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FIA GT Championship Brno 2005

24th - 26th June 2005

Event report

Friday - 24th June

Practice sessions

FIA GT Championship continues this weekend at Brno with its fifth round of 2005 season. So far we had four different manufacturers among winners in the top class, that is now called GT1. This is the situation we cannot remember before. Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin and Chevrolet in the last race are all in the list of winners this year. Can we add any other car to that list this weekend? Who knows? But there are still Saleens and a single Lister, the cars that already achieved a win in the FIA GT series in the past but we think it is not likely any of them could repeat their success. Factory Lister is still out of pace while former winning Saleen teams, Konrad and Vitaphone failed to ran Saleens here. While Vitaphone racing ordered new Maseratis MC12 before the season, Konrad (despite listed on all published entry lists prior to the meeting) didn't arrive with his team for yet unknown reason. So Graham Nash Motorsport cars and Polish slow driven entry will be the only Saleen entrants on Sunday. Graham Nash's team is interesting for local audience since in both cars there is a Czech driver entered: Jarek Janis in car number 7 and Robert Senkyr in car number 8. There is another Czech team, making a championship debut here. It is Rock Media Motors of Antonin Herbeck. He has raced in Italian GT Championship ealier this season. Czech entries are completed by traditional Vonka Racing Porsche. Some entry list show also Pergl in earlier announced Menx Ferrari GT1 but he has failed to appear in this local race too.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 001FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 002

Let's return to speak about possible winners. Aston Martin cannot repeat its win because they decided to ran only selected races this year (Tourist Trophy and 24 hours of Spa) but we have another make we believe to have a potential to score a win. It is Lamborghini Murcielago entered by Reiter Engineering, which returned to the series after two race gap. Friday practice sessions were both dominated by Maserati but in the afternoon session the black car driven by Peter Kox and Gianni Morbidelli set second fastest time behind Vitaphone Maserati driven by Bartels/Scheider. The first session was won by JMB Maserati in hands of Peter/Buncobe/Rusinov. The only car that set time among four Maseratis was Chevrolet Corvette in the fourth place followed by remaining Maserati and three Ferraris. While Corvette drivers didn't repeat their perfomance in the afternoon session, Ferrari improved well and Lamy/Gardel were classified fourth overall. Also Lister driven by Keen/Halliday improved in the second practice and was seventh now with a time about 2:00.2. It's worth to note that Listers in their hey-day easily ran under two minutes around the Brno circuit. Just two years ago Jamie Campbell-Walter ran here under 1:57 in a factory car and last year in Creation Autosportif entry set already on Friday time that would be second fastest today! This fact may be caused by the weather, as there is extemely hot today, or cars are simply getting slower and slower.

Apart from the time sheets and improving of speeds, there were other two significant stories. Both caused red-flag in each of the sessions. In the morning Graham Nash's Saleen no.7 got gearbox broken and the car had to be towed back from the track, while all other went to the pits. We have heard that there is no other spare gearbox, so it is likely that local star Jaroslav Janis will be without car for Sunday's race. Perhaps Konrad's team in Germany, that probably suffers lack of driver, may help? And in the afternoon we almost lost one of the Maseratis. Karl Wendlinger went off in the left curve before the main straight and hit the tyre bariers. The car was crashed heavily but the team says that it will be repaired in time.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 003FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 004

Saturday - 25th June

First qualifying session

Twenty four cars took part in morning's qualifying session. Saleen no.7 was still being work on but the gearbox issue still hasn't been solved and the start of the car looks unlikely now. We had also definitely to withdraw both Machanek's team Porsches no.71 and no.72. They are present in the pit lane whole weekend but the team gave higher priority to the Czech National Championship and skipped FIA GT at all.

Maseratis completely dominated morning sessions. JMB cars were more successful when their drivers Peter/Buncombe/Rusinov set provisional pole with time 1:56.322 ahead of their colegues Bertolin/Wendlinger. It's worth to say that Wendlinger's car has 50 kg weight ballast, so that the result aren't quite objective but we have to face that strange rule about handicaps. Better Vitaphone entry of Bartels/Scheider set third fastest time ahead of Corvette driven by Longin/Kumpen/Hezemans. All those cars ran under 1:57. Fifth position belongs to last Maserati ahead of lone Lamborghini followed by no less than 4 Ferraris. Lister was only eleventh with time over two minutes while Saleens ran at similar pace as leading Porsche GT3s. Among them Rockehfeller and Lieb set fastest time while second and third fastest cars (Collard/Sugden and Moccia/Busnelli) had their times disallowed later.

