ETCC: Jarama: Round four preview

LG Super Racing Weekend Round 4 - Jarama (ESP) 31st May - 2nd June 2002 Less than two weeks after the Czech crowds were treated to a weekend of extraordinary racing at the Masaryk circuit, near Brno, the teams and drivers taking part in the LG...

LG Super Racing Weekend
Round 4 - Jarama (ESP)
31st May - 2nd June 2002

Less than two weeks after the Czech crowds were treated to a weekend of extraordinary racing at the Masaryk circuit, near Brno, the teams and drivers taking part in the LG Super Racing Weekend series will move southwards to the Spanish track of Jarama. The FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships will meet up once more with the Formula Renault Eurocup, the Renault Sport Clio Trophy and the Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy, which did not race in the Czech Republic.

Last year, the penultimate round of the Super Racing Weekend series was held in Spain, with some tense on-track battles taking place as the competition for the titles increased. For 2002, the circuit will host the fourth event, with everything still to play for. After three action-packed and exciting weekends, the scene is set for yet another episode in this fascinating season.

The circuit of Jarama is situated 28 miles to the north of Spain's capital city, Madrid. Surrounded by arid countryside, the 3.858 km track meanders over the hillside, creating a tight and twisting layout, which requires a good set-up for the cars. The circuit previously hosted the Spanish Grand Prix, most recently in 1981, and remains a popular venue for winter testing.

This year, Gta Racing Team Nordauto have a commanding lead in the FIA European Touring Car Championship, but the BMW and Volvo teams are closing in. BMW Team Spain, with Spanish driver Jordi Gene, will in particular be looking for a good result on home ground, as will Scuderia Bigazzi's Luis Villamil, who scored his first point of the season in Brno.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION Circuit Length : 3.858 km/ 2.39 miles

On air on Eurosport:
Saturday 1st June 2002 19:00 -- 20:00: Highlights
Sunday 2nd June 2002 15:15 -- 16:15 : FIA European Touring Car

Championship Races -- LIVE 19:00 -- 20:00 : FIA GT Race - highlights
Thursday 6th June 2002

19:00 -- 19:30 : Highlights magazine, repeated on Friday 7th June at 09:30

Other races :
Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup
Renault Sport Clio Trophy
Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy

The Spanish meeting will be the FIA European Touring Car Championship's sixteenth visit to the beautiful track of Jarama since 1968. This season has so far seen the domination of Gta Racing Team Nordauto, with the Italian team winning all six races. Fabrizio Giovanardi won both the Brno races, ahead of BMW Team Deutschland's Dirk Muller and Nordauto's Nicola Larini. He now has a commanding lead in the points, being 20 points clear of his nearest rival and team-mate. Giovanardi has also regained the lead in the Michelin Trophy, with an astonishing fastest lap of 2:12.760 in Race 2, more than a second faster than the second-best lap, set by Volvo's James Hanson. Giovanardi leads Larini, Rickard Rydell and the two Mullers, while James Hanson, with the fourth and second best laps in Brno, jumped in to sixth place.

After winning the 2001 FIA European Super Production Drivers Championship with Peter Kox, Ravaglia Motorsport gained the support of BMW Iberica in order to take part in the 2002 Championship. The team's two BMW 320i cars are driven by Spaniard Jordi Gene and Italian Fabrizio De Simone. Under management from former World and European Touring Car Champion Roberto Ravaglia, the team races under the name of BMW Team Spain. "So far, we have had a tough time in the Championship," Gene explained. "We arrived at Magny Cours somewhat unprepared due to the late delivery of our cars. Silverstone was even worse, as I was involved in Tom Ferrier's accident at the start of Race One. My car was so damaged that I could not take part in Race Two. We finally had a good qualifying session in Brno, and I managed to set a time only six tenths slower than the fastest of the BMW cars, driven by Dirk Muller." The team remained in Brno to test, with 2001 driver Norman Simon joining De Simone and Gene. "He suggested a few changes which have enabled us to improve a bit more. I think we are on the right way to close the gap to the Schnitzer cars. Considering that Jarama, where a good chassis is more important than a powerful engine, should suit the BMW cars very well, I will be aiming for a top ten position in qualifying. This would mean that, with some luck, I might score my first points in the races."

GIOVANARDI'S WINNING STREAK (1st in the Drivers Championship, 56 points)
Like Michael Schumacher in Formula One, Fabrizio Giovanardi has won five out of the six races held so far this year. Will his winning streak continue in Jarama ? "I hope so," Giovanardi replied. "But I am sure it will be more difficult than it has been up to now. The races in Brno proved that the difference between us and the others is fading. Volvo was not able to exploit its potential after the collision between Rydell and myself. As for the BMW cars, they have also improved substantially. Dirk Muller finished both races ahead of Larini, and this is a clear sign that the 320i is not so slow. At the moment, we still have more power, but their chassis is very good. In the end, I am not so sure that I will be able to win again in Jarama."

