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FIA GT Championship Brno 2006

26th - 28th May 2006

Event report

Friday - 26th May

First free practice session

This is the seventh FIA GT Brno race in a row since 2000, when big GT cars visited Czech Republic for the first time ever, but it is really the first time that the Brno race is only the second round of the season. It used to be the fifth or fourth round in the last coupe of seasons. It is good for local audience at least for two reasons. First one is that the car ballast isn't so big as it would have been after three or four races, so that the best cars would perform a bit quicker and the ballance between them would not be so twisted as in the past Brno races (here with the highest and lowest point of the track differece almost 74 meter, the weight ballances makes it even more noticeable). And the second reason might be the fact that after just one race at Silverstone, the renewed Tourist Trophy, it is not so easy to predict, which teams and cars are going to perform best, i.e. what the real potential of all entrants is. Expecially taking into account the fact that whole GT1 are completely new entries and GT2s are filled with a bunch of new Ferraris F430 GTs.

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Another change compared to the last season is obvious. Weak GT2 field became rather strong with fifteen cars entering the field, while GT1 with just ten cars is becoming a little narrow, though most of the them are really capable for a race or even championship win. And final big change in entry list compared to last year is that Ferraris in GT1 are completely gone by now, while a new make Aston Martin forms almost half of the GT1 field. But even those are down in numbers compared to previous race in Great Britain. We have even heard that number of GT1 cars is going to decrease even more as the season would progress because of the costs have become too high. Let us hope that it is not the truth and have a look at the first session.

Sascha Bert and a local driver Jaroslav Janis in a very new Saleen S7-R proved that you do not need to have the most expensive car to be at the top and finished the first and only session of the day at the top of the time sheets. They were the only drivers to run under 1:58. Not a bad time but it is needed to be said that Lister, another GT1 make that is gone this year, set similar time during the first session already in 2004, so it seems that the development of speeds of FIA GT cars that was obvious in Brno between 2000 and 2003 is probably gone and performances of the cars are kept by rulemakers on the level of 2003 despite a lot of money put into the development of Aston Martins and Maseratis (oh, we hoped GT1s would soon run on the same level as current LMPs, so that traditional manufactureres, which are currently fielding GT racing again, could win Le Mans overall but obviously it is not going to happen). Well, we have spoken with Zakspeed team about their prospect for the race win and we think their chances are really good hear. We may remind that Saleen is the only manufacturer among present GT1 cars that had won at Brno before (in 2004). All other previous Brno winners (Chrysler, Lister and Ferrari) are not seen racing in the top class anymore.

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To complete the first session results, it is needed to mention that Aston Martins took the positions behind the quickest Saleen (the Pescatori/Ramos BMS entry being the best). The fifth was the lone Corvette (the new C6.R unlike C5-R last year) and only other positions were gained by Maseratis. They are of course expected to improve and move up in the time sheets but we are less sure about the only Lamborghini that was classified between the two Maseratis. It is now a private entry unlike last year and we hope that this nice and unique car would have much more luck than the last year when it retired during the first lap accident.

Saturday - 27th May

Second free practice session

Unlike in all previous FIA GT editions, the second free practice session took part on Saturday morning. It was rainy since the morning. The track was still wet but the rain stopped just before the programme started. Despite it didn't become quite dry during the whole free session, the teams managed to achieve fastest ever times at Brno for a Grand Touring category. So we have to correct our earlier statement that the is no visible progress of speed in the championship. First GT car to run under 1:57 at Brno was Lister in 2003 and we had to wait another three year til the 1:56 limit was broken by a GT car. A new GT lap record (on not completely dry track) is 1:55.493. It was set one again by Jaroslav Janiš in the Zakspeed Saleen. There was another car running under 1:56 and it was neither Aston Martin or Maserati but the new yellow Corvette C6.R driven by trio Longin/Kupmen/Hezemans. Half second behind them the best Aston Martin (driven by Deletraz/Piccini) was placed. Maseratis once again remained in the middle of the GT1 pack. Despite that it was enough to have four different manufacturers on the top four spots. Lamborgini was seventh overall ahead of both Aston Martin Racing BMS entries.

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Quite different situation was among GT2s where all but one Ferraris took the top position. Kinch/Kirkaldy were fastest of them but still clearly behind all GT1 cars. The best Porsche was sixteenth overall. Driven by Collard/Ricciteli it was more than two and half seconds slower then leading Ferrari. Gillet Vertigo, a sole entry in so called Group 2 class, had problems and had to be towed to the pits. It lasted only six laps and achieved the slowest time in the sheet. Vonka's Porsche had similar problems at the end of the session but the only Czech team in the team could celebrate they beat their Slovakian counterparts, Autoracing Club Bratislava Porsche.

