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FIA GT Championship Brno 2001

14th - 16th April 2001

Event report

Saturday - 14th April

After several months FIA GT Championship again returned to Automotodrom Brno circuit. While first ever race at Brno last year was held lale in autumn, now the circuit hosted the second round of this growing championship. While last year we could see here only 24 cars, this time from 36 cars listed on provisional entry thirty three really arrived. It was the biggest sportscar field seen in Czech Republic since time of historic Supersports Cup made its appearence here some five years ago.

Among the missing three cars there was a new entrant from Poland called Alda Motorsport. Their Porsche 911 GT2 was crashed during test prior to this race. So only two GT2 Porsches arrived to Brno. Most significant Porsche GT2 entrant in the past Freisinger Motorsport switched n-GT class, so the only competitive Porsche in the top class of FIA GT Championship is team Orlando's 911 GT2 driven usually by Sabatini and Spinelli. The other Porsche of Proton Competition is nice but poorly driven so can be found only at bottom of any results including N-GT class. This smaller class was presented at Brno by sixteen cars. Most of them were Porsche 996 GT3-R or RS with one exception. This was the JMB Competition Ferrari 360 Modena that brings a fresh wind into this class.

Let's return to the top GT class. Except mentioned Porsches there were off course both Listers, the only true factory cars in the field, three Ferraris 550 Maranello including two very competitive examples of Gabriele Rafanelli's team which returned to Brno after six years since their debut here with Riley & Scott BMW factory supported team. The rest of the class is formed by ten Chryler Vipers GTS-R headed by three cars of Paul Belmondo's team, two added by Carsport team from Holland and a single but probably most quick car from Larbre Competition.

1st free practice session (11:00-12:30)

Very cold weather and even snowing - it was the picture of the first practice session. Depsite such conditions leading cars set similar times like last year. Both Listers were on the top ahead of two Belmondo Racing Vipers and Larbre Competition car. The sixth was best Ferrari 550 Maranello followed by five other Chryslers. Best of N-GT cars was RWS Motorsport entry with new GT3-RS Porsche followed by Porsches of Larbre Competition and EMKA Racing. The only non-Porsche of the class (JMB-Ferrari) was fifth. This car #62 is internal chassis number 002. Their chassis number 000 should stay in at home because wasn't still repaired following Lambertini's Monza accident. The team reported that also chassis 001 and 003 exist with 004 is currently being built. But who knows where they are...?

2nd free practice session (15:00-16:30)

The second sessions was held under similar conditions as the first one, temperatures still around 0°C. But cars were even quicker. For the first time a GT car run under two minutes at Brno. The first driver braking this limit was Julian Bailey in #2 Lister (1:59.460). He was followed by Christophe Bouchut in #7 Larbre Viper (1:59.543). Among top ten were both Listers, both Rafanelli Ferraris and six top class Vipers. All these cars with realistic hope for win. It is a good prospect for Monday Easter 500 kilometers race.

In N-GT class nothing changed in first two positions but third was still improving JMB Ferrari. The team fixed some problems with oversteering and changing gears from the morning session.

Sunday - 15th April

1st qualifying (11:00-11:45)

Although it was snowing again and several cars spun in the first lap, lap times were again improved and altogether four cars ran under two minutes. Provisional pole took Lister #2 with Springer/Bailey followed by their team-mates Campbell-Walter/Dean. The third was best Viper of Bouchut and Belloc. Last car running under two minutes was best Belmondo entry driven by Vosse/Derichebourg. Ferraris 550 of team Rafanelli were not so good and stayed 8th and 9th ahead of some slower Vipers. One of Carsport Holland Vipers (#4) was found to be underweight and all its times were disallowed.

Surprinsingly N-GT class was dominated by JMB Ferrari driven by SRWC champions Terrien/Perscatori in new N-GT lap record. Riccitelli/Quester (RWS) and von Gartzen/Eichmann were now moved one place back to 2nd and 3rd positions. Better car of local Czech team Coca Cola Racing driven by Enge/Venc/Malcharek was also running well and finished sixth.

