ETCC: Pergusa: Round three preview

For the third round of the 2003 season, the LG Super Racing Weekend series is heading to its southernmost point, the Italian track of Pergusa, on the island of Sicily. The multi-series platform first visited the track last September, when an ...

For the third round of the 2003 season, the LG Super Racing Weekend series is heading to its southernmost point, the Italian track of Pergusa, on the island of Sicily.

The multi-series platform first visited the track last September, when an excellent weekend of racing saw wins for the Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer and the Freisinger Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Ortelli and Lieb in the FIA GT Championship, while both rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship were won by Fabrizio Giovanardi, then driving an Alfa Romeo 156 Gta.

The spectators flocked to the 4.95 km circuit, set in the natural basin formed by an extinct volcano, and the excellent weather provided a perfect backdrop for the sport. This year, Giovanardi has moved to BMW, but is determined to maintain his excellent record at the circuit.

Although the Renault Sport Clio Trophy and Renault Sport Elf Clio International Cup will be present in Italy as the support races, the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup has opted to cancel the Pergusa round, in order to continue the development of the new cars.


Fabrizio Giovanardi, reigning FIA European Touring Car Champion, has won a Touring Car Championship every year since 1997. After eight years with Alfa Romeo, he has moved to BMW this season, driving for Team BMW Italy-Spain, run by touring car legend Roberto Ravaglia.

"Pergusa is not a technical track, and driving skill doesn't make the difference here. The four chicanes are the crucial places, as they are limited by piles of tyres, and a little mistake in the driving line can result in massive damage to the car. For this reason, drivers are normally scared by them. It is like driving in a rally, when you rarely give 100 per cent, in order not to risk destroying your car.

The way you negotiate the chicanes makes all the difference, which could have a huge effect on the lap times.

The chicanes may also affect the car's reliability. Jumping over the kerbs throughout the race may damage the dampers and springs and also spoil the suspension geometry. We have to make a crucial set-up choice, as you cannot have a car which is good in both cornering and the kerbs. Here we normally go for a softer set-up, in order to absorb the shocks.

As for overtaking, Pergusa is not a difficult track. The usual overtaking points are the first and the last chicanes, where you brake very hard. In particular, your hopes of overtaking at the last chicane are very much influenced by the way you negotiate the previous Schumacher chicane. Doing it the right or the wrong way, may result in a difference of 20 and more kph in your speed when you arrive at the next braking point."

ETCC Notes:

BMW and Jörg Müller dominated the second meeting of the FIA European Touring Car Championship, winning both races ahead of Alfa Romeo's Nicola Larini, with Andy Priaulx and Duncan Huisman taking excellent third-place finishes. BMW leads the Manufacturers' points table by 19 points after the first four races, whilst Jörg Müller is 12 points ahead of Nicola Larini in the Drivers Classification. For the third meeting, both Jörg Müller and Larini will carry 40 kg penalty weight, while Gabriele Tarquini, third in the points, and Duncan Huisman, both carry 10 kg.

BMW had a great day in Magny-Cours, when Jörg Müller won both races and took the Championship lead. The German Manufacturer now has a tough assignment : to challenge Alfa Romeo at the Pergusa track. Last year Jörg Müller emerged as the best BMW driver in Sicily: "I like the track and the ETCC cars are fun to drive over the kerbs. I have 40 kg of ballast, but I won in Magny-Cours with 20, which did not affect my performance much. However, I'm rather concerned about tyre consumption." Reigning FIA ETCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi, who claimed ten wins in a row at Pergusa for Alfa Romeo since 1997, is now racing for BMW Team Italy-Spain. "I don't know how the BMW will behave in Pergusa. But I'm optimistic that I can also win at Pergusa in a BMW."

Having saved Alfa Romeo's honour in Magny-Cours, Nicola Larini and his Autodelta team-mates Gabriele Tarquini and Roberto Colciago are looking forward to Pergusa. "Technically speaking, the track should be in our favour," says Tarquini, "However we should not forget that Pergusa is also Giovanardi's favourite track." Tarquini has lost 30 of the 40 kg of ballast he carried in Magny-Cours. "Yes, and this is good news, because with the maximum handicap our car is really at the limit with the brakes. My problem is that I haven't raced in Pergusa since 1993 and I don't know the Schumacher chicane." Tarquini is currently third the in the Championship, one point behind Larini. "Despite the ballast I will be aiming for a double win," Nicola admits. "I have to make up for the disappointment of Magny-Cours. Pergusa has to be our track. If it won't be me, because of the ballast, then it should be Gabriele or Roberto."

The SEAT Sport personnel were delighted when Jordi Gené drove his Toledo Cupra to the sixth final position in Magny-Cours' Race 2, scoring the Spanish Manufacturer's first points in the FIA European Touring Car Championship. "It was a great surprise for all of us," the Catalan driver said. "As a matter of fact a fifth or a sixth place was exactly our goal for this first year in the Championship and we did not expect to reach it so early." SEAT now faces another tough challenge: to race in Pergusa. "We are heading there without great ambitions," Gené admits, "This is probably the worst circuit for us in the whole Championship. We are considering Pergusa more as a racing test, which will enable us to check a few changes and to get more experience in running the car and setting it up."

ART Engineering had a difficult start to their first FIA European Touring Car Championship season, with both the Italian team's Volvo S60 cars being hit by bad luck in the two meetings held so far. The Swedish driver, one of the fastest men in the Championship, had a very disappointing weekend in Magny-Cours, when he retired due to incidents in both races. "It seems my car is the favourite target this first season," he commented. "I'm disappointed, because the team is working hard to develop the car, but all our efforts are useless if I can't race because I'm being pushed off the track all the time !" Last year, Volvo had its worst weekend of the season in Pergusa. "And I think it will be the worst this year as well," Rickard continued. "However, we'll have new engines, not a big step forward but a small improvement, and we'll try something new in the aerodynamics, which should help us to do better than last year." Rydell's team-mate, Sandro Sardelli, has not been much luckier. But, in the past, Sardelli has been very competitive at Pergusa, where he won the 2002 24 Hours of Sicily at the wheel of the BMW M3 he shared with another ETCC driver, Eric Cayrolle; due to this, he could manage a good result in the Independents' trophy.

Carly Motor's Duncan Huisman and Tom Coronel dominated the field of the Independent drivers in Magny-Cours. However, in Pergusa, the two Dutchmen will face strong opposition from a group of young Italians in Alfa Romeo cars. Paolo Ruberti and Fabio Francia have proved to be very competitive in their Clever Cats R&M Team 156 Gta cars. In Magny-Cours, Ruberti finished eighth in the first race, claiming his and the team's first Championship point. His team-mate Francia has also performed very well so far, in his first FIA ETCC season and completed all the first four rounds close to the point positions. Alessandro Balzan is racing in his first ETCC season for Scuderia Bigazzi. After an excellent debut in Barcelona, where he was classified 10th and 12th, Balzan was hit by bad luck in Magny-Cours, when an engine problem prevented him from finishing the first and starting the second race.


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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Nicolaus Springer , Eric Cayrolle , Duncan Huisman , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Roberto Colciago , Roberto Ravaglia