Quite different situation was among GT2s where all but one Ferraris took the top position. Kinch/Kirkaldy were fastest of them but still clearly behind all GT1 cars. The best Porsche was sixteenth overall. Driven by Collard/Ricciteli it was more than two and half seconds slower then leading Ferrari. Gillet Vertigo, a sole entry in so called Group 2 class, had problems and had to be towed to the pits. It lasted only six laps and achieved the slowest time in the sheet. Vonka's Porsche had similar problems at the end of the session but the only Czech team in the team could celebrate they beat their Slovakian counterparts, Autoracing Club Bratislava Porsche.

FIA GT Championship Brno 2006 (event report) - picture number 007FIA GT Championship Brno 2006 (event report) - picture number 008

Qualifying session

This year only 20 minutes and just one qualifying session. A big change compared to the past years. The usual US qualifying format was adopted by the FIA GT Championship this year. We are far from being convinced it is a right step, nevertheless, rules are given so there are no discussions about that. Unfortunately, none of cars had done a single measured lap and the session was already red-flagged. It was because of some engine problems for one of the GT2 Porsches which remained stationary near the stands C. Not all car managed to reach the pits and the pitlane was opened already, so the real battle started.

Janis did several laps and then headed to the pits about five minutes before the end of the session, which was more truly just about 15 minutes long. He did not run as quickly as in the morning but the time 1:55.660 was good enough not to be beaten until end of the session. The Maseratis finally found a good setup after struggling during practice sessions - especially during the first one on Friday - and could show their potential. Davies was second with 1:56.105. The other car ended up in the seventh spot. Piccini in the Phoenix Racing Aston Martin improved by more than a half of a second compared to his morning's time. That was enough to gain once again the third position. On the opposite side, Corvette of Longin/Kumpen/Hezemans was nowhere near its morning time (actually 1.5 seconds slower) despite being on the track almost until the end of the session while all top GT1 cars but the Race Alliance Aston Martin were already in the pits. Despite that, Corvette was still classified fifth while Race Alliance entry will start from the fourth row just ahead of Lamborghini, which was only ninth. BMS Aston Martins will occupy the remaining spots we have not mentioned yet, fourth and sixth positions. The only other GT1 car in the field, the Balfe Saleen, became the only one big GT that did not pass under two minute limit and was classified tenth with a rather big margin - almost three seconds behind the Lamborghini.

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The situation in GT2 class was similar as in the previous sessions. Top five places came to Ferraris. The two Scuderia Ecosse cars were the fastest. Tim Mullen set a good time at 2:02.104, which is half second better than unbeatable Gruppe M Porsche last year. But it is still not the best ever time at Brno set by a GT2 car. Two years ago GPC Ferrari was almost a full second quicker. Only two Porsches were able to run quicker than the remaining Ferrari. These are the Porsches run by Ebimotors. It seems there are no other possible Ferrari opponents in the smaller class. We should also mention that only 24 cars out of 26 scrutineered took part in the session. Neither the Gillet Vertigo team, nor Vonka Racing Team were able to solve their morning session problems and didn't take part in qualifying. We will be back tomorrow with a race report. As the rain is a still quite possible option for tomorrow's race and nobody could really try a wet setup, situation might be rather different in the race.

Sunday - 28th May

Warm Up

The Sunday's programme started with warm ups, one of which was 15-minute session for the FIA GT cars. It had been raining very heavy over the night and the session started still under rather rainy conditions. According to the weather forecast it is going to stop raining at about an hour before the start of the FIA GT race, which is planned at 13:30. Gillet Vertigo was back on the track after missing qualifying session due to transmission problems. The other suffering car, the Vonka's Porsche, didn't appear after engine problems yesterday. The team was offered a new engine but this very private team could not afford to buy it. We will see if the problem would be found before the start and fixed. Wet track saw the fastest cars running at 2:11 to 2:13 range. Corvette was the fastest car just ahead of Lamborghini followed by two Maseratis split by Phoenix Racing Aston Martin. Zakspeed Saleen was only seventh.

