Zhuhai: Post-race notes

SECOND WIN FOR GLPK CORVETTE C5-R ! LIEB AND ROCKENFELLER SECURE GT2 DRIVERS TITLE An exciting race, in front of packed grandstands, saw the GLPK Carsport Corvette take its second win of the season, ahead of the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 ...


An exciting race, in front of packed grandstands, saw the GLPK Carsport Corvette take its second win of the season, ahead of the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello and the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12. With two races remaining, the leading seven drivers in the GT1 classification are only separated by seven points. Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller led another GruppeM one-two, to claim their fifth win and the GT2 Drivers Championship, while Ebimotors, finishing third, moved up to third in the GT2 teams classification.

"Since the beginning of the season, the car has been really good when the weather is hot, thanks to our very good Pirelli tyres. All the team did a fantastic job this week-end, the car was efficient and consistent and we made no mistake" Mike Hezemans said after his well-deserved victory. "This Championship is long and difficult, with a nice fight. Today it is impossible to say who is going to be the Champion. It is a fantastic finish for this Championship, four different cars are in good position to win" analysed Gabriel Gardel, after a good second position for the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello he shares with Pedro Lamy. Third place went to the Vitaphone Maserati of Bartels and Scheider, strengthening their lead in the Teams classification. With their fifth victory of the season, Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller claimed the FIA GT2 Driver's Championship three rounds before the end. "It is a great pleasure to win again and to win this Championship. It was always close with the other GruppeM Car. We have to thank the team as our car was competitive all season long" Marc Lieb said afterwards. This is Marc's second title win, having already won the N-GT title in 2003. As for Mike Rockenfeller, at just 21, the German is the youngest FIA GT Champion to date.

results remain provisional pending fuel analysis of cars 6, 11, 10 and 66


After a difficult start to the weekend, missing a free practice session, the GLPK Carsport Corvette went from strength to strength. Qualifying fourth, with only 10 kg penalty weight, the car managed to avoid the oil which caught out the Russian Age Aston Martin and the Larbre Ferrari, and kept ahead of a charging Pedro Lamy in the closing stages to take its second win of the season. "Absolutely brilliant !" Bert Longin exulted. "Super! Exceptional! It had all started off so badly for us on Friday, and then we won the race! Entirely unexpected, but fully deserved! We remained fully concentrated and focussed from beginning to end, without panicking even though we lacked some practice. The tyres that Pirelli had provided us with were really good, and once again the whole team put in a brilliant job. At each pit stop we were just simply the fastest. And this wasn't the first time this season either! Don't forget that we are not a 100% professional team. Hats off to the GLPK Carsport team!" The team now hopes to confirm the old saying - never two without three !


Second place for the nr 11 Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello in Zhuhai saw Gabriele Gardel close to within six points of Championship leaders Bertolini and Wendlinger. He is currently lying third, two points behind Vitaphone's duo of Bartels and Scheider. The Ferrari finished only 7 seconds behind eventual race winners Kumpen, Longin and Hezemans in the Corvette C5R after a storming drive in the final hour by Portuguese Pedro Lamy, recovering after an early trip into the gravel due to oil on the track. "Before the start, I knew that our car was really fast," Lamy said. "We had a good car to win that race. But the oil problem was terrible for us! When Christophe Bouchut and I arrived in this corner, we could not do anything and went straight into the gravel. I was lucky because I was able to come back on track before the Safety Car arrived. Michelin and Larbre Competition did a great job. We had a very competitive car."


After three consecutive wins, the Vitaphone Racing Team had a heavy weekend in China. As well as the success ballast they had earned - 90 kg for the nr 9, and the maximum 100 kg for the nr 10 - the GT Bureau increased their minimum weight by an extra 40 kg - on top of 10 kg carried since the start of the season. The nr 15 JMB had the same penalty, with 20 kg less for the nr 16. Nevertheless, the team put in a fine performance, bringing the cars home in third and fourth places. Michael Bartels said "We are very pleased with the result, top spot overall in the Teams' Championship and to have closed the gap in the Drivers' Classification. The three stop plan with a double stint for the Pirelli tyres proved a winning one as they held up very well. The car was perfect and not even the brakes caused us problems. We led for a while and did the best we could". Biagi added : "With 150kg of ballast we tried to have a well balanced car. We had no choice but to make three stops and so did a double stint with the tyres. In taking fourth we have now lost some weight. At Dubai we should be even more competitive". As for the Teams title, it is now guaranteed to go to a Maserati team ...


