in 2005 and win races."


The two Maserati MC 12 cars, entered by Italian team AF Corse, put in a fine performance for their first-ever race, finishing second and third overall in today's three-hour race. Andrea Bertolini and Mika Salo finished second in the nr 33 car, with the nr 34 of Johnny Herbert and Fabrizio De Simone third. The cars ran smoothly throughout the race, gradually rising up the field until the nr 33 was challenging for the lead thirty laps from the end.

"I am very pleased with this result with both cars making the podium," said Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, who was at Imola today. "This is testimony to all the work done at Maserati. After twenty-five years, the return to the track could not have gone any better for a manufacturer that is part of automobile history."

The cars are not yet homologated and are not eligible to score Championship points; they were given special permission to run in this race, Oschersleben and Dubai by the FIA, with the agreement of the teams concerned.


The start : Gollin takes the lead

Fabrizio Gollin led from pole into the first corner, while the nr 8 RML Saleen crashed into the barriers. The nr 27 Lister pulled off to one side with driveshaft failure. The nr 62 retained the lead in N-GT, while the nr 99 made an excellent start to take second

Alzen climbs up the field to take the lead

The nr 5 Saleen was putting pressure first on the nr 4 Konrad Saleen and then on the race leader, setting the fastest race lap of 1:47.399. On lap 11 he took the lead

The BMS cars collide

A collision while overtaking between the nr 2 and nr 1 Ferrari 550 Maranello cars at the Variante Bassa, saw the nr 2 drop back while the nr 1 took second. The nr 1 was later given a drive through penalty.

Gardel loses a tyre

The nr 1 car had a front tyre explode on lap 40, just past the pit lane entrance. The car did a slow lap then came in for repairs, dropping down the field.

The Maserati cars come to the fore

After the first round of pit-stops, the nr 33 and 34 Maserati cars moved up to 2nd and 4th places, then 2nd and 3rd when the nr 2 car made its second stop

Maserati chasing down the Saleen

After the second round of pit stops, the nr 33 Maserati closed to just 7.7 seconds of the leading nr 5 car on lap 69. But Alzen resisted and lapped nearly 2 seconds faster than Bertolini, pulling out his lead again.

Alzen wins for Vitaphone, BMS takes GT Teams title, GPC wins in N-GT

Alzen crossed the line 43 seconds ahead of the nr 33 Maserati, with the nr 34 third and the nr 2 BMS car fourth.

In N-GT, the nr 62 took the win, ahead of the nr 99 and 50 Porsches. 24 cars were classified.

GPC excluded; Freisinger Motorsport inherits win (provisionally) Post-race scrutineering saw the nr 62 GPC Giesse car excluded from the results, due to the car not being in accordance with the Art., which states that all the air feeding the engine must pass through the restrictors.

The team has appealed, meaning that the N-GT results remain provisional.


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Andrea Piccini , Fabrizio Gollin , Luca di Montezemolo , Mika Salo , Christian Pescatori , Uwe Alzen , Michael Bartels , Jean-Denis Deletraz , Andrea Bertolini , Luca Cappellari , Jens Petersen , Renato Premoli , Bruno Barbaro , Alexander Iradj
Teams AF Corse , DAMS