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FIA Sportscar Championship Brno 2001

29th June - 1st July 2001

Event report

Friday - 29th June

For the fifth time European based sportscar series returned to Brno. And as it has already become usual it was again under different title. Now it is known as FIA Sportscar Championship, which hopefully won't be changed soon again. One of preconditions for any series to get better crowd and media respect is definitely not to change title every two years. This year the crowd wasn't better, perhaps one or several thousands of people including VIP persons surrounded the circuit during Sunday's race.

It is interesting to mention that Brno became the first track of ISRS/SRWC/FIA SCC that hosted fifth race. It is not well known and sometimes ignored even in official leaflets that Brno was one of four races in the inaugural 1997 ISRS season and only Brno and Donington hosted these races since then.

Scrutineering (13:30-18:00)

On Friday there weren't no practice sessions on the programme for the FIA Sportscar Championship, only necessarily scrutineering procedures were performed. Already before the meeting it was clear that from 24 cars in the original entry list only 20 may arrive to Brno. Unlike last year when Brno saw debut of Ascari and GMS LMP1, there was no new entry in SR1 class this year. Instead of that two regulars were missing: new Reynard 01Q of Redman Bright and Pescarolo Courage that wasn't seen since 1000 km Monza, with exception of Le Mans, off course.

It was announced that five new entries would be at Brno but in reality only Swara Racing Tampolli #68 was new to the 2001 field. It was in fact two years old factory car chassis 006, updated to 2001 specification but as Swara Racing left their Pilbeam #69 at home, it has no effect to increase the field.

Saturday - 30th June

1st free practice (9:00-10:15)

In the first of practice sessions, which are also used as a qualifying of each driver to the race, quickest was one of new Domes with Lammers and Hillebrand at the wheel (1:51.339). The Brno circuit looked good for Ferraris as these cars were on the second, third a fifth positions. Tho only other car apart Dome that split them was Ascari of Lupberger and Collins. In SR2 class the BM Autosport Tampolli piloted by Mobili and Monti. With 1:57.640 they were by two second quicker than current SR2 lap record.

2nd free practice (11:05-12:20)

Second timed practice was again battle between Ferraris and Domes. Best time set Marco Zadra with Gounon in BMS Ferrari #1 at 1:50.040. Only three tenths behind was Lavaggi's GLV Ferrari-Judd. Dome #8 of Lammers and Hillebrand improve a little since the first session to 1:50.973 that sufficed only for the third place. Next two positions also belonged to Dome and Ferrari. In SR2 class it was now Lola of Oberto and Björk that improved SR2 record, which was now 1:56.969.

SR2 qualifying (15:30-16:00)

During SR2 qualifying session both quickest cars from the morning improved and a new SR2 lap record improved to 1:56.201. It was set by BM Autosport Tampolli in its third flying lap and meant improvement by more than three seconds from the last year. Swedish Lola stayed second with 1:56.426. Then followed three Lucchinis, two factory cars #50 and #51 and Audisio & Benvenuto entry number one Roberto Tonelli and Massimo Saccomanno. Difference between first and tenth placed cars was nearly the same as gap between tenth Debora and eleventh Renauer Motorsport Tampolli. By another more than 3 second slower was second Audisio & Benvenuto entry. This car was nearly as slow as Ferraris 360 Modena from the one-make Ferrari Challenge support race.

SR1 qualifying (16:05-16:35)

Before this session the main question was if lap record for SR1 cars from 1998 that was set by then unbeatable Collard and Sospiri in then new Ferrari 333SP will hold out for another year or would be finally beaten. The answer gave Jean-Marc Gounon in his red BMS Ferrari #1 after seting pole time in 1:48.897 that meant average speed 178.617 kph. Second was Dome of Nielsen and Katoh and only third Dome of Lammers and Hillebrand that surprised by its speed at Le Mans two week ago. Next two places belonged to Ferraris. The best of non-Ferrari, non-Dome was Kremer Lola in front of Ascari and Riley & Scott-Judd. All eight SR1 cars ran well and difference between them was only a little more than four seconds.

Sunday - 1st July

Warm Up (8:50-9:10)

While all Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions were held under warm and sunny conditions, the Sunday morning it was cloudy with showers but weather forecast for the afternoon was a little more optimistic.

Before the morning warm up it stopped to rain but all teams had to leave slicks at their pits and could try the Brno circuit in wet. All 20 present cars took part in this morning session. Some of them hadn't trouble free run however. The major problem occurred at Debora which is 1999 LMP2 car now called Debora PR B6. Before completing its first warm up lap, its driver spun and hit a pit wall. The damage wasn't so extensive, so the team started to repair the car with hope to race it in the afternoon.

