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FIA Sportscar Championship Brno 2002

17th - 19th May 2002

Event report

Friday - 17th May

This year it never looked sports prototypes would return to Brno until last month. Scheduled race at Zandvoort was cancelled and FIA organisers couldn't agree on a date at another Czech track at Most, so it was finally agreed that the third round of sportscar championship would be run at Brno together with LG Super Racing weekend with FIA GT and FIA European Touring Car Championships. All other races that are usually held during SRW weekends (Lamborghinis, Renaults) were simply cancelled, so all three days were full of three strong FIA championships. It was sixth Sportscar race held at Brno since 1997. No other circuit hosted this championship so often and even Donington Park with 5 races (and also the first one ever held) was replaced by Rockingham this year, so will not follow Brno. Previous winners at Brno were:

  • 1997 - Arturo Merzario - Centenari
  • 1998 - Emmanuel Collard/Vincenzo Sospiri - Ferrari
  • 1999 - Christophe Tinseau/Jean-Marc Gounon - Lola
  • 2000 - David Terrien/Christian Pescatori - Ferrari
  • 2001 - John Nielsen/Hiroki Katou - Dome

Of the previous winners only Merzario (with Bruneau's Pilbeam) and also returning champion from 1998-99 Vincenzo Sospiri were here.

Unfortunatelly point leading teams Pescarolo Courage and Oreca Dallara withdraw from this race. Given reason was 'engine shortage' before Le Mans but it is also possible that they weren't happy to stay in provisional conditions in the parking place use usually for support races, as all pit garages were filled with FIA GT and ETCC cars. Some new teams also didn't appear (Rowan Racing Reaynard LMP675 or JCI Developments Tampolli). Entry list published by Automotodrom Brno website had 23 cars listed, official entry published a week before the race had 17 cars but to Brno only 13 cars arrived. John Montgoletsi wasn't happy with this number and we hope more cars will appear in the second half of the season. This championship has a great potential, could be very exciting but it still lacks more regular entrants that would take this championship more seriously and entered two or three cars teams. Prospects before this season looked much more promising.

Despite small entry, several new teams made this year's debut. These were Eventus Motorsport with former Konrad's Lola from 1999 and returning team Renauer Motorsport from Austria driven by the only local driver in the race Petr Valek. He had won together with Gsell and Kaufmann here at Brno 4 hour national race a month ago. Now he was partnered by Cepin and 1999 champion Lancelotti. Valek's main and only opponents from 4 hour race Zardo/Prospero that were there then just preparing for this weekend's race didn't arrive at all.

To name other main entrants in the race we should mention especially Dome of Lammers and Hillebrand and works Courage of Cottaz and Derichebourg. It was only second appearence of this famous French Le Mans-based team in Czech Republic. First time it was eleven years ago when two cars surprisingly entered famous Interserie race at Most. Then Lionel Robert finished second behind Bernd Schneider in Joest Porsche 962C... Main contenders in SR2 class were two factory Lucchinis and Swedish Lola.


During practice sessions team Courage was trying to find best setup while Lammers and Hillebrand were easily quickest in both sessions. The third was continuously improving GMS Durango Judd driven by Jean Philippe Belloc and Battaglin with Cauicchi. Belloc was surpsingly quicker than duo Baldi/Sospiri in new R&M that is still more or less being tested. The only other SR1 contender was debuting Lola of Moog and Christian Vann. They weren't able to manage better times than two factory Lucchinis that were fastest among SR2 cars.

SR2 qualifying

The first half of the session saw both factory cars more in the pits then on the track so session was lead by Renauer Tampolli for a while until orange Pilbeam entered by Team Jota and driven by Hignett and Stack set first time under 2 minutes. Then both blue Lucchinis appeared on track ion full speed and had several times improved their times and ended at 1:56.645 (no.50 Mancini/Collini/Riccitelli) and 1:56.987 (no.52 Peroni/Savoldi). Disappointing was only sixth place of SRTS Lola (Loven/Andersson). This car was running five seconds slower than last year.

SR1 qualifying

There was nothing new since practice sessions, only Lammers' car was slightly slower and all others improved but possitions remained unchanged.

Saturday - 18th May

Warm Up

Lammers' Dome was once again quickest than Cottaz/Derichebough's Courage. The third was for the first time Baldi with Sospiri in new R&M. Swedish Lola was trying some changes since yesterday and result was immediatelly seen. Improvement by four seconds, 2nd in class and 6th overall. Debora from Pierre Bruneau team had problems, covered only two very slow laps and never appeared on the track again. Thus was number of starters reduced to twelve.

The Race

Despite only dozen of prototypes took the action it was still rather exciting race and battles for both class wins were decided in final stages of the race.

