Magny-Cours: Round three preview

The 2004 LG Super Racing Weekend season is now well underway, and by the time the month of May draws to a close, we will have reached the half-way point. With a race every two weeks from Valencia through to Brno, it is a busy time for everyone ...

The 2004 LG Super Racing Weekend season is now well underway, and by the time the month of May draws to a close, we will have reached the half-way point. With a race every two weeks from Valencia through to Brno, it is a busy time for everyone concerned.

For the third round, the multi-platform series will be returning to France, and the circuit of Magny-Cours. A regular event on the LG Super Racing Weekend calendar, the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit has given us some fascinating battles over the years, and undoubtedly, 2004 will be no different. The circuit, 4.411 km long, underwent major changes to the track layout before the 2003 visit, reworking the final section of the circuit, giving a new corner with overtaking opportunities.

The FIA GT Championship will be visiting the circuit for the fifth time; on three of the previous visits, a Lister Storm was victorious. Last year, however, Magny-Cours was the scene of the second consecutive win for Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi. With BMS Scuderia Italia having won the first two rounds of the season, the rest of the field is keen to reclaim the top step of the podium. Most notably, Nice-based Monaco team JMB Racing, whose leading car finishing fourth in Spain. In N-GT, we have seen two Porsche victories in 2004, one for Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard, the other for Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr. Magny-Cours has seen wins for the Ferrari 360 in the past three seasons, so this could perhaps be the opportunity for Fabrizio De Simone and Christian Pescatori, racing for GPC Giesse Squadra Corse, to redress the balance.

MAGNY-COURS - ACCORDING TO STEPHANE DAOUDI

Stephane Daoudi 32-year old Stephane Daoudi has been a regular in the FIA GT Championship over the past three years, mainly competing in the N-GT category, with a number of points finishes to his credit. This year, he is driving for JMB, alongside gentlemen drivers, Antoine Gosse , Andrea Garbagnati and Peter Kutemann. He has had great success at Magny Cours in the past, winning there in Formula Renault in 1994, and then three times in the FFSA French GT Championship, including a rain-soaked event in 2001, when he won the race overall in an N-GT Porsche ahead of all the GT-class cars.

"First and foremost, I think Magny-Cours is a circuit that is more technical than it might initially appear. It is very important to set up the chassis and the aerodynamics correctly, as the Estoril corner is vital for the long straight. It is easy to brake too late for Adelaide, but it can allow overtaking. Then you get to the part I prefer, with the first fast chicane, leading into the 180 corner. Normally you see a number of different trajectories into this corner. Then the fast Nurburgring chicane, where you can gain some time. The new hairpin that replaces the Chateau d'Eau will certainly permit more overtaking. Then you get into the new section, where you can overtake under braking in the downhill section, before going through the little chicane which leads into the pit straight. It's a circuit which has a good rhythm, and I think we will see some good fights. The surface is very smooth, and allows most teams to find the right set-up quickly. The 575 M Maranello cars will certainly be on the pace, as I find the car extremely efficient in the fast corners ! And then ... it often rains at Magny-Cours... "

Circuit length : 4.410 km
Location : 20km south of Nevers

Directions : From Nevers, take the Route Nationale N7 for Moulins; the track is on the left after 20 km.

BMS Scuderia Italia might have scored its second one-two of the season in Valencia, but that round showed how close and competitive this season is proving to be. The Saleen S7 cars took pole and led for the first hour, the Lamborghini Murcielago led for the second, and the Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars were closing in at the end, with five different car models finishing in the top six. In N-GT, the Porsche cars have claimed both wins this season, but the Ferrari 360 Modena is not far behind. In the points, BMS Scuderia Italia has taken an early lead, with 36 points, 25 ahead of second-placed GPC Giesse Squadra Corse. In the Drivers classification, Gollin and Cappellari have 20 points, four ahead of Bobbi and Gardel. In N-GT, four drivers are tied in the lead : Stephane Ortelli, Emmanuel Collard, Fabrizio De Simone and Christian Pescatori - an impressive quartet ! For this round, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari will have 80 kg penalty weight and the nr 1 Ferrari will have 60 kg. In N-GT, both the nr 50 Porsche and the nr 62 Ferrari will have 30 kg, while the nr 99 Porsche will carry 20 kg after its Valencia win. For Magny-Cours, German team Jens Petersen is due to make its FIA GT debut, with a Porsche 996 GT3 driven by Petersen, Oliver Mathai and Jan-Dirk Lueders. The Vonka Racing Porsche is likely to make a reappearance, as is AB Motorsport, swelling the N-GT category to 8 cars.

