Valencia: Round two preview

For the second LG Super Racing Weekend of the 2004 season, the teams and drivers will head south, to the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain. Although the multi-platform series has visited Spain every year since it started in 2001, this is...

For the second LG Super Racing Weekend of the 2004 season, the teams and drivers will head south, to the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.

Although the multi-platform series has visited Spain every year since it started in 2001, this is the first time it will be going to Valencia. The circuit, 4005 m long, was opened in 1999, and is a modern circuit, which gives excellent viewing conditions to the spectators.

The FIA GT Championship is the only one of the series to have raced there previously; the first round of the 2000 season was held at the circuit, which was then brand-new. That race saw the Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Julian Bailey win the race overall, while Christophe Bouchut and Patrice Goueslard were the first-ever N-GT winners, in a Larbre Competition Porsche 996 GT3-R. The Ferrari 550 Maranello also made its debut during that race; after a difficult first year,the car has gone from strength to strength ever since, winning the Championship last season as well as the first race of 2004, in Monza. The high-powered Italian circuit was witness to a race dominated by the Ferrari cars, with Gollin and Cappellari leading a train of five 550 and 575 cars. The compact Valencia circuit, winding around a relatively small area, could possibly see a different result.

Other races making up the busy timetable include the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup, with two races on the Saturday, and the European Alfa Challenge, which races on Saturday and Sunday with a busy field of Alfa 147 cars.

VALENCIA - ACCORDING TO ANTONIO GARCIA

Twenty-three years old, Antonio Garcia is entering his second season of touring car competition, after a successful single-seater career, including the Karting World Championship and 2000 Open Telefonica by Nissan series, and a brief interlude in the FIA GT Championship, where he won the N-GT class at the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and took four pole positions. For 2004, he has stayed with BMW Team Italy-Spain, alongside Alessandro Zanardi

"I think this a circuit which suits touring cars very well, first of all because there are a lot of points where it is possible to overtake, which will provide a good show. The first two corners will see a lot of fighting and overtaking. Secondly, the characteristics of the track means there should not be big gaps; I expect two action-packed races, with the leading cars closely grouped. As for the cars, both Alfa Romeo and BMW should be equally competitive. The difference in top speed will not be as important as it was in Monza, while acceleration out of the corners should prove decisive. And this will be good for us. It will be interesting to see how the tyres will last over the race distance - although the asphalt here is not very abrasive - and even more how the package car-tyres will endure the hot temperatures. As we have had a very cold winter, nobody had the chance to make a proper test with the new tyres on a hot asphalt. In Valencia it could be very hot, which can really make the difference."

Circuit length : 4005 m
Location : 30m east of Valencia

The first round of the 2004 season saw the Ferrari cars dominate on the rapid Monza circuit, while the Yukos Freisinger Porsche won in N-GT. Valencia will be a total change of pace for the teams, exchanging the high-power straights for challenging corners and a compact circuit. For this round, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari will have 40 kg penalty weight, the nr 1 Ferrari will have 30 kg and the nr 11 G.P.C Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello will carry 20 kg. In N-GT, the nr 50 Porsche will have 20 kg, the nr 62 Ferrari 360 Modena will have 15 kg and the nr 69 Porsche 996 GT3 will have 10 kg.

A number of new cars are expected for Valencia. The Lamborghini Murcielago should make its season debut in the GT category; further details, including names of the drivers, will be announced shortly. In N-GT, a Czech team, Vonka Racing, will be entering a Porsche 996 GT3, driven by Jan Vonka and Miro Konopka. Spanish team DMR will enter a Ferrari 360 Modena, which will be driven by reigning Spanish GT Champion Gines Vivancos and Luis Miguel Reyes, who won the Supercopa SEAT Leon in 2003. This means an expected field of 27 cars, with 20 in GT and 7 in N-GT.

ONE ENGINE PER EVENT

A number of changes to the sporting regulations were ratified during the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council which took place shortly before the Monza round. Among other items, these clarified the new regulations limiting engine changes, as follows :

Only one engine per car and per event will be authorised throughout the season. This engine will be paired with the chassis during the event concerned. Each engine will be sealed by the Techical Delegate during scrutineering during the 1st event in which the competitor is entered (except for the 24-hour event). Breaking the seals must be declared to the FIA Technical Delegate, and will result in the competitor concerned being moved to the back of the starting grid. The order of such competitors will be determined by the Stewards of the meeting in the chronological order of the broken seals having been declared. At the following event, previously sealed engines will not be sealed again. For these engines, the breaking of the seals in the event of an engine failure, subject to being declared beforehand, will not be penalised, and a repair or change of engine will be authorised.

The full technical and sporting regulations can be found at www.fia.com

BMS SCUDERIA ITALIA TAKES AN EARLY LEAD IN 2004

Just like the first race of 2003, BMS Scuderia Italia brought their two Ferrari 550 Maranello cars home in the first two places. However, this time, Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari were victorious, putting them in the lead of the Championship for the very first time. Matteo Bobbi and his new team-mate Gabriele Gardel finished second, after two extra pit stops and a radio problem. "It was a good race and a good result. We are happy with our drivers," team Logistics Manager Marco Streparava commented. "Valencia will be new for the team and most of the drivers, but we are still confident." Bobbi is looking forward to the race. "I know Valencia well, and I lived there for a year when I was racing with Adrian Campos' team. I've also tested for Formula One at the circuit, but I've never driven a GT car there. It's a very technical circuit, easy to learn but difficult to go fast. It might not be the best track for our car - I think the Listers and Saleens will be fast - but I am sure we can do well. Tyres are important, and Michelin have done an unbelieveable job. We will be testing tomorrow in Fiorano, both the tyres and some new parts for the car. The whole team is working very hard."