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The Race

As the weather forecast predicted, the rain had been already gone by 13:30, when the race started. Despite the good weather (later it was usually sunny) the race was declared as a wet race. Jaroslav Janiš became a star of the day. At the beginning of the race he was overtaken by Piccini, who was very fast in the early stages of the race but, as Janiš said, Piccini soon came into troubles with his tyres, so he took the opportunity to prepare for an attack. Janiš lapped very close to Piccini by lap 10 and finally overtook him during the lap 14. Since then he started to move away from the rest of the field and was never threaten by any other car. Sacha Bert took the car with a huge margin to do the middle stint. He did a very good job too. During the second series of pitstops, the Saleen Zakspeed even appeared in the lead with a margin larger than one lap. Piccini with Deletraz kept the pace and gained the second place after an interesting battle with a better BMS Aston Martin of Gollin and Babini. At the end, the BMS driver could be happy to keep Bartels's and Bertolini's Maserati behind them and thus defend a podium finish. The other Maserati was delayed by an early off course excursion and finished a lap behind. Moreover, eight laps before the finish Biagi in that Maserati pushed Hezemans, who was just running a lap ahead on the fifth position in his Corvette, out of the track, so it may lead to some post race penalty. Lamborghini had much better race than last year hear and it gained seventh position one lap behind the winners after a steady race.

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The GT2 battle was in fact much more entertaining and nearly ended by a Porsche win. Only a few meters ahead of Ebimotors Porsche driven by Collard and Lucatelli finished the class winning Ferrari driven by Sugden and Alexander. It is worth to mention that they had a rather lucky race after having puncture during ninth lap. After the tyre change they were even running on the very last position. Bobbi and Melo finished third after leading a bigger part of the race but they were finally penalized because of more than four mechanics worked on their car during a pitstop.

Car by car report:


1 - Vitaphone Maserati

Bertolini ran fifth during the first lap but while overtaking Kumpen in Corvette, he span and dropped down to ninth behind the Lamborghini. Moved up one place as the other Maserati went into the gravel in lap 12. Two laps later this Maserati overtook the Lamborghini and kept seventh spot until the first series of pitstops. During the middle stages of the race it ran sixth until the lap 42 when Longin in Corvette and Ramos in Racing Aliance Aston Martin had some incident and Bartels in no.1 Maserati could move up two positions. They lost one place after the second series of pitstops but during the lap 71 Bertolini managed to overtake ahead running Corvette and at the end of the race he had a battle with the third running Aston Martin but actually didn't manage to get in front of it, so they finished fourth as the best Maserati.

2 - Vitaphone Maserati

Started by Biagi and running third at the beginning of the race. Overtaken by Corvette in lap 8. Went into the gravel in lap 12 and lost nearly two laps. Recovering from the very last position to 10th at the time of the first series of pitstops. While runnning regularly eighth since the lap 42 two laps behind the leaders, Biagi tried to overtake Hezemans in the Corvette, which was a full lap ahead, but actually pushed it off the track. That helped Maserati no.2 to gain one spot and move to seventh but actually under rather unfair circumstances. Three laps to go and Biagi overtook also Bouchut in the Lamborghini but there was once again some contact between the two cars.

4 - GLPK Corvette

Started by Kumpen, ran fourth since the beginning and moved to third during the lap 8. Kumpen was later catched and overtaken by Gollin in Aston Martin no.23. During the first series of pitstops, Corvette appeared briefly second behind the leading Saleen. It was its best position during the race. After slightly longer pitstop the car with Longin at the wheel ran fifth (and for a while even sixth). It was the first of the top GT1 cars that made the second pistop. After all other cars had pitted, Hezemens in Corvette found himself in the fourth place. He was later catched by Maserati no.1 and dropped to fifth. While running between both Maseratis and still rather close to a podium finish, the second Maserati no.2, which was running lap behind, crashed into the Corvette so that it went off the track into the gravel and didn't continue. A sad end after a promising performance during the whole race and the fastest warm up time in wet.

5 - Phoenix Aston Martin

This car was really the only serious opponent of the Zakspeed Saleen during the race. Especially during the first half hour it was driven by Piccini very quickly and led the first thirteen laps. Between laps 44 and 69 the car ran even third behind the BMS Aston Martin no.23 but with Piccini back at the wheel it was faster then Gollin in no.23 and easily secured second place in the finish.

9 - Zakspeed Saleen

Simply the best car during the entire meeting. With a local driver Jaroslav Janiš and Sascha Bert from Germany it was unbeateable at Brno and except the wet warm up it won all sessions and the race itself with a huge margin. It also set the fastest ever lap for a GT car at Brno in the practice.

11 - Balfe Saleen

Promissing private effort but still clearly the slowest GT1 in the field. It actually did not cover a single lap under two minute limit over the weekend. In the early stages of the race it ran tenth, the last GT1 by a clear margin, but still well ahead of the rest of the (GT2) field. Pitted in lap 29, when Derbyshire replaced Balfe at the wheel. But Balfe did only two laps and turned to the pits again. With engine problem it went directly to the garage. For the car the race was almost over but it actually re-appeared on the track while the leader was in his 67th lap. After a couple of other pistops and four slow laps it finally disappeared at all in the race lap 72.