HEAVY TASK AHEAD FOR GOLLIN AND CAPPELLARI
After winning the first two rounds of the season, Luca Cappellari and Fabrizio Gollin will be forced to carry 80 kg penalty weight in Magny-Cours. "It will be difficult for us, as 80 kg is really a lot ! It will be hard on the brakes and on the speed," Luca Cappellari explained. "But to have 80 kg also means we have won twice - which is good. It's very nice to be leading the Championship; the car is fantastic, and we really hope to be able to keep hold of the lead until Zhuhai. Fabrizio and I now have plenty of experience in the Championship, we know the car very well, and the team is very experienced, so I think we can continue to do a good job. But as soon as the Saleen and Ferrari 575 cars get up to speed, it will be very hard, as they are quick. So it is important to carry on scoring points whenever we can." Fabrizio and Luca make a very good team. "I think Fabrizio is one of the fastest drivers in GT racing; while I have plenty of experience. Moreover, we are good friends and race well together."

AWARD FOR BOBBI AND BIAGI
2003 FIA GT Champions Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi were honoured on Thursday evening, during an awards ceremony for the Lorenzo Bandini Trophy, awarded annually to the most promising driver in Formula One. Although the main recipient of this year's ceremony was Kimi Raikkonen, the organisation wanted to honour the achievements of Bobbi and Biagi in 2003. The pair, in their rookie GT racing season, claimed six victories as well as the title. "It is always a pleasure to receive an award of this importance," Matteo said. "This will give us a chance to remember all the splendid moments we shared last year." Matteo and his new team-mate Gabriele Gardel have finished the last two races in second place, in their nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, placing them joint second in the points.

GPC LOOKS FORWARD TO MAGNY-COURS
After a successful debut in Monza, GPC Giesse Squadra Corse had a more difficult time in Valencia. The nr 11 Ferrari 575 M Maranello stopped with suspension failure, while the nr 13 car of Hezemans and Naspetti had alternator problems. "We struggled a bit all weekend, with the rain and everything," Philipp Peter said. "But we showed the car's potential. The team is working on the aerodynamics and the engine. We are learning more and more about the car, so we'll see how things go at Magny-Cours. Our aim is to finish as high as possible and continue to score points." The team's nr 62 Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale finished in second place in the N-GT category, meaning that drivers Fabrizio De Simone and Christian Pescatori are now jointly leading the Drivers Championship with Freisinger Yukos drivers Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard.

JMB RACING : THREE OUT OF THREE IN VALENCIA
With all three Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars finishing in the points, and the all-Austrian crew finishing fourth, just off the podium, JMB Racing can be extremely satisfied with its Valencia performance. "We learned a lot in Valencia, we scored points and finished the race, so I think it was a good weekend for us," Karl Wendlinger said. "We will be well prepared for Magny-Cours. We can use the information we have accumulated here, and I think we will be up to speed from the first practice session. We aim to improve at each round, and hope to be on the podium soon." The nr 18 car of Longin, Khan and Bleiner had an excellent race, improving from 19th on the starting grid to finish 7th in the GT category to score points for the second race in a row, while the nr 19 JMB car taking the final point for eighth. JMB Racing is currently lying third in the Teams Classification, with nine points.

FREISINGER YUKOS MOTORSPORT LEADING N-GT
With a score of 21 points from the first two races, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport is leading the N-GT Teams Classification, with drivers Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard tied in the lead of the Drivers table with De Simone and Pescatori. Vasiliev and Fomenko finished in a fine fourth place in Valencia, adding five points to the score. "We have found the source of the problem we had in Valencia, which gave us very bad understeering all weekend," Emmanuel Collard explained. "It was the differential, which has now been fixed, and should be fine for France. We will do our best, as always, and try not to make any silly mistakes like I did in Valencia. But I am sure the fight will be as close as ever between the three leading cars. I know Magny-Cours well, and it is a circuit I like. Of course, the weather usually plays a part there - generally, at least one session takes place in the rain."

CREATION HOPING FOR GOOD RESULT IN MAGNY COURS
The Creation Autosportif Lister Storm finished the second round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship in fifth place, meaning that Jamie Campbell-Walter and Jamie Derbyshire scored three points. "After Monza, I just wanted to get the car back to Jamie Campbell-Walter and to get a finish," Jamie Derbyshire said. "I was slightly disappointed with my performance, and felt that I never really got to grips with the track. Magny-Cours should be a different matter, as I have been there before, which will help, and I am really looking forward to it." The Lister Storm has traditionally run well in Magny-Cours. "It's a good circuit for us," Jamie Campbell-Walter confirmed, "Although I do think the competition has taken a step up this year. But I love the track, and the Lister is good around there, so we will see what we can achieve. The car was very good at Valencia during the last stint. We're getting there!"

