The FIA GT Championship makes its debut at the Pergusa circuit, near the town of Enna in central Sicily, this weekend. The track has a long history of hosting international motorsport, including seven rounds of the FIA European Touring Car ...
The FIA GT Championship makes its debut at the Pergusa circuit, near the town of Enna in central Sicily, this weekend. The track has a long history of hosting international motorsport, including seven rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship between 1977 and 1984, and until recently rounds of the FIA Formula 3000 Championship. The circuit was originally more of an oval, but the long sweeps were broken up by chicanes that feature severe kerbs which have to be attacked by the drivers to gain fast times. The teams spent much of the free-practice session preparing their cars for the rigours of the 4.950km track.
Sunny and hot.
DRIVING LINE-UPS CHANGE
A number of changes have been introduced for the eighth round of the FIA GT Championship. Boris Derichebourg returns to the series with the Paul Belmondo Racing team as a last-minute replacement for Claude-Yves Gosselin. The Frenchman will drive the nr 11 Chrysler Viper GTS-R with team boss Paul Belmondo.
Miguel de Castro, podium finisher at the Spa 24-hours last month with the Lister Storm team, replaces Paul Knapfield alongside Bobby Verdon-Roe in the nr 15 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm. Jean-Marc Gounon is another to return to the championship for the first time since Silverstone, this time in the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello. Reiter Engineering are back with the Lamborghini Diablo that Oliver Gavin and Peter Kox drove to fifth place at the final round of the 2001 season in Estoril. Gavin shares this time with Emmanuel Clerico.
In the N-GT category, the JMB Racing driving line-ups have changed to give Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini maximum chance of catching championship leader Stephane Ortelli. The Ferrari duo have shared a car all year, but have now been split, with Pescatori staying in the nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, now sharing with Andrea Bertolini, while Montermini changes to the nr 51 Ferrari 360 Modena with Iradj Alexander. Pietro Gianni and Andrea Garbagnati share the nr 52 JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena, while Batti Pregliasco joins Peter Kuteman in the nr 53 JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena.
Marc Lieb once again joins Stephane Ortelli in the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R, while Cyrille Sauvage is racing alongside Stephane Daoudi in the nr 55 Porsche 996 GT3-R. Michele and Francesco Merendino drive the nr 60 JvG Porsche this weekend, Adam Jones and Moreno Soli are sharing the nr 62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche. Raffaele Sangiuolo returned to MAC Racing in the nr 66 Porsche 996 GT3-R, with Thomas Pichler. A new car has joined the FIA GT Championship, Mastercar entering a Ferrari 360 Modena, nr 84 for Sicilians Santi de Filippis, Carlo Commis and Salvatore Riola.
FIRST RUN FOR DART
Today's free practice session saw the DART team run its Ferrari 550 Maranello in the championship for the first time. Dieter Quester and Luca Riccitelli, who started the season with the Porsche 996 GT run by the Austrian RWS team, will drive the Ferrari for the final three rounds of the season at Pergusa, Donington and Estoril. The car ran strongly in the first session, but was then delayed with a leaking fuel tank. During the second session a suspension failure brought a halt to testing. The team believes there is plenty more to come from the car, having set eighth fastest time in the morning and 9th fastest in the afternoon.
The nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien again carries 100kg ballast. The car was spared the weight at the Spa 24-hours last month, a race that it won comfortably, so it maintains its maximum weight. The nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz carries 60kg, having lost 40kg owing to its retirement in the first quarter of the Spa 24 hours. The nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper of Fabio Babini and Marc Duez carries 45kg of ballast, followed by the nr 15 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm of Bobby Verdon-Roe and Miguel de Castro.
The nr 32 DART Ferrari 550 Maranello of Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester carries 60kg of ballast owing to it starting during the season, with just three races to go.
In N-GT, the nr 50 and nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Christian Pescatori, and Andrea Montermini, and the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R carry the maximum 50kg ballast. Though Montermini and Pescatori have split into different cars, they each take the weight earned this season with them. The nr 55 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Stephane Daoudi and Cyrille Sauvage will carry 22.5kg this weekend.
FIRST FREE PRACTICE
The high kerbs suited the Chrysler Vipers immediately, the two Carsport Holland Chrysler Vipers, led by Mike Hezemans in the nr 3, set first and third fastest times in the first session. The Paul Belmondo Racing team set second and fourth quickest times, Boris Derichebourg heading the yellow cars in the nr 11 Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Marc Duez fourth fastest.
The nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello was fifth fastest, Andrea Piccini setting the time in the car that he shares with Jean-Denis Deletraz, while Emmanuel Clerico was an amazing sixth fastest in the nr 31 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Diablo GT.
Eighth fastest was the DART Ferrari, despite its weight handicap and a leaking fuel tank. The Lister Storm team spent the morning setting up their Lister Storm Racing Lister Storms for the kerbs around the Pergusa circuit, Bobby Verdon-Roe setting ninth fastest time with Jamie Campbell-Walter tenth in the nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm. The nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R of David Terrien and Christophe Bouchut, which is leading the GT points, was unable to take part in the session due to a suspected electrical problem that caused a misfire. The car did not set a time.
In the N-GT category, Toto Wolff and Philipp Peter set the pace in their nr 58 Autorlando Porsche 996 GT3-R, ahead of the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche of Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb. The JMB team was struggling to make the Ferrari 360 Modenas work around the Italian track, Montermini and Bertolini setting fourth fastest time, nearly a second off the leaders, Pescatori and Alexander sixth, while the two JMB Competition cars were tenth and 11th in class. Antonio Garcia was fifth in the nr 76 RWS Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R that he shares with Horst Felbermayr Jnr for the second race this season.