13 - B-Racing Lamborghini

Actually the same chassis as last year. It was probably a bit slower then the rest of GT1 cars apart from the Balfe entry. At least according to its qualifying results and an early race pace. After both Maseratis came into troubles, it ran briefly seventh and kept Maserati no.1 behind for full 11 laps. During the first series of pitstops it even appeared briefly in the lead but actually never crossed the line as a leader because the Zakspeed car moved ahead while Lamborghini headed to the pits. Since lap 41 it ran safely seventh after the Race Alliance Aston Martin retired. It was just ahead of the Maserati no.2 but far behind the second BMS Aston Martin no.24 then ran lonely sixth. After the Corvette was eliminated, Lamborghini moved to decent sixth, which was one of better Lamborghini results in the FIA GT Championship ever despite the Maserati no.2 move ahead the Lamborghini three laps before the finish. If it had been wet, the results could have been even better, especially with regard to its very good performance in the rainy warm up session.

23 - BMS Aston Martin

Originally running fifth driven by Gollin. It set fastest lap in lap 4 (it was later improved by Janiš). Moved to fourth after Maserati no.2 went to the gravel and in lap 20 overtook the Corvette. In the middle of the race with Babini at the wheel, it was even quicker than Phoenix Aston Martin no.5 and kept second position for 25 laps. However, in the end Gollin could be happy to maintain podium finish because Bertolini in Maserati no.1 pushed very hard.

24 - BMS Aston Martin

During the first half of the race it ran in the middle of the GT1 cars pack. Although it was shortly third during the second series of pitstops, the best part of the race for this car was between laps 34 and 41 when Ramos was at the wheel. After the second series of pitstops, co-drover Pescatori still ran in the lead lap but there was also huge gap between him and the other opponents ahead. It moved from sixth to fifth after the Corvette retired.

33 - Race Alliance Aston Martin

In the early stages of the race it ran usually behind BMS entries and ahead the Lamborghini. In about lap 20, it overtook BMS car no.24 but after the first series of pitstops it was again just ahead of the Lamborghini. However in the lap 41 it came into a trouble. It went off to the gravel and then it had to be towed back to the track, which happened three laps later. It ran to the pits and then was pushed into the garage. It never appeared on the track again.

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52 - Renauer Porsche

Faster of the two Austrian Porsches. Originally ran behind the group Ferraris and the two Ebimotors Porsche. Later it was overtaken by Gillet and Junior Felbermayr-Proton car. The key moment came in lap 20 when Luca Moro went into the gravel and lost several laps. The car ran the last since then only to catch their team-mates in numner 53, who retired only a lap later.

53 - Renauer Porsche

Run penultimate from the beginning before it overtook the Slovak Porsche. It became a little better just before the first series of pitstops but then it dropped down the field and run just ahead delayed Renauer Porsche no.52, which overtook no.53 in lap 66 (not counting some pitstop forced position changes). Only a lap later the no.53 went into the gravel and never restarted again.

54 - Vonka Porsche

It was the only non-starter after engine blown during the second practice session. It was the second damaged engine this year and the team couldn't afford to buy a new one for the home race.

55 - JMB Ferrari

Faster of the two JMB entries run second in class before it got a puncture that followed the gravel trip in lap 9. Then it started from the very last position but recovered very well. By lap 20 it was seventh in class. Then sixth before the first series of pitstops in about lap 30. After an early pitstop they continued until lap 49 without a stop, so Sugden and Alexander found themselves in the lead of the class in lap 38. After the second series of pitstop they ran fifth but all other GT2 cars still had one stop to do. Nine laps before the end of the race they were still third in class but after Ferrari no.62 retired with an accident damage and Ferrari no.63 ran slowly, they became a lucky winners of the class, finishing eigth overall.

56 - JMB Ferrari

By far slowest Ferrari in the field driven by gentleman drivers Gosse and Kutemann ran some four places from the end of the field. Sometimes it improved a little while some cars were delayed by problems or gravel traps but in the end they were classified ninth in class just four placed ahead the last.

58 - AF Corse Ferrari

Actually probably the fastest car in its class led since the beginning until the first series of pitstops followed very closed by other three quick Ferraris. Then it ran second behind the delayed Ferrari no.55, that didn't pit at the regular time but much later. They would still probably win the race if they didn't got a penalty in lap 64 (during pitstop more then four mechanics worked on the car). After that they dropped down to fifth in class but then still managed to improve and gain a podium finish. At the press conference the drivers really weren't happy about the result, especially after they even didn't know what the reason of the penalty actually was. Moreover they seem to carry some weight ballast for paperwork reasons...

