Spa test day notes, press conference

THE BEST RACE EVER ? PROXIMUS 24 HOURS OF SPA LAUNCH The highlight of the FIA GT Championship season, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, got underway at the beautiful Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps on Tuesday, with a test day and press...


The highlight of the FIA GT Championship season, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, got underway at the beautiful Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps on Tuesday, with a test day and press conference to launch the 57th running of the event. The sun shone down on the cars, drivers, journalists and guests as they gathered at the circuit to have a preview of what promises to be a vintage year. With Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari, Lister, Maserati and Saleen all battling for the overall victory - without forgetting Porsche, always a contender in the longer races - and a closer Championship than ever, it takes real courage to predict a winner for this year's race. As well as the cars, the drivers deserve a mention, as we have rarely seen such a high and homogenous level in those due to take part. Added to the regular contenders and a number of specialists, the cream of Belgian racing will be coming to the circuit to take part in what is undoubtedly one of the major events on the Belgian sporting calendar.

Even the test day did not answer any of the questions concerning who is likely to be first across the line on Sunday July 31st. The Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello set the best time, with Pedro Lamy lapping half a second faster around the 6.976 km circuit than last year's pole position time, set by Gollin in a Ferrari 550.

But Lamy is due to drive for Aston Martin in the race itself, leaving the car in the extremely capable hands of Championship leader Gardel and Belgian drivers Vincent Vosse and Kurt Mollekens. The GLPK Carsport Corvette was second-fastest, also beating last year's pole. The nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 was third overall, second in the warmer afternoon session. The Aston Martin was fifth, behind the nr 15 JMB Maserati, while the nr 88 Gruppe M Porsche led GT2, Stéphane Ortelli returning to the Championship for the first time this season.


The traditional press conference to launch the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa was held on Tuesday July 12th at 12:15, in front of a room full of members of the press, photographers, team-members and drivers Stephane Ratel, Chairman of SRO, promoter of the FIA GT Championship, was asked to present the FIA GT Champonship as it heads for Spa.

"This is the 5th time that I am here for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa with you, and I think you would agree that every year, it is better and better. This Championship, which you originally knew with the Chrysler Viper and Porsche GT2 cars, first attracted the Ferrari 550 Maranello, then Lamborghini, Maserati. Now with the Corvette and Aston Martin, and the joint regulations between the FIA and the ACO, the Grand Touring category is getting steadily better. This is in part due to the fact that it is using an original concept.

Firstly, we try to balance the performance between the cars. Many people have tried to copy the NASCAR system, trying to adapt a tubular structure which is not suitable for Europe. What we understood from NASCAR, was that the cars are artificially balanced by an extremely technical system. Max Mosely understood this, and along with Peter Wright, who acts as a high-level referee in this matter, we created a system that allows cars such as the Maserati MC 12 or a more traditional car such as a Ferrari, to have very similar performances. If you have followed the first five races of the season, you will have seen that we had four different winners : Ferrari, Maserati, Corvette and Aston Martin at the Tourist Trophy in Silverstone.

The second important factor in the Championship is that manufacturers are not directly involved. They may only come for a limited number of races, such as Aston Martin, to show their product. We have built up a particular product, with extremely professional private teams, who guarantee us a well-balanced grid from year to year. And this is reflected in these Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, which grow better every year. They have allowed us to have the sort of field we could only dream of, and we really do not know who will win. It is very open between Ferrari, Corvette, Maserati and Aston Martin. And then there could be an outsider, such as when the meteorological conditions allowed Porsche to win in 2003. The slight downside is that the many Belgian teams and amateur drivers, who were the backbone of this event, appear to have more hesitations in taking part, meaning that in terms of entries we are likely to have around 40 cars. This will already give us a very fine grid. I would like to congratulate all those who are here, especially the gentlemen drivers who come back year after year and run their own race.

They are really vital for the health of the event. And I would like to thank them for their presence.

We are looking at a really great race, which should have exceptional international coverage, and I wish everyone the results they are hoping for."


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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Pedro Lamy , Vincent Vosse , Stéphane Ortelli , Kurt Mollekens