EXCELLENT START FOR G.P.C. GIESSE SQUADRA CORSE

Lying second in both the GT and N-GT Championships after its first-ever race, new team G.P.C Giesse Squadra Corse finished in third and fourth places with its two Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars, while the team's Ferrari 360 Modena came in second. Altogether a successful debut for the Italian team. "We were all very pleased, especially as the team only received the cars at Monza," Fabio Babini explained. "It was great to finish on the podium for the team's first race, for the team and for Pirelli, who have all worked very hard, especially as I think it was the most difficult circuit for us." The team has not had time to test since then. "Everyone has been busy in the workshop, looking for the best solutions for Valencia and Magny-Cours. I like Valencia, although I have only ever tested there. But it has some fast corners I really enjoy. I think that it will be quite a tough race for the drivers."

RML OPTIMISTIC FOR VALENCIA

Despite a number of punctures, which meant that the two RML Saleen S7-R cars finished the race in 8th and 9th positions, the British team is confident for Valencia. "Despite our problems, our pace was not bad," Tommy Erdos said. "Mike had a really good run, his best so far in the Championship - he has really raised his game. I think the final result did not reflect our true performance." The team tested at Valencia during the winter. "The circuit is tight and twisty, and we hope to do well. But it's a narrow circuit, and we have a big car, with a long wheelbase. We will have to see how it fares. BMS will be hard to beat, but we will be aiming to do better than the other cars. I think things will be much better in Valencia, as the team has had time to organise, and the drivers will be more up to speed."

RETURN TO TWO CARS FOR LISTER RACING

Lister Racing, victorious the last time the FIA GT Championship raced at Valencia, plans to enter two cars for the Spanish round. Paul Knapfield and Patrick Pearce will be sharing the nr 15 car, which is the one that raced at Monza - the plan is for the duo to remain together for the rest of the year. Tom Coronel will be out in the new 2004-spec car; his team-mate is yet to be determined. "We're ready to go with the new car, we are just looking for the right co-driver for Tom," Fiona Pearce explained. "I think Valencia should be very interesting - it's tight and twisty, totally different from Monza, and all the cars should be relatively close together."

GRAHAM NASH MOTORSPORT PLEASED WITH PROGRESS

Graham Nash Motorsport, entering the nr 28 Saleen S7, is the only full-season entrant to have a Spanish driver : Jesus Diez Villarroel, who will be sharing the car, as in Monza, with Italian Paulo Ruberti. Although it finished out of the points after a puncture and a gear-box failure, the team played a starring role during the first qualifying session, Ruberti leading the time sheets for much of the session in the damp and drying conditions. "Although Valencia is not his favourite circuit, Jesus knows the circuit well, and we really hope that he will be able to do something similar in Spain," team manager Gordon Davies explained. Third driver for Valencia will be Italian Gabriele Lancieri, who drove at Spa and Monza with Lister Racing last season.

FREISINGER HOPES TO REPEAT WIN IN VALENCIA

Freisinger Yukos Motorsport are currently leading the N-GT category, despite only one of the three cars run by the team reaching the finish line. Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard put in a faultless performance in Monza, finishing in seventh place overall. The other cars were less lucky, the nr 77 car driven by Russians Alexei Vasiliev and Nikolaj Fomenko, stopping with a broken fuel supply line, while the nr 99 car suffered damage when Lucas Luhr went off the track. "We have made no changes for Valencia; the whole team is looking for another victory."

PROTON HAPPY AFTER FIRST PODIUM

Proton Competition is one of the most faithful competitors in the FIA GT Championship. Racing for many years with a Porsche 911 GT2, the father-and-son team of Gerold and Christian Ried moved over to a Porsche 996 GT3 in Brno last year, and started to compete in the N-GT category. They claimed their first points at the end of the 2003 season, and their first podium in the first round of 2004. Between them, Gerold and Christian have competed in 108 events - a record amount for any line-up in the Championship. "We enjoyed the whole race in Monza," Christian said afterwards. "We also enjoyed the podium ! It was really new for us, but I don't think it will change anything." For Valencia, Gerold and Christian will once more be joined by Maciej Marcinkiewicz, from Poland.

-fia-

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Antonio Garcia , Fabrizio Gollin , Tom Coronel , Emmanuel Collard , Julian Bailey , Stéphane Ortelli , Lucas Luhr , Matteo Bobbi , Patrice Goueslard , Christian Ried , Patrick Pearce , Fabio Babini , Gabriele Gardel , Luca Cappellari , Paul Knapfield , Adrian Campos , Jan Vonka , Luis Miguel Reyes , Miro Konopka
Teams Nissan Motorsport , Proton Competition , Larbre Competition