59 - AF Corse Ferrari

After a first lap spin, this Ferrari usually ran at the pace, which put it just between the two Ebimotors Porsches. It means that it wasn't quite in contention for the class win, though it ran the second in class during the middle stages of the race. It was surprising when the car appeared in the class lead after the second series of pitstops. However it was being catched by Ecosse Ferrari no.62,, which finally led until a collision between the two cars that were actually fighting for the class win. While no.62 was damaged more and made it only to the pits and retired, the number 59 recovered but finished only at location it started: sixth in class, behind all quick Ferraris that survived and even both Ebimotors Porsches.

62 - Ecosse Ferrari

The car was second fastest in qualifying but after an engine change before the race, Kinch and Kirkaldy had to start from the pit lane. They ran very quickly at that time and during the lap nine they were already second in class running very close behind the leaders, the Ferrari no.58. But then Kirkaldy didn't find a way to overtake the leader and later even lost one position to they team-mates in the Ferrari no.63. After the first pitstops it ran only fifth in class but it looked again more promissing for the team after the lap 70 when they ran second while catching another Ferrari, the number 59. Then both cars had a collision, which led to a retirement of this car with accident damage in lap 79.

63 - Ecosse Ferrari

This Ecuria Ecosse car ran at similar pace as the other Ecosse entry. It ran consistently second at the end of the first half of the race. After the pitstops Bennet and Mullen ran third behind the two AF Corse Ferraris. After one of them (no.58) got a penalty they moved to second but were soon overtaken by their team-mates in no.62. The car was slower during the final stages of the race and despite the 62 retirement, it finished only fourth in class.

66 - Felbermayr-Proton Porsche

Junior Felbermayr-Ried driven car, which is actually ex-Gruppe M chassis built in 2004. It ran behind Ferraris and the two Ebimotors Porsches and well ahead of the better Renauer car and the rest of the field. After a consistent performance they kept this pace throughout the whole race and maintained this position until the finish line, despite they slowed down in the final three laps. One time they were even in front of the second Ebimotors Porsche no.74 but finally lost it after getting a penalty.

69 - Felbermayr-Proton Porsche

Senior Felbermayr-Ried entry started to run the very last but improved a little when the race progressed, overtaking the Slovakian Porsche and also getting ahead of some of the delayed cars.

74 - Ebimotors Porsche

Slower Ebimotors car kept fifth spot during the first lap but span in the second lap, so it appeared in the middle of the private Porsches field. It was soon back ahead of the Gillet and behind the Ferraris and the other Ebimotors Porsche. It was the first car that made regular pitstop but without a driver change. Moccia stayed in the car for full 50 laps. The car soon got at the place it ran before the stop and only a few laps before the end it overtook Ferrari no.59, which had a collision. Final result was the fifth in class.

75 - Ebimotors Porsche

Simply the only non-Ferrari car in GT2 class that had a big chance to win the race. It ran regularly among the top Ferraris throughout whole race (usually fourth or fifth in class) but at the end of the race when two leading Ferraris collided and another one got a penalty, Collard in this Porsche overtook Ferrari no.63 and ran surprisingly second in class since lap 81 and the gap between him and the leading Ferrari no.55 was getting smaller and smaller. Had the race been a little longer, Collard with Riccitelli could have been the winners. In the end the gap between them and the winning Ferrari was just 0.7 second.

77 - Bratislava Porsche

Very private effort with a very old car (actually one of the original GT3-R built in 2000) originally ran just ahead the Senior Felbermayr-Proton entry but after that car improved, the Slovakians kept just the two delayed Renauer Porsches behind. One of them retired during the last third of the race.

99 - Race Alliance Porsche

One of the Porsches that ran approximately at the pace of the slowest Ferrari and just behind the Gillet Vertigo. After a balanced performance it was classified just beind that Ferrari and ahead the Senior Proton car, the Slovakians and the delayed but quicker Renauer car.

101 - Belgian Gillet Vertigo

The only Group2 entrant had transmission problems already in practice and thus had to miss the qualifying session. So it started the last but very soon appeared ahead of all Porsches but one. Later it ran behind Junior Felbermayr car. But after the first series of pitstops the problems with gearbox appeared again and the car was forced to retire. Its performace was very promising though.

Random Photo
69 - Alfa Romeo 1600 GT Junior