SALEEN CARS STILL LOOKING FOR FIRST WIN
Once more, a Saleen started from pole position in the FIA GT Championship, with Michael Bartels adding his name to those of Jean-Marc Gounon and Walter Lechner Jr. as Saleen pole-position holders. However, although both the nr 5 Vitaphone and the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleens led the race in Valencia, neither finished the race, with a clutch problem for the nr 5, and driveshaft failure for the nr 4. "The luck is not ours at the moment. We are quick, but we do not yet have the reliability," Walter Lechner Jr explained. "I think the car should be good for Magny-Cours, with its long straights. I am looking forward to it."

Similarly, the nr 28 Graham Nash car also suffered a broken driveshaft early on, but had a smooth run after repairs. Italian driver Luca Pirri Ardizzone will join the team for the next round in Magny-Cours. "We're getting there - the drivers did an excellent job," team manager Gordon Davies commented.

As for the RML cars, a strong performance from Erdos and Newton saw the car come in sixth, and the best of the Saleen cars at the finish line, after running low on fuel. Erdos is looking forward to the next race "We know the circuit quite well. It really helps to have the second car, driven by Chris Goodwin and Miguel Ramos, competitive as well. We have a good team atmosphere and it is very useful in developing and setting up the car."

HILLEBRAND HAPPY WITH ZWAANS
22-year old Val Hillebrand, who joined Zwaan's Racing at Valencia, enjoyed his first experience of GT racing with the Chrysler Viper GTS. Holding dual Dutch and Belgian nationality, he is currently the youngest driver competing in the Championship, being just one day younger than Walter Lechner Jr. "My first race was good; I had a really good stint, even if we did not get a result," Val said. "Now I'm looking forward to Magny-Cours. I love the circuit -- it's really great. And I had an excellent race there in sportscars, taking pole in 2002, ahead of the Courage. I think the Viper will be really good there; it was good round the fast corner in Valencia, and I think it should suit the Magny-Cours configuration. I get on well with the whole team; they are very nice guys, and it is excellent to have someone like Christophe in the team, he knows so much and he is great at sharing information. He can spot things with the car that saves us days of testing."

BMW ANNOUNCES LINEUP FOR PROXIMUS 24 HOURS OF SPA
Two BMW M3 GTR cars will be running in this year's Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, entered and run by Schnitzer Motorsport, the same team which runs the BMW 320i cars in the FIA ETCC. The driver line-up for these cars was announced this week : current FIA ETCC drivers Jorg and Dirk Muller, Andy Priaulx and Antonio Garcia will be joined by Hans-Joachim Stuck and Pedro Lamy. Only Dirk Muller and Andy Priaulx are newcomers to the FIA GT Championship. Stuck raced in the Championship in its first season, Jorg Muller was a Porsche AG driver in 1998, when Pedro Lamy won the GT2 Championship in a Chrysler Viper GTS that season. Antonio Garcia competed in the Championship in 2001 and 2002, including the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, winning the N-GT category in 2001 in an RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3. "It's great - I am really looking forward to it, after missing the race last year," Garcia said. "I am very pleased to be part of the BMW team for Spa. I have never driven the car, but I hope that I will have plenty of opportunities to test before August."

GET REAL : GTR NEARS COMPLETION
SimBin The racing simulation game based on the FIA GT Championship, GTR, which has been developed by SimBin, is in its final phases of development and will be launching shortly. The game, with an astonishing level of accuracy, has been on display in the Super Racing Club at the circuits during the last two rounds, and the drivers who have tried it have been extremely enthusiastic. "It's very realistic, and very helpful for the drivers," Lister Racing's Paul Knapfield enthused. "I want to buy one !" More information and high resolution screenshots from GTR can be found at www.simbin.com/press. To access the SimBin Press Center quickly you can use the following temporary media login : Username: press; password: press@simbin.com. The official demo of GTR is to be released within the next couple of weeks; those who would like to receive the demo by post should register at the SimBin Press Center as soon as possible.

-fia-

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Fabrizio Gollin , Dirk Müller , Hans-Joachim Stuck , Christian Pescatori , Emmanuel Collard , Pedro Lamy , Jorg Muller , Chris Goodwin , Stéphane Ortelli , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Michael Bartels , Matteo Bobbi , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Walter Lechner Jr. , Val Hillebrand , Andrea Garbagnati , Jamie Derbyshire , Miguel Ramos , Peter Kutemann , Thomas Biagi , Gabriele Gardel , Luca Cappellari , Antoine Gosse , Paul Knapfield , Jens Petersen , Oliver Mathai , Jan-Dirk Lueders , Philipp Peter