Kremer Lola driven by Formato and Hancock ran very well and in final warm up standings appeared on the second position (2:09.257) just behind quickest Lavaggi's Ferrari-Judd (2:08.988). But at the end of the session its driver went to the gravel and Lola had to be pushed to the pits. The pole position car BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari of Zadra/Gounon was only third (2:09.960) ahead of Ascari driven by Lupberger and Ben Collins. This car chassis number 001 was now after Le Mans reverted back to a full roll hoop trim.

A bit disappointing was performance of both Domes on wet. Lammers and Hillebreand's car was only seventh (2:14.471). Even slower was Del Bla Avis car of Nielsen and Katoh that finished ninth full five seconds behind SR2 leader Audisio & Benvenuto Lucchini (2:18.103) driven by Tonetti and Massimo Saccomanno. They were running a new 2001-specification car (chassis 144) while their 2000 car (chassis 140) appeared for the second time this year after Monza, now driven by Chiminelli and Ernesto Saccomanno.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of warm up morning session was performance of Renauer Motorsport Tampolli. Gsell, Cepin and Wolfgang Griessner (former Interserie front driver for Walter Lechner) were 10th overall and second in SR2 class. Other positions belonged to SRTS Lola, second Audisio & Benvenuto Lucchini and Swara Tampolli of Visemann and Michael Mallock.

The Race (13:35 - 16:05) - The first international win for the new Dome

After two hours and thirty minutes of racing John Nielsen and Hiroki Katoh took the chequered flag and celebrated the first international victory for the new Dome S101. After very good start Lammers took the lead ahead of Gounon's Ferrari and after several laps led in slight rain with huge margin. Only during pitstops on laps 23 and 46 they lost the lead when Riley & Scott of Caffi and Baldi pitted a lap later. On lap 24 the only other leader in the race was surprisingly works Lucchini SR2 2001 number 52 of Bouvet and Peroni.

Second place in the finish belonged to Jean-Marc Gounon and Marco Zadra. Pole sitters started the race in the second position but after seven laps they dropped to 6th place. Improvement became after the first series of pitstops, when Gounon held the third place behind leading Dome and Lupberger's well running Ascari. Lupberger run very well in about laps 30 and 40 when he even shortened the gap to Nielsen's Dome. But after the second series of pitstops Ascari never returned to its form from the middle of the race while Zadra who took over from Gounon in lap 44 became the quickest man on the track and in lap 47 he set the new track record in 1:52.271. However troublefree run of Katoh's Dome gave no chance to Zadra to win even he shortened the gap from 39 seconds in lap 49, when he returned to the second position first time since lap 4, to 14 seconds in the finish.

Two of six former formula one drivers present at Brno Mauro Baldi and Alex Caffi in R&M Riley & Scott Mk III-020 finished third. Caffi moved from 7th position in lap 1 to sixth in lap 2 and before end of the first stint they were fourth. The same position they kept in the middle of the race when they run quicker than 3rd Gounon in Ferrari #1 and even set the provisional fastest lap when the rain stopped and track was drying. After very short pitstop they overtook slowing Ascari and vindicated third place from Barcelona after two retirements at Monza and Spa.

Ascari driven by Lupberger ran well most part of the race. From fourth position at the end of the first lap he moved to second after overtaking Gounon's BMS Ferrari 333SP-024 in lap 5. Lupberger and Collins looked to have a possibility to beat leading Dome but after a long pitstop on lap 43, they dropped to fourth place and in the finish they could be extremely happy to retain this position because in the final lap they were caught by the second Dome in the field and Kremer's Lola and at some part of the circuit all three cars were seen alongside.

This battle with Ascari, Lola and Racing Team Holland Dome brought advantage for the Dome, which had very poor start with Jan Lammers. They had not done a good choice of tires for the wet track and during lap 8 they were even overtaken by SR2 leader - Tampolli SR2 RTA98-007 driven by Massimo Monti, which was immediate signal to turn to pits and change tires. But even after that the Dome, that was surprisingly quick at Le Mans two weeks ago and kept in touch with leading factory Audis, didn't run much better. It nearly swam on the wet track and was very hard to drive on such conditions. However in lap 19 when the track was drying Lammers pitted again and changed to slicks and became the faster driver of the field. But he was two laps down behind seven SR2 runners. When Lammers handed over to Hillebrand on lap 45, he was already fifth overall. Before Hillebrand returned to the track they lost three positions. But soon fighted for fifth with Kremer-Lola driven now by Gary Formato. After dramatic battle they overtook them in the final lap. Difference between 4th and 6th in the finish was less than one second.