For its return to the FIA GT Championship, the Belgian Racing Vertigo Streiff won the G2 category in the Zhuhai race despite a fuel pump problem. The nr 105 Vertigo was driven by Vanina Ickx and Bas Leinders. "I haven't driven this car for three years," Vanina said after the Free Practice sessions. "And I forgot everything about it! I have a little visibility problem, but we are going to resolve it. Bas Leinders is a good asset for all the team. He knows what we need to improve. It is a real advantage to work with him. It is another different car for me this season. Some people complain about me driving too many different cars... but I love the challenge, I love discovering new countries and new tracks, I love the diversity!"

In the race, they finished 13th overall. "It was a difficult but interesting race for the team. We learnt a lot. Unfortunately, we had a fuel pump problem. We changed it, but even after that, we had problems. We made some major improvements to this car and now we need a stronger engine to play with the GT2 cars", said Belgian driver Bas Leinders. The Amprex Motorsports Lotus Exige 300RR was close to victory, but the car pitted three laps to the end for a driver change over. "We had a fuel leak problem during the whole race. We planned to do only one pit stop, but in fact we had to stop four times! Anyway we learnt a lot in the FIA GT Championship, it was a good experience for us, we are happy with this week end," Mr Hashimoto, Amprex Motorsport owner, said afterwards.


For the sixth time this season, GruppeM claimed a one-two in the GT2 category, with the nr 66 Porsche of Mike Rockenfeller and Marc Lieb taking their fifth victory of 2005. The 10 points were enough to put them out of reach of their only remaining title rivals, their team-mates Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden, claiming the title with two rounds remaining.

Lieb started from pole, but Tim Sugden took the lead of the GT2 race after a brilliant start. However, he was to come to grief on the same oil leak as Bouchut and Lamy : "Luckily, we were pulled out of the gravel and could fight back. But we definitely lost the lead there." Sugden managed to come back to second position within ten laps.

However, the nr 66 GruppeM Porsche 996 GT3 RSR was then leading the race and never lost its lead, taking the chequered flag. "During the whole weekend, we were quicker than the other car," Rockenfeller explained. "We put in a strong race, we chose to change the tyres during the last pit stop. We had time to do it, so it was ok."


Matthew Marsh and Darryl O'Young finished the Zhuhai race in fourth position, just off the podium, after a strong fight for third with the Ebimotors Porsche. This is the second year in a row that Marsh has finished fourth in the FIA GT Championship.

The only local team taking part in the race, the Noble Group / GruppeM Team were only an hour's ferry journey from their base in Hong Kong, so they had a lot of local support and plenty of media interest. Matthew and Darryl believed they had a good shot at a podium finish and came close to achieving that ambition. Ultimately they had to settle for fourth place but all of their other objectives were achieved.

Free practice was held on Friday October 21st : the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. In recognition of this they carried a sticker showing Admiral Nelson, the script 1805-2005 and the flag signal carried on his ship, the Victory, during the battle: 'engage the enemy more closely'. Advice they obviously took to heart !


