Proximus 24 Hours Of Spa Final Race Report The FIA GT Championship has had no shortage of excitement this season and, though the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R stroked home a relatively comfortable five-lap victory, having scored...
Proximus 24 Hours Of Spa
Final Race Report
The FIA GT Championship has had no shortage of excitement this season and, though the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R stroked home a relatively comfortable five-lap victory, having scored points at six, 12 and 24 hours, there was high drama during the 24 hours. A fiery accident caused a three-hour safety car period and one of the early season championship leaders was excluded from the final half of the race, although they could score during the first half. 52 cars took the start of the race, watched by a crowd of 64,000 on Saturday alone, with a race weekend attendance of more than 100,000 people.
Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien took the lead of the Drivers classification with a full score of 20 points from the weekend. Sharing with Belgian Vincent Vosse and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais they won the Proximus Spa 24 hours, crossing the line a full five laps ahead of their nearest challenger, the nr 15 Lister Storm. The nr 1 Chrysler Viper GTS-R was leading at the all point-scoring opportunities, taking five points at both six and 12 hours, five points each, with the final 12 hours counting for another set of 10 championship points. Their tally means that they have taken an eight-point lead in the championship for drivers over new third place driver Vosse. Didier Defourny, Carl Rosenblad, Jean-Luc Chereau and Jean-Claude Lagniez finished third in class in the nr 2 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper, delayed by a puncture that hit Rosenblad at the top of the daunting Eau Rouge corner. David Sterckx, Bobby Verdon-Roe, Miguel de Castro and Justin Law finished second overall in their nr 15 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm, the car never having missed a beat.
The N-GT class was won by the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R of Stephane Ortelli, Emmanuel Collard and Romain Dumas, another car that led at the all-important six, 12 and 24 hours. The three drivers brought their car home in third position overall, ahead of their championship rivals Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini, who shared their nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena with Andrea Bertolini and Andrea Garbagnati. Marc Lieb, Bert Longin, Georges Forgeois and Andre Lotterer made it a Freisinger 1-3 as they took the final podium position in their nr 55 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R.
The nr 14 Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer, joined by Andy Wallace and Eric van de Poele, recovered from an earlier accident with the nr 52 JMB Ferrari 360 Modena to run third overall. However, with just under four hours remaining in the race, Campbell-Walter exited La Source hairpin when an input shaft into the gearbox broke, leaving the British driver without any drive. He steered into the pit lane, but it was an illegal entry point and the car was excluded from scoring any points in the second half of the race. The drivers still scored a total of 2.5 points for a fifth and a fourth position at the six and 12-hour marks respectively. The Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Vipers finished fourth and fifth in class. The nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Fabio Babini, Marc Duez and Boris Derichebourg dropped back having been on the same lap as the nr 1 Chrysler Viper after an accident with Babini at the wheel. The nr 11 of Paul Belmondo, Claude-Yves Gosselin and Ryo Fukuda also fell back late in the race, with transmission problems.
The N-GT class was won by a clear five laps by the nr 54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R. The car ran without difficulty throughout the 24 hours to fend off a challenge from the Ferrari 360 Modena that completed a 24-hour race for the first time. The nr 64 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3R of American Vic Rice, Manfred Jurasz and Stephane Daoudi, finished fourth in class, 24 laps down on the class winners, with the Mac Racing and Swiss GT Porsche cars taking the final points.
FINAL RACE QUOTES
Christophe Bouchut - nr 1 Larbre Viper - 1st in GT : "It was a great win for us. We had no real problems; like last year we just had problems with one wheel. I would like to thank the team for the excellent job, giving us this second consecutive win. It is great to win a round of the 24 Hours but it is also a round of the FIA GT Championship, and having won 20 points, we have regained the Championship lead. We still have three races to go, and I am sure we will have a strong fight. The Championship is very strong, with the Listers, the Ferraris and the Vipers. Nothing is clear yet, and I am sure we have to win another race to win the title."