After the start, expecting order created: Hillebrand in Dome led over Cottaz with Courage. The third was Belloc with GMS Durango followed by Sospiri in new R&M and even Lola SR1 when driven by Christian Vann was ahead of all SR2 field. Positions in SR1 remained unchanged during the first half of the race except little changes during pitstops. During lap 20 both leading cars Dome and Courage pitted. By that time only third GMS Durango was still not lapped. However in lap 25 when Peroni stopped his works Lucchini in dangerous place safety car appeared on the track. However it was strange action because they delayed second running Cottaz in Courage more than Hillebrand in leading Dome. Before safety car period the gap between them was about 15 seconds but after that it was nearly 40 seconds. Probably this fact had decided the race. In lap 42 Lammers replaced Hillebrand in black and white Dome and Courage appeared in the lead. Three laps later Courage pitted for driver change too. Derichebourg took car over with 50 seconds delay to Dome. However his fascinating drive gave great hopes that they could still win. He was usually by two seconds quicker each lap than Lammers and after 10 laps he shortened the gap to 31 seconds. Later Lammers did only two very quick laps. However one of them (lap 60) became the fastest lap of the race. Before the third series of pitstops Derichebourg was only 18 seconds behind Lammers. It was lap 64. After both refueled, the gap was only 11 seconds. In lap 71 gap was only 7.5 seconds but as time limit of the race (2.5 hours) was nearly expired it became clear that Derichebourg will not catch Lammers. After the third pitstop he was slightly slower than before and Lammers was still running very well. Derichebourg then slowed and finished 13 seconds behind Lammers. Hardly to say how would race develop if there was no safety car period or if they didn't slow Courage by about 25 seconds. It is also possible that Lammers could run quicker and had the race under control.

There was another strange action by track marshalls. In the last lap Durango car was running fourth but went to the pits. It went off just after winning Lammers crossed the line. However when it was to finish its last lap, track marchalls flagged this car into parc ferme similarly as all other finishers and thus refused this car opportunity to cross the line. Following FIA SCC rules it wasn't classified, which was we believe very unjust. We are sure the team should get his 10 points for 4th place!!

The third in the finish was R&M that overtook Durango (without counting pitstops) in lap 54 because Belloc co-drivers were slower than Baldi.

Class SR2 was even more exciting. From the start it was works Lucchini no.50 that led over Tampolli of Lancelotti. Peroni in the second works car had worse start and was only 6th in his first lap. The last was Jota Pilbeam that missed starting procedure and started last despite being the third quickest in class during qualifying. Lancelotti spun in lap 3 and then pitted. Since than yellow Tampolli was never fighting for good positions and finally retired after lap 44 when went off the track. It returned to pits but never returned to the race.

Bruneau Pilbeam driven by Rostan was soon in problems too. During first eight laps it was three times in the pits. Then mechanics worked on the car for some 20 laps before it re-appeared on the track again. It was now driven by Merzario. After another 17 laps it retired aswell.

However the first car that retired the race was second works Lucchini driven by Peroni. His problems were reason for the safety car period mentioned in SR1 race report. By that time Peroni was keeping second place behind his team-mates in car no.50. During safety car period Lucchini no.50 lost some time similarly as Courage and thus Loven in Lola SRTS and Randaccio in SCI Lucchini appeared leading by relative large margin over works Lucchini. Randaccio was running quicker than Loven in Lola and overtook him in lap 26. After that the SCI Lucchini was in the lead for a long time and it looked very promising for his first ever SR2 class victory. However his co-driver Maddalena was by 5 seconds per lap slower than Riccitelli in works Lucchini. There were reputedly some suspension problems with the car and it was even stopped just after finished. However despite this car was in about lap 55 leading by nearly one lap its class, it wasn't enough to achieve the first ever SCI sportscar championship victory. Riccitelli was by 5 seconds per lap quicker (he was even 3rd quickest overall at the end of the race) and overtook Maddalena four laps before time 2.5 hours expired and race was ended. Swedish Lola then finished comfortably third.

Finally, we spoke to Mrs. Montgoletsi about the future of sportscar racing in Czech Republic. It was written in local press that the next year the race should be at Most but Mrs. Montgoletsi couldn't confirm anything. However she promised more cars and teams in upcoming events. Berridge Lola should return at Imola (their car is apparently the same chassis as raced by DAMS at Le Mans as 'Vailante'), Moog Lola should appear in four of five remaining races, Durango is building second chassis, Rowan's Reynard was entered at Brno but failed to appear, we hope Pescarolo and Oreca Dallara will return in home race at Magny-Cours. We spoke also to Laurent Pearce about Lister's plans with LMP prototype. He confirmed they plan to built it for Le Mans but to an answer if Sportscar Championshsip is also possible, he just laughed: no, no. So we asked about ALMS and got answer: yes, maybe. Some sources from FIA GT championship suggest that SCC is in crisis and more teams will leave the championship in next races. And reason? Lack of television coverage and sponsors. Let's hope it is not too bad but I think everybody would agree that dozen of cars in two classes isn't enough for such important series, and the absence of two cars that are preparing for Le Mans doesn't explain everything. We would strongly wish this championship another boom as we saw during 1998-2000.