Sixth place for the Kremer's Lola B98/K2001-HU07 meant the first finish for the team this year but was probably a little disappointment after a good performance during most part of the race. After starting from rear part of SR1 grid Hancock overtook Christian Vann in Lavaggi's Ferrari in lap 8 and ran third until the end of the first stint in lap 19. However he had to return to the pits in lap 22 for the tire change after wrong choice before. After that Kremer car was one of the fastest when the track was drying and was also among several runners that set provisional fastest lap. In the end they had second fastest lap. On the other side they were one of few crews that made four pitstops instead of usual mandatory three ones. After unsuccessful attack to Ascari in the final lap they even lost they fifth position in benefit of Racing For Holland Dome.

The last SR1 finisher was second BMS Ferrari 333SP, chassis number 029, driven by Enzo Calderari, Lilian Bryner and Angelo Zadra. They ran regularly during whole race without major problems but never were better than sixth.

The only SR1 car out of the race in the finish was GLV Brums Ferrari 333SP-003 driven only by Christian Vann. This car is one of two Ferrari examples in the world racing with Judd engine and is also the car with longest history among all competitors running not only in FIA Sportscar Championship but all international sportscar series today. According to our records it was its 60th race since debut at Road Atlanta 1994.

SR2 race

Battles between SR2 cars were very interesting and despite it may look as a comfortable win for Swedish Lola B2K/40-HU06 driven by Oberto and Björk it wasn't so clear for most part of the race. SR2 class had five different leaders during the race and the winning Lola was after poor start on wet the last of them. They haven't set the fastest lap, they weren't the quickest but probably good pitstop strategy help them to recover from sixth and seventh places that Oberto kept on wet.

Massimo Monti in BM Autosport Tampolli was the early SR2 leader who after several race laps overtook even Lammers in his Dome and Calderari in BMS Ferrari #2. But after 19 laps the race for him was over.

The new leader in SR2 class became Jean Bernard Bouvet in one of factory Lucchinis #52. His first stint was longer than that of all SR1 cars and thus he became an overall leader for a single lap 24. During first series of pitstops another two Lucchinis appeared in SR2 lead. The first was Roberto Tonetti in Audisio & Benvenuto car followed by Leonardo Maddalena in yellow SCI Lucchini who was the fourth different SR2 leader. After Maddalena turned to pits SRTS Lola appeared in the lead for the first time in lap 30. But only after two laps was overtaken by quicker Lucchini #52. In lap 36 Lola pitted again and Lucchini #66 of Tonetti and Massimo Saccomanno moved up to second. However after two thirds of the race Lola overtook this Lucchini back and was second behind better of factory Lucchinis #52. However after pitstop of #52 driven by Bouvet and Peroni, Lola took the lead and kept it until the finish.

Podium finishing places weren't still decided. Björk in Lola was more than one minute ahead but behind him no less than three Lucchinis were in close battle. Saccomanno in Audisio & Benvenuto car #66 had to leave second position to works car #52 of Peroni because to complete the third mandatory pitstop. But Peroni wasn't able to keep that place because another factory Lucchini #50 with Francioni at the wheel was getting faster and two laps before the end of the race overtook Peroni. But the battle didn't stop to the final corner and the gap was about half second. Saccomanno finished fourth but the team could be happy at least for setting fastest lap among smaller class.

SCI Lucchini after a good start finished only fifth ahead of the only Pilbeam in the field. That was repaired Rowan Racing chassis MP84-06/01 that was crashed at Le Mans driven here Martin O'Connel and Warren Carway. They lost much time in the first part of the race similarly like black Dome #8 because of wrong tire choice.

Renauer Motorsport car was the only Tampolli in the finish. They were classified 7th, which was their best results since their debut this season. The last finisher was Debora, which was repaired after accident in warm up and now kept a little different front part bodywork and rear wing. Debora stopped in the pits after 8 laps with problems and didn't return back until leader's lap 28. The gap increased to 27 laps in the finish and even the car was listed in provisional results it shouldn't be classified.

While two works Lucchinis #50 and #52 (2001 chassis numbers 143 and 146) had a good race, the third works Lucchini #51, model 2000, chassis number 142 was the first car to retire from the race. Denny Zardo went to the pits just after completing pace lap, returned to the race after two laps but didn't complete more than five laps.

Not much better result made second car of Audisio & Benvenuto Racing, Lucchini #65 that was slow during most part of the race because of some problems and finally stopped after 31 laps.

The last car that we need to mention is the Swara Racing Tampolli. This silver car driven by Mallock and Wiseman was early SR2 midfield runner but ended after 33 laps when being nearly last, just one place before delayed Debora.

After the race the second SR2 finisher, works Lucchnini #50 of Raimondi and Francioni, was disqualified.

With only twenty cars on the grid and only eight in top SR1 class, the FIA Sportscar Championship still doesn't look quite strong. We can hope that another new cars will appear in the second half of the season. Current racing is nice, cars look cool but when we compare it to FIA GT race at Brno two months ago, it would still need more new cars, more top line drivers and especially more publicity. At this current form it is the same as it was last year and even the same as it was in 1998.

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