David Terrien - nr 1 Larbre Viper - 1st in GT : "I took the car after Vincent had pitted with a puncture. On the first straight on my first lap out, I felt the rear going out and thought I was losing the rear left tyre. So I had to go back slowly to the pits to avoid damaging the car."
Sebastien Bourdais - nr 1 Larbre Viper - 1st in GT : "That was a lot of fun. I was 2nd in 2001, and a step higher this year. I really enjoyed being here to help the team try to win the FIA GT Championship once more. The other cars had problems, but we didn't."
Vincent Vosse - nr 1 Larbre Viper - 1st in GT : "Carl and I have scored every race this year, but mostly from fourth position. From now on we will try to improve by one place and get at least third. I have been doing this race since 1995 and I have not been lucky in recent years, not finishing on the podium, so this is really good."
Jack Leconte - team manager Larbre Viper : "I am very proud with this second victory in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. The team is like family for me, with drivers like Jean-Luc and Christophe who have been with us for years. When new drivers come to drive for me, I make them perform to challenge for victory. This race is really a bit magic !"
Justin Law - nr 15 Lister Storm - 2nd in GT : "This was my first time in the FIA GT Championship, my first time in a Lister, my first time in a 24 hours race. It was fantastic - what an experience ! The Lister is a great car. It took a little while to adapt, but I did well from the first practice."
Bobby Verdon-Roe - nr 15 Lister Storm - 2nd in GT : "The car has been working well all weekend. I took it easy for the first six hours, as we wanted to get a result. In the morning, I put the hammer down. The car was 'massive' as my team-mate Miguel said. It felt like it was fresh out of the box the whole time. I could real of 2:23 laps easily. Not many predicted that a Lister would finish on the podium. As for my co-drivers, I was pleasantly surprised by their competence."
Miguel de Castro - nr 15 Lister Storm - 2nd in GT : "I enjoyed the race a lot. Last year I drove a Lister in the Spanish GT Championship, but this year I am not competing. It was my first visit to Spa, and my first drive for a while, but this was a great result and the car was fantastic."
David Sterckx nr 15 Lister Storm - 2nd in GT : "This morning, when I came out of the pits with new brake pads, I locked up and spun into the gravel. But Miguel and Bobby did a great job. Three weeks ago I didn't even know I would be driving, and now I'm on the podium. But it's the first time I've driven such a good car."
Laurence Pearce - Lister Team Principal : "The nr 15 ran trouble free. We really didn't do anything to it, except for brake pads and a little oil. It's really unbelievable. We could send it out again for another race. We came here to finish the race. I said it could last 24 hours and it did. Jamie was banging in 2:20 laps this morning. We almost got a 2nd and 3rd - and I am quite happy with that."
Jean-Luc Chereau - nr 2 Larbre Viper - 3rd in GT : "I am very pleased with this result for many reasons. This is the victory of a man and his organisation. All drivers are very lucky to be chosen by Leconte, as his team is excellent. My race was not difficult, as I was not allowed to drive during the night, and I was lucky that the weather was good, and I had no rain. We had a very good team manager in Anders Olofsson, and he gave me good instructions to follow."
Jean-Claude Lagniez - nr 2 Larbre Viper - 3rd in GT : " It was a good race, although we had two problems that could have been serious. Carl had a problem at Eau Rouge after his tyre blew, and then I went backwards into a gravel trap later. We were very lucky to recover."
Carl Rosenblad - - nr 2 Larbre Viper - 3rd in GT : "That puncture at Eau Rouge was a really scary moment. It was one of those places where you think "that's not a good place to go off." I saw the wall on the left and the right, but survived. I was lucky to finish third. Today was a positive result; there are really good people in this Championship, and you can't rely on good luck. I first raced for Larbre in 1998 - I don't think there are many other teams which have managed to get to the finish of so many races."
Didier Defourny - nr 2 Larbre Viper - 3rd in GT : "I haven't driven a Viper since last year, so I was very happy to be with the team for this race. Their way of working is very impressive. I was glad to help to bring points to the Championship. It's always good to finish on the podium !"
