Pre-season newsletter 2005-02-25

ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB TOURIST TROPHY CELEBRATES CENTENARY AT BRITISH ROUND OF FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP Long revered as one of motor sports' most prestigious competitions, the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy will be celebrated in its...

ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB TOURIST TROPHY CELEBRATES CENTENARY AT BRITISH ROUND OF FIA GT CHAMPIONSHIP

Long revered as one of motor sports' most prestigious competitions, the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy will be celebrated in its centenary year at the British round of the FIA GT Championship at Silverstone on 15th May 2005.

Confirming the announcement of the historic event, Royal Automobile Club Secretary, George Kennedy said: "The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy was the event that all great racing drivers wanted to win in its heyday. It is therefore tremendously exciting that we are able to bring it back into the motor sports calendar in its centenary year.

"What is especially thrilling is that the Tourist Trophy will be awarded to the winner of the British round of the FIA GT Championship. The true 21st century equivalent of the Tourist Trophy events of the past, the FIA GT Championship is attracting the world's leading manufacturers, teams and drivers. As such, we believe it will provide the perfect setting for the award of the Trophy in its hundredth year. By being part of the FIA GT Championship, we will also able to demonstrate the Royal Automobile Club's continued commitment to the world of modern motor sports."

Stephane Ratel, Chairman of SRO, promoter of the FIA GT Championship endorsed George Kennedy's comments saying: "From its earliest days and right up to the Sixties and Seventies, the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy was regarded as the highest achievement in grand touring competition. We are, therefore, enormously excited that the Royal Automobile Club has chosen our Championship to provide the stage for the celebration of the Trophy's centenary as well as give today's teams and drivers a chance to be part of its history."

The History of the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy was first contested on September 14th 1905 at the hilly and picturesque, 52 mile, Isle of Man circuit. John Napier, in an Arrol-Johnston won in the 6 hour race comprising 4 laps, 208 miles, with an average speed of 33.9 mph.

Whilst there were breaks in the Tourist Trophy being contested in the early 20th century and during both world wars, it remained one of the most coveted competitions in the motor sports calendar. Over the years it moved around the country and, in total, has visited 7 circuits: the Isle of Man, Ards and Dundrod in Northern Ireland, Oulton Park, Donington, Goodwood and Silverstone.

The late '50s and early '60s were probably the most significant in the Trophy's history, with some of motor sports' great names winning, including Stirling Moss seven times, Denny Hulme four times, Graham Hill and Stuart Graham twice, Innes Ireland, Andrea de Adamich and Derek Bell in the fastest ever race.

And most of the world's most desirable sports car marques have competed for the Trophy over the last hundred years including Rolls-Royce, driven and won by the founder, the Hon C S Rolls in 1906, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Ferrari, MG, Sunbeam, Lola and BMW.

From its beginnings in 1905, the Tourist Trophy has always been regarded as a real test of driving skills, with rapid driver changes and pit stops par for the course. The Royal Automobile Club is, therefore, anticipating enormous interest from the FIA GT Championship Teams and Drivers, motor sports fans and general motoring enthusiasts in the revival of the Trophy in its centenary year.

Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy Centenary Details The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy will be awarded to the winner of the British round of the FIA GT Championship at Silverstone on 15th May 2005.

Cars in this year's Championship include Aston Martin's new DBR9, making its UK debut at Silverstone, as well as Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lister, Maserati, Porsche and Saleen cars, all of which will be competing for the unique chance to win the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy.

The FIA GT Championship, established in 1997, is now entering its ninth season. In 2005, it will visit eleven tracks around the world, including Zhuhai in China, the Dubai Autodrome and the Bahrain International Circuit. The season includes the historic Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and will this year make its first visit to Turkey's new Istanbul track. With highly professional private teams and leading sportscar drivers behind the wheel, the cars race in two categories, GT1 and GT2, and makes represented include Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lister, Maserati, Porsche, Saleen and - for the first time at Silverstone - Aston Martin.

Triple FIA GT Championship-winning team Larbre Competition has announced its plans to compete in the 2005 season.

The French team, which won Teams and Driver titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002, will enter two Ferrari 550 Maranello cars in the 2005 season. Their ambition is to put up the strongest possible challenge to the Maserati MC 12 cars, with the fast, reliable and well-proven Prodrive-built 550 and Michelin tyres.