2nd qualifying (16:00-16:45)

This session was started by so called Super Pole. This is done that top six cars in each class run alone one flying lap. According to the time in this single lap the first twelve places on grid are made. This idea which is made probably for TV coverage didn't work much good at Brno. While during the first qualifying session the track was still full of cars, this one was rather boring especially in very cold and raining weather. However if we didn't pay attention to spectators, the main problem was that during this session the track was more and more wet so 6th in N-GT class made better time than all in top five and similar situation was among GTs.

So Ferrari Modena lost their provisional pole because ran last and only thanks to no time of second Larbre Porsche finished not last in class but 5th in class and 10th overall sandwiched by two Listers. They off course lost their first row as they run under quite different condition than the slower cars from the first session. So the hard work from one session was quite lost because of weather... It is for the second time Lister lost pole because of this experiment.

From the first row will start Clerico and Kumpen in Belmondo Viper (originally 5th) and Larbre car driven by Bouchut/Belloc (originally 3rd). In the second row we will see next to another Belmondo car of Derichebough/Vosse the first GT3 Porsche. Czech fans may be delighted that this is one of cars of the local Coca Cola Racing team. Formula 3000 regular Tomas Enge arrived from F3000 race and drove such car for the first time but having good luck and using advantage of strange regulation, he managed to place slower car on the fourth place on grid. Hopefully there will be no accidents tomorrow when much quicker cars from behind would try to get to front as quick as possible. Also the front of the field will be probably not so close as it would be if all GT cars started ahead N-GT cars.

After last car for Super Pole finished all other car took opportunity to improve their times in the second 15 minutes long session. But only car that was able to improve on wet was Carsport Holland Viper number 4, which times from the first session were disallowed. Even if Bleekemolens were quickest on wet they should start from 31st position tomorrow.

Monday - 16th April

Warm Up (9:30-9:45)

Easter Monday morning was a little less cold than yesterday, so snowing was replaced by raining and on wet track achieved times were about 25 worse than in qualifying. Best two time were set by Belmondo Racing Vipers, which were followed by same cars of Larbre Competition and GLPK Racing from Belgium. Lister number 1 was sixth ahead of two Rafanelli's Ferraris and Orlando Porsche GT2. Best in N-GT class was little surprisingly car number 53 from team ART driven by Radaelli and Bertolini.

The Race (11:40-14:40)

The race was scheduled for 500 kilometers of 3 hours. It was quite definite that no car can run full distance. Average time for one lap should be 1:56 to run all 93 scheduled in less than three hours. Wet track slowed times even more.

All 33 present cars were ready to take the start but some problems caused Lister Storm number 2 to return to pits and started from pit lane behind all field. Good start had Viper #12 driven by Vosse who starting from second row took second position ahead of his team-mate´Anthony Kumpen in #11. Excellent start had Hezemans in Viper #3 and Duez in Ferrari #6. They started from 13th and 15th positions respectively but at the end of the first lap were third and fourth behinf the two Belmondo cars. Hezemans drove very well taking second place in the next lap and leading since the third lap.

Slower Czech car was off track in the second lap but later returned to the race. The first car into the pit was Wieth Racing Ferrari and went straight to the garage with broken fan belt. After several laps it returned to the race but in its 10th lap was in pits again with broken gearbox. In lap 44 of the race with changed gearbox Niko Wieth was on the track with Ferrari again but after another eleven laps the car disappeared from the race quite.

Lister #1 driven by Campbell-Walter improved and took the second position since lap six trying to catch leading Hezemans. Belmondo cars followed. Rafanelli Ferraris were in good fifth and sixth just ahead of Larbre Competition Viper driven by Bouchut. Situation was similar until lap 12 when early leader Kumpen in Viper #11 had to go to the pit for stop and go penalty for changing tyres after 5 minute board was shown. For the same reason was penalized also car number 57 - one of Freisinger GT3 Porsches. It is worth to note that all three Freisinger cars weren't much succesfull running nearly all race at the back of the field. One of these cars (#59 with Russian drivers) later retired after collision with JMB Ferrari. More was expected from this top class team.