LARINI : BEWARE OF BMW (2nd in the Drivers Classification, 36 points)
At Brno, for the first time this season, Nicola Larini failed to finish in the top two positions. After three second places and one win, he finished both races in third position, behind Dirk Muller's BMW. "My car had a few problems with the smoothness, and this handicapped me on the uphill parts of the track. I also noticed that the BMW has improved and that the two Schnitzer-built cars of Dirk and Jorg Muller are at ease when cornering. If things go on like that, they will be a serious threat in Jarama, which is more twisty than Brno, and will suit them better." However, it remains evident that so far the Alfa Romeo 156 Gta has proved to be almost unbeatable. "We started the season with a good margin in terms of performance, but we had to concentrate mostly on the reliability of the transmission rather than on the performance. This has helped Volvo and BMW to close the gap. After Jarama we will have three weeks before the next meeting, which should give us time to test something new. But for the moment, I really fear that a BMW could win in Spain."

DIRK MULLER WAITS FOR SOMETHING NEW (3rd in the Drivers Classification, 25 points)
Dirk Muller's two second-place finishes in Brno were the best results for BMW this season so far. "This was a great surprise to me, because after qualifying, I expected to stay behind both Giovanardi and Larini's Alfa Romeo cars, and Rydell's Volvo," Muller explained. "But you know, in races, everything can happen. I had some luck, and found myself second. Despite this, I am not cherishing any hopes. We will not have any technical improvements on our cars so we will not be in a position to threaten Alfa Romeo's supremacy. For the moment, my target is to finish in the points." The young German driver likes the Jarama circuit. "I have good memories from last year's round of the European Le Mans Series, when I claimed pole position, set the fastest lap and won the race in my BMW M3 GTR with Ekblom. But I would like to repeat that I don't have any hopes of winning next weekend. We are putting a lot of pressure on BMW Motorsport, but we do not expect to make a step forward before Anderstorp, when something new will come. Currently, we can do no more than work on our set-up, which we did in the test day after Brno. We did not improve our lap times significantly, but at least we learned something more about the car."

HANSON THINKS RYDELL COULD WIN (6th in the Drivers Classification, 5 points)
The start of the season was very disappointing for British driver James Hanson, with a first lap collision at Magny Cours followed by a mysterious engine problem at Silverstone. "It was a nightmare, and it stopped me getting more familiar with the car. But after Silverstone, the team discovered that the catalytic converter was causing the Silverstone problem, and I was able to do a proper test session." This resulted in two good races at Brno, where Hanson finished in fourth and fifth places, scoring his first points of the season. He also set the second fastest lap in Race Two. "I hope the tough period is now over, and that from now on we will improve. We stayed in Brno to test, so I had time to drive, and also to look at my team-mate's telemetry. This is helping me to learn and to grow more confident." Last year, Hanson claimed his best result in the FIA European Super Production Championship at Jarama, when he finished third. "I like the Spanish track, and I am really looking forward to the next meeting. I think that the Volvo should be competitive, and that Rydell will probably be capable of winning. As for me, I still have to learn to be patient, which is very important with a front-wheel-drive car, but after Brno, I am beginning to hope for a podium finish."

VILLAMIL AT HOME (9th in the Drivers Classification, 1 point)
In Brno, Luis Villamil was classified in sixth place in Race One, scoring his first point of the season. The Scuderia Bigazzi driver, who lives in Madrid, is looking forward to the meeting hosted at his home circuit. "It is always a bit difficult to be the local boy, because everybody -- spectators, sponsors, the press -- will be watching you. And this obviously means a lot of pressure. But I am not worried because I have always done well at Jarama, and I have never made mistakes there. My minimum aim is to be in the points, but I would like to fight for a podium position," the Spaniard said. Last year, Villamil, who won the Spanish Touring Car Championship three times for Alfa Romeo, set the second time in qualifying for the FIA European Super Production race, but was then involved in a collision at the start. "I have not made mistakes at Jarama, but sometimes I have had bad luck, like last year. I think our car proved to be very good at Brno, when we managed to find the right set-up. As I know Jarama very well, I do not think it will be a problem for me to set the car up quickly, which should enable us to be in the top positions from free practice onwards. I'm not asking Lady Luck to be good to me, but just not to be bad --"

RJN Motorsport and Tommy Rustad have had a tough start to the season. The team's Nissan Primera has failed to finish a number of races because of technical problems. However, Rustad is confident the situation will change in Jarama, where he won last year's round of the FIA European Super Production Championship in an RJN-built Primera. "We are really looking forward to the Spanish races, because Jarama is a very technical track and I like it very much. So far we had too many problems mainly due to the fact that we had almost no testing at all before the start of the season and therefore the team was forced to work under pressure. Some of the failures we had were my fault, because I missed gear changes and blew the engine; I have to focus on every gear change to avoid more problems. I am used to a right-hand drive car, and this a left-hand drive, so I have to get used to it. But we saw in Brno that we are heading the right way; the car has potential and the new gear ratios which were homologated at the beginning of the season should suit Jarama very well. I am confident that, if the car is working right, I have a good chance to finish in the top six," the Norwegian driver said.


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Series General
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Norman Simon , Jorg Muller , Peter Kox , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Roberto Ravaglia , Tommy Rustad