Stephane Ortelli - nr 54 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 1st in N-GT: "It was a very interesting way of racing, having two separate targets, the 24 hours win and the target of scoring points mid-race. We had a really good start and put in a good effort to keep the distance from the others. Manfred Freisinger did everything right for this race. I am very proud of the team and of Porsche."
Emmanuel Collard - nr 54 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 1st in N-GT : "We wanted to be the first at 6 hours so we started to push from the start. Then the Ferrari had problems with their car and we had a two-lap lead so our task was easier."
Romain Dumas - - nr 54 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 1st in N-GT: "I am a F3000 driver and it was not easy for me to adapt to this sort of race. I didn't want to make any big mistakes. But the result is good for the team and for Stephane's Championship fight."
Andrea Bertolini - nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 2nd in N-GT : "For me this was the first 24 Hours race. I am very happy as it was a very special race for the team. "
Andrea Garbagnati - nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 2nd in N-GT : "In my first stint, I really suffered, and lost a lap or so to the Freisinger car. But this m orning between 7 and 8:30 it went much better and I am super happy we finished !"
Christian Pescatori - nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 2nd in N-GT : "My only problem in the race was that the seat, which has to fit Andrea Garbagnati and Bertolini is too big for me and Andrea Montermini. But I am very happy that this is the first time this Ferrari has finished a 24 hour race. The whole team has worked hard. The points for second place are very good for me in the Championship.
Andrea Montermini - nr 50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 2nd in N-GT : "I am happy too - this was a tremendous race. Everyone worked very hard and did a great job. Ortelli is now leading the Championship and I think the next races will be fun - everyone will be putting in a tremendous effort to win. The next race is in Italy, so Ortelli should be careful !"
Andre Lotterer - nr 55 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 3rd in N-GT: "For me it was quite exciting. I only knew about this race two days ago. I had no expectations, so I just had fun and enjoyed myself. It was a great experience to drive a Porsche in a team atmosphere, which is not something I have been used to. If I could do it again, I would. It was also my first night race - I had three hours behind the pace car in the night -- I nearly fell asleep !"
Georges Forgeois - nr 55 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 3rd in N-GT : "It was their race - I had a late call to join the team, for whom I had already driven in Sebring. I did a good job to try not to make mistakes, and to bring the car home."
Marc Lieb - nr 55 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 3rd in N-GT : "It was fantastic - this was my first 24 hours race. The team worked perfectly together. It was perfect - a lot of fun." Marc also won a race this weekend at the Nürburgring, in the Porsche Carrera Cup, making two podiums in one day !
Bert Longin - nr 55 Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-R - 3rd in N-GT : "That was really a good result for the Freisinger team, with third and first and good points at the 6 and 12 hour points. I am so happy. It has been a very good experience to work with the factory Porsche drivers."
Paul Belmondo - nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing Viper - 5th in GT : "The team has worked very well, and the points we have accumulated are very good. We could have finished on the podium, except for a transmission failure in the final hour. We were very pleased with Ryo Fukuda. He listened to us, took his time, had an easy stint to start with and then started going very quickly. I am sure he has a big future ahead of him."
Stephane Daoudi - nr 64 Cirtek Motorsport - 4th in N-GT : "It has been an unexpected pleasure to finish 7th overall and 4th in N-GT. I had expected to drive with Freisinger, but he placed me with Cirtek and I really enjoyed working with the team. Everyone was working well. I am glad to have scored some more points, and now I really hope to get my first podium finish soon."
Antonio Garcia - nr 77 RWS Motorsport - 8th in N-GT : "It was so bad -- the first hour was incredibly, with two suspension failures. I didn't realise this sort of thing could happen. Then we had other problems - twice or three times I had no power steering, which is really hard work round this track. Then there was a puncture, the clutch broke and a lot of things - we raced 19 hours instead of 24, the rest was in the pits. Now I realise how endurance racing works, that you can not have a good result but you still have a certain element of success just by getting to the finish line. It is still a real success for the team, who have worked so hard."