Second qualifying session

After the Czech National Endurance championship that was dominated by Mercedes DTM ahead of six Porsche 996 GT3s (the only other DTM car, Audi TT, retired few laps before the end of the 3-hour race while catching second running Porsche) GT cars appeared again on the track for their final qualifying session. As we predicted, no times were improved, except for those cars, whose morning times were disallowed. Only Bartels with Schader in Vitaphone Maserati ran under two minutes. Lamborghini was third fastest behind JMB Maserati no.16 and followed by Chevrolet Corvette. By the way, it is former factory ran chassis 011 that finished second in GT class at Le Mans 2004.

Sunday - 26th May

Warm Up

Chevrolet Corvette drivers set fastest time on wet track during morning's 15 minute warm up session. Russian Age Ferrari was second ahead of Lister that recorded its best result during the weekend by far. Maseratis were only 5th and 6th while our favourite Lamborghini Murcielago was classified 9th. Both Gruppe M Racing Porsches GT3-RSR ran well and finished 7th and 10th overall.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 005FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 006

The Race

Lamy and Gardel in Larbre Ferrari 550 won the race, which was ran variously on wet and drying track, ahead of Bertolini/Wendlinger in JMB Maserati and GPC Ferrari 575 drivers Melo with Belloc. The race was rather dramatic in its first part, however since lap 30 the coming winners appeared in the lead and lost it only for a while during second series of pitstops and won the race easily. In the finish line they were almost one minute ahead all other opposition. GLPK Corvette that finished fourth was already one lap behind.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 007FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 008

As we said, the race started on rather dramatic circumstances. Just in the second turn, Kumpen in Chevrolet Corvette spun. Immediately followed spun of Maserati no.10 driven by Fabio Babini. While Chevrolet continued almost not delayed, Maserati remained stationary on the track and was hit by GPC Ferrari no.2. Both cars were crashed, but while Maserati managed to finish its first lap, Ferrari damage was more serious and it had to be removed by crane. Maserati was being repaired for a long time in the pits but never re-appeared on the track again and was officially withdrawn from the race by lap 22. Soon after the accident we have learnt that also lone Lamborghini suffered from the accident and ended its race in the tyre bariers. It was very disappointing fact, since spectators here appreciated the return of this very nice car back to the championship and we have hoped for much better result. We believe victory was possible, especially if we take into account that race didn't progress well for favourite Maseratis, nor last race winning Corvette.

After the first lap, we have following order at the top: Philipp Peter in JMB Maserati no.16 leading ahead of Timo Scheider in only other top running Maserati (team Vitaphone). Second Vitaphone car wa already crashed while second JMB car no.15 started from the back of the grid due to fact that they had to change engine. Future winning car driven now by Pedro Lamy ran third followed by remaining GPC Ferrari in the field (no.3 driven by Jaime Melo) and Russian Age Ferrari with Christophe Bouchut at the wheel. Good performance showed Justin Keen in black Lister keeping sixth place ahead of Chevrolet Corvette and Graham Nash Saleen driven by Lica Pirri. By the way, it was the only lap during the whole race when the best Saleen ran ahead best GT2 car! It seems that with departure of yellow Konrad car and Konrad-run Vitaphone car, the days of Saleens in the FIA GT are over. The pace of current cars in the series is nowhere near the performace of Walter Lechner Jr., Marc Gounon or Bartels/Alzen that dedicated to Saleen manufacturer many pole position, leading laps and even some victories. JMB Maserati no.15 in hands of Andrea Bertolini, that started from last position ran 13th during the first lap among remaining 21 cars in the race.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 009FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 010

Both leading Maserati created some gap ahead of Ferraris during early laps but Russian Age Ferrari with Bouchut improved well and overtook GPC and Larbre Ferraris during first four laps and started to move on the leading Maserati duo. Then in lap 10 Bouchut overtook Vitaphone car and during lap 14 took the lead overall. Meanwhile Corvette did only a small progress after its early spin. Kumpen moved ahead of Lister in lap 4 and then GPC Ferrari in lap 11. Lister kept 7th position ahead of remaining Maserati no.15 that didn't improve since lap 2 until the first series of pitstops, which was rather unexpected fact.

By lap 17 Scheider in no.9 was very close behind Peter in no.16 and overtook him in the final corner before the finish straight. Two laps later also Pedro Lamy in Larbre Ferrari appeared very close to Peter. He made a mistake trying to keep the pace and went off into the gravel while already having been overtaken by Lamy. Pitstop to check the car followed and Peter fall down to 14th place and found himself in the mid of GT2 battles. His team-mate Bertolini in car no.15 was stil running behind Lister, which now moved to sixth. By this time Bouchut in the leading Ferrari was running by nearly a second faster then anybody else and led by more than 7 seconds. But it started to rain from very dark clouds that were above the circuit since the start of the race, situation became rather dramatic and changed the face of the race. Some teams went to the pits to change tyre in the first lap it was possible, while other tried to stay on the track as long as possible with a hope it would stop to rain and they would save some pitstop. Most of the field pitted during laps 24 and 25 while Scheider in no.9 Maserati and Bertolini in delayed no.15 ran two more laps and appeared in the lead for a while. Mosler stay on the track on dry tyres almost as long as the two Maseratis but Vonka's well running Porsche driven by Casadei looked as the team don't wish to change any tyres at all. Finally two laps later after the Maseraris even Casadei gave up and turned into the pits. That strategy of Vonka's team didn't prove to be good as the well running car appeared almost last just ahead five laps delayed Ebomotors Porsche. However excelent run during the whole race would mean that the car would be classified 3rd in class among eight finishers in the class, which would be an excellent result for the local team. Jan Vonka, the team owner and driver lives in Brno. When we spoke to him, Jan claimed that they wished to stay on the track for a half of an hour to save pitstop, but it appeared not to be possible.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 011FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 012