FREE PRACTICE TWO
Three Chrysler Vipers again headed the time sheets during the second free practice session, Mike Hezemans setting fastest time in the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. He narrowly shaded the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Fabio Babini and Marc Duez by a tenth of a second. Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari were third fastest in the nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R.
The nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer improved to fourth fastest, the top four covered by just over three tenths of a second. Oliver Gavin was sixth fastest in the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini.
Christian Pescatori and Andrea Bertolini headed the N-GT time sheets in the nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, just over half a second faster than the nr 54 Freisinter Porsche of Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb. Montermini and Alexander were third fastest in the nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena. The nr 66 MAC Racing Porsche 996 GT3-R of Raffaele Sanguiolo and Thomas Pichler was fourth fastest, a fantastic result for the little team, while Adam Jones set fifth fastest time in the nr 62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R.
NOTES AND QUOTES
David Terrien, nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "We led the championship after Anderstorp when we were level on points with the Lister team. It is good to be leading the again, and I think that the Viper has a good level of competitiveness at this circuit if you look at Carsport and Belmondo but our target is just to get to the end of the race. We have 100kg which is very hard on the tyres and the brakes, particularly here, so we will just try to drive safely and hopefully get on the podium. If we score points at each race, it puts the pressure on our competitors, and our only hope is that they will take points off each other."
Fabrizio Gollin, nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R: "We worked on the set-up of the car today, to make the car better over the kerbs. We don't want the car to take off, but to ride the kerbs nicely. There is one set-up that you can do that, but we have to find it first! For me it is an important race for me because it is in my home country. When I was racing in the European Boxer championship in 1993, I won my first international race here. It was my first win in a Formula car, and my first win at this track. Qualifying is not so important here, but finishing the race is. A lot of cars will have problems with tyres. There will be a lot of punctures. It is very important to finish the race without an extra pit stop. I have high hopes for tomorrow and for Sunday, too!"
Jean-Marc Gounon, nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello: "The first thing that I would say is thank you to Enzo Calderari and the BMS Scuderia Italia team because they have given me the opportunity to drive a fantastic car in the FIA GT. I was in my element, like a fish in the water. It is not only the car that is good, but it is the team's attitude. They gave me the opportunity to set up the car with new dampers, and it is working very well. I love the circuit. I have a bad memory of this circuit, in 1991 I won the race on the track, but I was disqualified for jumping the start. It is a good track, it is like Paul Ricard. Everything is good with this car, the brakes the steering, it is just like a proper racing car!"
Luca Riccitelli, nr 32 Dart Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello: "This morning we lost an hour because the fuel tank was leaking. Now the rear suspension has broken. We are fast enough, and we can improve so I am comfortable, as long as we can run!"
Christian Pescatori, nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena: "We have a little tyre problem, but it is nothing really. We are now trying a new aerodynamic set-up and the car is very good. It depends on the tyres, brakes and so on. The circuit is very dirty, the asphalt is very slippery. At one chicane there is no grip, at another there is a lot of grip. I think that there are different sorts of asphalt. It was a team decision to split us up. The team wanted two fast cars as we are both in second position at the moment. It is normal to split the drivers up to have the maximum opportunity to score points. All the decisions are up to the team, it has nothing to do with me!"
Iradj Alexander, nr 51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena: "For me it is great, it is good recognition of my work this season. Working together with Andrea Montermini, you know what you are working for. When I was driving with Peter [Kuteman] it was great but you are not as competitive in terms of race results. The team obviously liked the work that I did. I have to say that each time I got into the car, I drove as fast as I possibly could. The important thing for me is not to be the fastest, but to get a good race result. I have a lot of responsibility here, but there is no pressure, no stress. I hope that I can do my best for Andrea. Driving a Ferrari in Italy is great. It is the place where Ferrari was born. There is more passion for Ferrari here, so I think there will be a big crowd on Sunday."
Cyrille Sauvage, nr 55 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R: "My last races were Jarama and the Spa 24 hours. I drove here in F3000, twice. You could ride the exit kerbs, but not the entry or the apex of the corners in those cars. The Porsche has much more weight, less powerful, and rolls more, so it is a completely different style of driving. Freisinger asked me to come back to share with Daoudi and if I do a good job, there is a possibility that I will share the car with Stephane Ortelli in Donington. We didn't change the tyres all day. At the end it was oversteering badly, but we saw how far we could go with the tyres. One method round here is to be safe, the other is to be aggressive. I have been following some Ferrari 360s and it is amazing how they can ride the kerbs, so it will be interesting to see how they do on Sunday. We are sure the Porsche is stronger than the Ferrari, but I think it is too much of a risk to take that much kerb. If we are in Super Pole, forget the kerbs!"
Antonio Garcia, nr 76 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R: "The driveshaft broke during the second session, and so I only did four laps. I have never been here to Enna before and I am a little confused about the track. I don't know what to do. Sometimes I think about doing a chicane flat, but if something goes wrong, there will be a very big crash. If you take off, you are flying for a second, and then if you land wrong, you are in big trouble. We have to decide tomorrow to do one lap like this to get in Super Pole. I think getting to Super Pole is quite easy. With one lap, I was sixth quickest, so hopefully tomorrow we should get in. I hope."