The cars will be led by two of Larbre Competition's victorious team from the 2004 Le Mans Endurance Series. The first car will be driven by Portugal's Pedro Lamy and Gabriele Gardel from Switzerland, while the second car will be led by Steve Zacchia, also from Switzerland.

Lamy previously drove in the FIA GT Championship in 1998, when he claimed the GT2 title with Olivier Beretta and Chrysler Viper Team Oreca. Gabriele Gardel has been a regular in the FIA GT Championship for the last two years. A podium finisher in the N-GT category in 2003 with Freisinger Motorsport, he drove for BMS Scuderia Italia in 2004. He won two races with his team-mate Matteo Bobbi, in Hockenheim and then in Dubai, after a fantastic fight with the Maserati MC 12. Zacchia competed for Force One in the 2003 Championship, in a Chrysler Viper.

"Larbre Competition has been one of the most successful teams in GT Racing in recent years," Stephane Ratel commented. "It is great for the FIA GT Championship to have them back, which will fill the gap left by the absence of BMS Scuderia Italia in this year's Championship."

Gardel, joint second in the 2004 Championship, will be driving for Larbre for the first time : "I am very proud and happy to be able to drive the Ferrari 550 again, and I am very glad that Mr Leconte has given me this opportunity, especially to be alongside a top driver like Pedro Lamy. The Championship looks difficult for this year, but I believe Bobbi and I showed last year that the Maserati is not unbeatable. With Larbre, Pedro, Michelin and the car - I am really excited at the thought of the coming season !"

GLPK Carsport and a Corvette for Hezemans, Kumpen and Longin

A joint venture between Toine Hezemans of Carsport and Paul Kumpen of GLPK will enter a Corvette C5R 2004, the latest version of the car, in the full 2005 season of the FIA GT Championship, under the name GLPK-Carsport. The car will have Siemens as a main sponsor.

As for the drivers, they are familiar faces in the Championship : Mike Hezemans from the Netherlands, son of Toine, will be joined by Anthony Kumpen and Bert Longin, both from Belgium.

Mike has competed in every season of the Championship, and has driven a wide selection of cars over the years, from the Lotus in 1997, through the Bitter GT1, Porsche GT2, Marcos, Lister, Chrysler Viper and finally the Ferrari 575 M last year.

Anthony Kumpen last raced regularly in the Championship in 2003, giving the Chrysler Viper its final pole position at Monza that year. Last season, as well as winning the Belcar Championship with his team-mate Bert Longin, he drove in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, as well as the Graham Nash Saleen at Brno.

Bert Longin has competed regularly in the Championship since 2002. In 2003, he shared a Freisinger Motorsport Porsche with Gabriele Gardel. In 2004, he moved up to the GT class, driving a JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello with a variety of team-mates, although his final results do not do justice to his fine performance.

"The main motivation to race this car is that it is a very reliable, fantastically fast race car," Toine Hezemans commented. "It is probably able to beat the strongest oppostion ever seen in the FIA GT competition. Our other motivation is to try and beat the Maserati. We think that with the latest factory Corvette, we can square things out in 2005." The team is now working to get the car ready for the first race in Monza.

Camathias for Graham Nash Saleen

Joël Camathias will be driving alongside Paolo Ruberti in the Graham Nash Saleen S7 in 2005, it has been announced. The young Swiss driver, who took part in a limited number of races in the 2001 and 2002 seasons with a Porsche 996 GT3, then moved on to race in the USA in Champ Cars. "The team have a very good approach and they have the determination to win," Camathias said. "They are a leading team in this category with a lot of experience in GT racing, so it was pretty much a natural choice. The package the team offer this year is also very strong, with Pirelli involvement and a good co-driver for me. Paolo is a good friend of mine, and I hold him in high esteem. I am really looking forward to this season, especially as I have not raced much in Europe for a couple of seasons. Graham Nash, Paolo and myself will do everything we can to be up at the front !"

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Joel Camathias , Pedro Lamy , Denny Hulme , Matteo Bobbi , Derek Bell , Anthony Kumpen , Stéphane Ratel , Stirling Moss , Olivier Beretta , Gabriele Gardel , Bert Longin , Paolo Ruberti , Steve Zacchia , Graham Hill
Teams Larbre Competition