Russian Age Ferrari had a long pitstop a lost comfortable lead. Vasiliev took over from Bouchut but the problem was with the wheel nuts off from front left wheel. In the early laps in the rain after this pitstop series Bartels that took over from Scheider in no.9 Maserati led for a while but Gardel in Larbre Competition Ferrari no.11 appeared to be fastest man under the new track condition and catched Bartels within three laps, overtook him and started to build main gap that would decide whole race. Meanwhile third running Corvette was overtaken by well improving Russian Age Ferrari. By laps 35 and 36 both Corvette and no.9 Maserati went to the pits for intermediates and it was the time we had Ferraris on top 3 in the order: Larbre, Russian Age, GPC. Behind them there was running early delayed Maserati no.15 followed by Bartels in no.9 Maserati, Chevrolet Corvette, that was lapped during lap 41 and now slow Lister. Halliday in the black machine had been overtaken even by leading Gruppe M Racing Porsche GT3-RSR no.88 but the car had to retired after 37 laps due to overheating. It would be the only retirement after the collisison of 3 cars in the first lap. Since then the second team car driven by Lieb/Rockenfeller had its way to win quite easy. They ran several lap ahead of Ferrari 360 Modena entered first time this year by GPC team. Also Mosler running in class G2 for national GT series cars was more than a lap behind the leading Porsche.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 013FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 014

We had Ferrari on top 3 until lap 42 when Karl Wendlinger in Maserati no.15 overtook Belloc in GPC Ferrari. Vasiliev kept second easily, so Wendlinger could improve his position only when Russion Age Ferrari went to the pits for driver and tyre change. Fomenko then drove the car extremely slowly for unknown reason. For example in lap 50 he was overtaken by Lister, Porsche no.66 and one of Maseratis to loose three positions in one lap. The car that was before its pistop running well second, appeared ninth only two laps later and was out of the game despite there were plans to return it back to Bouchut for final stint of the race.

In lap 54 leading Ferrari pitted for its final time and since Maseratis no.9 and no.15 pitted five laps later their drivers found themselves fighting for the lead. Just during that time Bartels in no.9 overtook Wendliger in no.15, so it helped to score fine record of lead changes statistics. During the race we had five different cars leading, six lead changes, half of which happened on track, other three because of pitstops.

Since lap 60 we had Larbre Ferrari comfortably leading, ahead of no.15 Maserati that started from the last row and GPC Ferrari. That were the positions that didn't change until the finish. It looked that Bertolini in Maserati could be caught by Melo who was eating the gap between him and the Maserati but he would need two or three more laps longer race to have the opportunity to fight for the second directly. In the finish there was difference about only 2 seconds. Maserati no.9 hadn't lucky day. After they pitstop in lap 59 while leading, they had problems with restarting the car, moreover choose wrong tyres and pitted four laps later to take click tyres. They lost a lot of time and Scheider could be at least happy that he at least overtook Chris Buncombe in no.16 Maserati during the last lap. Scheider also set the fastest time of the day, during these final stages of the race. Corvette finished only two seconds ahead Scheider, so had been there another lap, who knows... Lister finished seventh to receive 2 points to the championship just ahead of Bouchut, who was quickest driver in the final few laps but the gap was too big.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 015FIA GT Championship Brno 2005 (event report) - picture number 016

Larbre Competition became the first team this year that managed to win a second race in the season. That helped the team main driver Gabriele Gardel take the lead in the championship ahead all Maserati drivers that dominated point standings so far. Wendlinger/Bertolini are currently second in the championship ahead of Lamy, second Larbre driver (he lost points at Tourist Trophy despite winning the race because he started for factory Aston Martin, which was not eligible for championship points). Biaggi with Babini, that led the championship before the Brno race are now 5th and 6th after their first retirement this season (the first lap accident). Scheider/Bartels are next ahead of all three Corvette drivers. The GT1 championship is quite open at the moment and we may now look forward to how the championship battle develops at 24 hours of Spa, where double points will be awarded.

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