Magny-Cours: Race report

A close and exciting race around the 4.411 km Nevers Magny-Cours circuit saw Saleen take its first win in the FIA GT Championship, after the car made its debut at the start of the 2003 season. The Vitaphone Racing Team Saleen took the lead at the...

A close and exciting race around the 4.411 km Nevers Magny-Cours circuit saw Saleen take its first win in the FIA GT Championship, after the car made its debut at the start of the 2003 season. The Vitaphone Racing Team Saleen took the lead at the start, and German drivers Michael Bartels and Uwe Alzen held on to take their maiden victory. In N-GT, Sasha Maassen and Lucas Luhr took their second consecutive win, leading an all-Freisinger podium which also saw Russian drivers Nikolaj Fomenko and Alexei Vasiliev claim their first-ever top-three finish.

WEATHER
Sunday was bright and warm for the FIA GT race, and although the skies clouded over during the three-hour race, it stayed dry until the race had finished. 22,000 spectators attended the event today.

FIRST WIN FOR SALEEN, VITAPHONE RACING TEAM, ALZEN AND BARTELS

After being consistently fast since joining the Championship this season, the nr 5 Vitaphone Racing Team Saleen S7 finally confirmed its promise by winning the third round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship. Qualifying second, Michael Bartels took the lead at the start and held the lead, only dropping briefly off the top during the first round of pit stops, and crossing the line with a 30-second advantage over the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello.

"It's great to finally see the chequered flag after two very disappointing races," Michael Bartels said. "The car was quick again, and this time we could actually make use of that. I think we did a quite good job. I'd really like to thank Pirelli for all their hard work. I think I've never driven a car which keeps its tyre performance on such a high level over the distance."

Although crossing the line third, the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello inherited second place when Gabriele Gardel, from the nr 1 BMS car, was awarded a 50 second penalty for causing an avoidable accident with his team-mate in the nr 2 BMS Ferrari. This also promoted Gollin and Cappellari to third, with Bobbi and Gardel dropping to fourth.

The nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen, which originally finished fourth, was also penalised, for ignoring a black and orange flag waved due to loose rear bodywork. Fifty seconds were added to the car's time, dropping the car to fifth. However, as BMS Scuderia Italia has lodged an appeal concerning their penalty, the results remain provisional.

YELLOW AND GREEN PODIUM IN N-GT

A Porsche one-two-three in the N-GT category saw the three yellow and green Freisinger cars take the top three places. The nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport car of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr took its second consecutive win, the two Freisinger Yukos Motorsport cars taking the remaining podium places. This meant the first-ever podium for Russian drivers Nikolaj Fomenko and Alexei Vasiliev, who have made steady progress since joining the Championship in 2000. Fourth place went to the father-and-son team of Gerold and Christian Ried, with Vonka Racing's Porsche taking the final points in fifth.

"Overall, it's a fantastic weekend for Freisinger. We finished first, second and third - it's perfect!" Lucas Luhr said afterwards. Freisinger Yukos Motorsport has now a score of 35 points, fifteen ahead of Freisinger Motorsport, with GPC Giesse Squadra Corse third and Proton Competition fifth. In the Drivers Classification, Ortelli and Collard now lead Maassen and Luhr by four points.

BMS RETAINS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD

Despite the mid-race collision between the nr 1 and nr 2 Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, BMS Scuderia Italia still retains the lead in the Championship. Provisionally, pending the appeal, the team has a thirty-point lead in the Teams classification, with JMB Racing lying second ahead of GPC Giesse Squadra Corse. In the Drivers Classification, Gollin and Cappellari continue to lead, with Bobbi and Gardel five points adrift.

THE RACE STORY

The start : Bartels and Maassen take the lead
At the start, Michael Bartels in the nr 5 Saleen got the better of the pole-sitter, Walter Lechner Jr in the nr 4 Saleen. The nr 28 Saleen went off into the gravel, and the nr 7 car also went off. By the end of the first lap, the nr 5 car had a lead of nearly one second. The nr 99 Porsche overtakes the nr 62 Ferrari to lead N-GT.

JMB and BMS exchange places
In the early stages, the places remained relatively unchanged, although there was a close fight between Wendlinger in the nr 17 JMB Ferrari 575 M Maranello, and Bobbi in the nr 1 BMS Ferrari 550. The nr 4 Saleen remained within close contact of the lead car. In N-GT, the nr 50 Porsche moved ahead of the nr 62 Ferrari

Alzen pulls away
After the first round of pit stops, Uwe Alzen took over the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen and began to pull away. The nr 4, after a longer pit stop due to restarting problems, dropped back to sixth place with Seiler at the wheel. The two BMS cars move up to second and third places, and are very close together. The nr 99, leading N-GT car, was up in 8th position.

BMS cars collide
On lap 44, the two BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, which were fighting for second position, collided. The nr 1 car continued, while the nr 2 spun, remained stranded for a few moments and then continued, having dropped back to seventh. This incident meant that Alzen now had a lead of 22 seconds over the rest of the field.

Alzen extends his lead
By lap 58, Alzen had extended his lead to 39 seconds, while only four seconds separated Gabriele Gardel in the nr 1 BMS Ferrari, and third-placed Toto Wolff in the nr 17 JMB Ferrari 575 M Maranello.

Lechner starts his fight back; GPC Ferrari 62 spins
After the second round of pit stops, Walter Lechner Jr rejoined the race in the nr 4 Konrad Saleen. By lap 77, he was the fastest man on the track, lying 7th and catching up with the cars in front of him. In N-GT, the nr 62 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena spun into the gravel, later retiring. This made N-GT an all-Porsche affair, with three Freisinger cars in the lead.

Battle for fourth place rages between four cars
A fine battle between four cars took place for fourth place overall. Naspetti, in fourth in the nr 13 GPC Ferrari, was followed by his team-mate Babini in the nr 11 car, Gollin in the nr 2 BMS Ferrari and Lechner Jr the fastest of the four in the nr 4 Saleen. By lap 88, six seconds separate the four cars, with just one second between the nr 11, 2 and 4 by lap 89. First the nr 2 then the nr 4 overtook the nr 11, while the nr 13 retired in the pits with engine problems on lap 92.

Gollin and Lechner Jr fight for fourth
With Bartels having a 51 second lead, and the nr 1 and 17 cars settled in second and third places, the main fight on the track was for fourth place between the nr 2 and nr 4 cars. By lap 96, they were separated by only 0.5 of a second, with 13 minutes remaining. However, on lap 101, the Saleen began to lose rear bodywork, while overtaking the nr 2. The car was shown a black and orange flag, but it remained out on the track for the remainder of the race. The nr 5 Saleen took the chequered flag ahead of the nr 1 Ferrari 550 Maranello and the nr 17 Ferrari 575 M Maranello, with the nr 4 Saleen fourth. The nr 99 took the N-GT win ahead of the nr 50 and 77

Stewards Decisions and Appeals
Gabriele Gardel, in the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, was awarded a 50 second penalty for provoking an avoidable collision. This dropped the car down from second to fourth in the final results. The nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7 was also awarded a 50 second penalty for not respecting the black and orange flag. This demoted the car to fifth place.

BMS Scuderia Italia has announced their intention to lodge an appeal, and therefore the results remain provisional, pending that appeal

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Uwe Alzen , Michael Bartels , Christian Ried , Gabriele Gardel , Toto Wolff
Teams Proton Competition