Despite retiring after 15 laps, due to damage caused when the car spun off on oil, there is no denying that the nr 17 Aston Martin made a promising start in the FIA GT Championship. Claiming pole position after just one free practice session in the car, Bouchut proved once again that first times are lucky for him. There was a scare for the team when an accident for Fomenko in the second qualiifying session damaged the car, but by Sunday morning, all was well. Bouchut made an excellent start in the race, leading ahead of Lamy in the nr 11 Ferrari, and was pulling out a healthy lead when they were both caught out by an unsignalled patch of oil "There were no flags to warn us of the danger. Therefore, when I became aware of the oil on the corner, it was already too late," Christophe explained. "The two drivers following me, and most notably Pedro, also went off at exactly the same point, just behind me. Luckily, we all avoided hitting each other." Having got out of the gravel trap, Christophe went back to the pits. "A stone got caught under the alternator belt, and broke it. Our race was over. It's a shame, as we could have scored a number of Championship points, but the formidable performance of the Aston Martin means that the final races of this season should be very interesting for us." Christophe is very enthusiastic about the car : "It is very pleasant to drive. Even better than the Ferrari. And when you consider how comfortable the 550 Maranello is, that's really saying something. Quite simply, it is easier to drive," he concluded.


Zhuhai saw the first participation of a the Spyker C8 in the FIA GT Champioship. Driven by Duncan Huisman and Menno Kuus, the car finished 5th in GT2, scoring its first points. Peter van Erp, Technical Director Spyker Squadron, said: "This was a challenging race for us. Not only was it the first time we raced in China but is was also our first FIA GT race of a cycle of three. We received a warm welcome both from the FIA and the Zhuhai race track organisation. This was much appreciated by our entire team. During the race on Sunday we were able to continue the positive upward curve of our achievements as experienced during the 1000km of the Nurburgring, Germany last September where we finished second in our class. We are satisfied with the progress we are making with the car." Ronald van de Laar, Spyker Squadron's Sponsor and Partner Programmes Director, says: "We were very impressed with the popularity that the Spyker brand holds in China. The Chinese are very excited by our cars. Also, there is an enormous commercial potential in this country for our street models. We have always said that China is one of our most important markets and it is already the number two market after the U.S.A." Duncan Huisman and Menno Kuus, the race drivers, agreed: "Spyker Squadron constantly improved the car in the days leading up to the race. Their efforts have paid off as we were able to improve our lap times during the tests and quali- fications. We did not experience any problems or failures during the race. We drove all the required laps and were able to hold a constant race. A fifth place is a very satisfactory result since both of us were driving the track, and in Duncan's case also the car, for the first time. There is still tremendous potential to be developed. "


With sixth place in Zhuhai, despite a total of 150 kg extra weight, JMB Racing drivers Wendlinger and Bertolini scored thre points, to retain the lead in the Drivers Classification, and to place JMB as the only team which can mathematically take the Teams title lead from Vitaphone. Andrea Bertolini explained "Karl and I held on to first in the Drivers' Classification and will do until the very end even though the going will be tough. We have always been consistent and done our best. Our third stop for refuelling meant we lost a place but we will hope to do better in Dubai". The nr 16 car, driven this weekend by Marcello Zani, Christophe Pillon and Luca Pirri, had to retire with transmission problems. With two races remaining, seven drivers are in contention for the GT1 Drivers Championship, separated by just seven points, with 20 points still to be allocated.


With a third consecutive points finish, the GPC Sport Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini finished in fifth place in the ninth round of the FIA GT Championship. But this final result did not do justice to the speed shown by the car, which is undoubtedly much more competitive than earlier in the season, as proved by third place in qualifying for Andrea Piccini. Gian Paolo Coppi, the team owner and president of the G.P.C. Group explained: "We should have been fighting for the podium, but evidently things did not function as they should have done. I am disappointed with the result but the performance of the 575 Maranello during the weekend confirms the validity of the development of Ferrari Clienti and Pirelli. We hope to battle for the victory in Dubai and Bahrain where our second 575 Maranello will double our chances."

Next Race:
Round 10 -- Dubai (United Arab Emirates)
Nov. 16th - 18th 2005


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Emmanuel Collard , Pedro Lamy , Vanina Ickx , Michael Bartels , Jean-Denis Deletraz , Christophe Pillon , Mike Hezemans , Christophe Bouchut , Marc Lieb , Tim Sugden , Andrea Bertolini , Mike Rockenfeller , Duncan Huisman , Darryl O'Young , Bas Leinders , Gabriele Gardel , Bert Longin , Matthew Marsh , Menno Kuus
Teams Larbre Competition