Istanbul: Round eight preview

Four rounds to go, and the title is still wide open! The first of the "exotic" races, on a fabulous track that is new to all the drivers, cannot fail to be interesting. The new 5.333 km track is technical, with uphill and downhill sections, blind...

Four rounds to go, and the title is still wide open! The first of the "exotic" races, on a fabulous track that is new to all the drivers, cannot fail to be interesting. The new 5.333 km track is technical, with uphill and downhill sections, blind corners and good places to overtake, meaning that everything is possible. Thanks to their consistent results since the beginning of the season and victories in Spa and Oschersleben, the Vitaphone Racing Team is leading the GT1 Teams classification ahead of JMB Racing and Larbre Competition. But in the GT1 Drivers Championship, the JMB Racing duo of former Formula One driver Karl Wendlinger and his team mate Andrea Bertolini are in the lead. "To prepare for this race, I watched the Formula One Grand-Prix carefully, and as soon as I get to the circuit, I'll go round the track by foot or with a scooter. Our main goal is to score as many points as we can, we have to keep an eye on the others, it's going to be difficult but interesting," Karl Wendlinger said. Behind them, it is very close between Gabriele Gardel, Timo Scheider, Michael Bartels, Thomas Biagi and Fabio Babini. The battle is going to be tight in Istanbul, on a track that will be new to all the regular FIA GT drivers. For the Vitaphone and JMB Maseratis, the Larbre Competition Ferrari and GLPK Corvette, the only goal now is to score points towards the Championship titles. The Maserati cars seem to be in great shape at the moment, but triple FIA GT Champion Larbre Competition has plenty of experience, and the French team is highly motivated to try to beat the opposition. To date, the Larbre duo of Lamy and Gardel are the only pair to win twice in 2005.

Mike Hezemans, Bert Longin and Anthony Kumpen, in their GLPK Carsport Corvette, are expecting a good race as their car is generally good in the heat. Very efficient since the beginning of the season, they will have some new aerodynamic evolutions in Istanbul so they are confident that they could repeat their Imola victory ! Leading Turkish driver Can Artam, who usually competes in the GP2 series, will take part in the FIA GT Championship for the first time, sharing the nr 16 JMB Maserati with Philip Peter. All the country is going to follow him as Can Artam is a real hero in Turkey!

The Konrad and Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen cars and the G.P.C Sport Ferrari 575 Maranello (only one car will be entered in the Istanbul round) could be good outsiders for the podium, as could the Lister Storm. In GT2, GruppeM clinched the Teams' Championship at Oschersleben, with four rounds remaining. In the FIA GT2 Drivers Championship, Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller are in good position to win the title in Turkey. However, their team mates, Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden, are still dreaming of a final victory. If they want to succeed, they have to win in Istanbul. Proton Competition, Ebimotors and the Czech National Team, all entering Porsche cars, are going to fight for the podium. The G.P.C. Ferrari 360 Modena is also a car to watch.

NATIONAL HERO - CAN ARTAM

August 2005 was a month to remember for Can Artam, as he became the first Turkish driver to compete on the new circuit in his home town of Istanbul. Along with American Scott Speed, Can Artam is racing in the GP2 Series for the iSport International team, and he is now going to make his FIA GT debut at the wheel of a JMB Racing Maserati MC12. Most of the local fans will be keen to follow the performances of Can Artam in the FIA GT Championship as he is a real hero for all his country. "I'm currently racing in the junior series and gaining experience in important aspects as racecraft, car set-up and learning new tracks. My goal is to become a Formula One driver" said Can Artam. Although he has never driven a GT car before, 24-year-old Artam will be the only driver to know this track, which is a valuable advantage.

MENX RETURNS TO THE FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP

A regular entrant with a Ferrari 360 Modena in the 2003 FIA GT Championship, MenX will be returning to the FIA GT Championship in Turkey, with Robert Pergl and Peter Kox driving a Ferrari 550 Maranello.

"Istanbul is a new and interesting track, with a good reputation. It is going to be an excellent test for us" said Jiri Rozkosny, MenX team manager. "It's also going to be a good opportunity for the team to evaluate its performance against the FIA GT Championship competitors. We are still learning a lot. As we will also be racing at Istanbul in the Le Mans Endurance Series, it will also give us the opportunity to gain some extra experience. We are also thinking about Dubai and Bahrain, but nothing is decided yet, we will see". As for Peter Kox, he will be driving his third different car in the FIA GT Championship this season - and his third in three races. He drove the Aston Martin DBR9 to victory at Silverstone, and was back in the car for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. He drove the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago in the early part of the season, and scored the team's first point in the last round in Oschersleben. Now, the talented driver from the Netherlands will be racing the MenX Ferrari 550 Maranello ... three fantastic cars for the Dutch driver. Kox has plenty of experience in the Ferrari; he raced the car in a number of rounds of the 2001 season with Rickard Rydell, giving the car its first FIA GT win for the Prodrive Allstars.

IT'S A LONG WAY TO ISTANBUL...

For the first time, the FIA GT Championship is going to Istanbul, a very popular city due to its geographical location. Istanbul is located between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, where Europe and Asia meet, making Istanbul both the nearest Asian city to Europe and the nearest European city to Asia. For the teams, there are two choices to arrive in Istanbul : by ship or by road. Just like for the Formula One event, most of the teams have chosen to go there by sea. They have to board the ship in Trieste, in Italy; the ship then goes through the Adriatic Sea into the Egeo Pelagos and then through the Marmara Sea in order to reach Istanbul by the Bosphorus. This is a three-day trip by ship. Most of the teams will be taking the same vessel, leaving Trieste on Sunday and expected in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Upon arrival in Istanbul, the teams will have to go through customs. "Customs are always an important moment. For us, it is going to be a good practice for China. They had WRC and Formula One before us, so they know something about motorsport, but we could always have a surprise..." commented Farida Zadi, in charge of logistics at JMB Racing. A few teams have decided to go to Istanbul by road. It takes nearly the same time (around 4 days) as by sea, but the customs may be more complicated. This is going to be a long trip for the teams but nothing compared to Zhuhai or Dubai...

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Karl Wendlinger , Emmanuel Collard , Timo Scheider , Michael Bartels , Peter Kox , Scott Speed , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Can Artam , Andrea Bertolini , Mike Rockenfeller , Thomas Biagi , Rickard Rydell , Gabriele Gardel , Bert Longin , Robert Pergl , Philip Peter
Teams Proton Competition , Larbre Competition , Reiter Engineering