Before the first series of pitstops Hezemans was still in the lead. Second Lister was a little shorting the gap but in 27th lap went off the track and lost much time even if rejoining the race in second. Vosse in best Belmondo Viper kept the third place while improving Larbre Viper with Bouchut at the wheel overtook both Ferraris Maranello. The same did later also the second Lister driven from the pits by Julian Bailey. During pitstops Lister #1 and Larbre Viper #7 were leading for a while but Carsport Holland Viper #3 now driven by Bleekemolen returned to the lead again.

In N-GT Tomas Enge was running very well on wet track leading the class since the start but after driver change to local driver Malcharek, the car became much slower and lost great gained position. After Enge returned to the car, he had no chance to finish better than seventh - one place behind points. After Czech car was loosing its position new N-GT leader became Riccitelli in RWS Motorsport car #77 ahead of JMB Ferrari #62. Both cars were running well and made only one pitstop. Thus other well driven cars in the class like both Larbre Porsches, Orlando Porsche #69 driven by Chiesa and Cecotto or even Perspective Racing car driven by veteran Thierry Perrier had no real chance for class victory.

After the first half of the race in lap 40 positions were as follows: Leading #3 Carsport Viper, second and third Belmondo Vipers #12 and #11 ahead of Larbre Viper #7, Lister #1 and Ferrari #5. In lap 48 Clérico in #11 overtook Derichebourg in #12. A lap before Lister #1 driven by Dean improved to fourth but spun two laps later returning to fifth position again. Clérico in #11 was running notably quicker then leading Bleekemolen in #3 but in 60th lap retired. At this part of the race the quickest man on the track was Marc Duez in Ferrari #6 running ninth overall.

Then followed second series of pitstops. In lap 61 leading Bleekemolen in Viper #3 went to the pits. Tyres were changed to intermediates and Hezemans sat at the wheel. When in lap 67 Larbre Viper made its pitstop and changed tyres to slicks, Belloc returned as a leader ahead of Hezemans and Vosse in Belmondo car #12, who has pitted to laps before and chnaged to slicks too. Best Lister #1 driven by Campbell-Walter ran fourth and was on intermediate tyres like #3 too. Both these cars were called to the pits in 70th lap for slicks but as the finish was very near they couldn't battle for the win anymore even if Campbell-Walter was now running one fastest lap after the other.

After three-hour limit when leading Chrysler Viper #7 completed 77 laps from 93 scheduled the race was ended. So the winners were Bouchut/Belloc in Larbre entry who won FIA GT race in overall classification for the first time. Vosse and Derichebourg in Belmondo entered Chrysler were next 18 seconds behind the winners. Hezemans and Bleekemolen in third made the first season finish for Team Carsport Holland. The fourth in still in the lead lap were Campbell-Walter and Dean in Lister #1. Two Rafanelli Ferrari #5 and #6 followed on positions same as their race numbers.

Very exciting was the battle for N-GT win. As it was said before, two cars - RWS Porsche #77 and JMB Ferrari #62 were after only one pitstop far ahead of the rest of class competitors at the end of the race Pescatori in the black Ferrari ran very well shorting the gap behind Quester in #77 every lap. With five laps to go Pescatori was only 9.109 seconds behind Quester and it looked that Ferrari would make their first championship class victory. But in the last lap there was not enough time for overtaking so Quester finally won by only 0.245 seconds over Ferrari after three hours of racing. Not having a collision with Russion Freisinger car earlier in the race, Ferrari could make their first ever FIA GT win. But second place is also a great success of this famous team. This ment also the first points in N-GT class history so far for other car than Porsche 996.

The race was very exciting and confirmed rising standards of this championship. From 33 starters only five cars retired, and it is also very good number.