|Free Practice Report|
|Monza - Free Practice |
The FIA GT Championship is back on track for the first race of its eighth season of competition. Returning to Monza, site of the final round of the 2003 season, the Championship has rarely looked so competitive. With 24 cars taking part in this first round and more expected to join shortly the drivers include Championship winners from every season from 1999 onwards as well as at least 19 former race winners!
Karl Wendlinger (GT Champion, 1999), Jamie Campbell-Walter (GT Champion, 2000), Christophe Bouchut (N-GT Champion 2000, GT Champion 2001 and 2002), Christian Pescatori (N-GT Champion 2001), Stephane Ortelli (N-GT Champion 2002 and 2003) and Matteo Bobbi (GT Champion 2003) will all be taking part in Sunday's 500 km race.
It is cool and overcast in Monza, with occasional light rain. The track was still slightly damp for the first session, but dried quickly and the session was not declared wet.
Last year …
Last year's Monza round - and the last race - saw victory go to the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari, with Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nathan Kinch second for Lister Racing. In N-GT, JMB Racing's Andrea Bertolini and Fabrizio De Simone took their fourth win of the season, in their Ferrari 360 Modena, finishing ahead of eventual Champions Stephane Ortelli and March Lieb in the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS.
18 cars will be taking part in the GT category, and six in the N-GT category, for this first race of the season. More cars, both full-season entrants and race-by-race competitors, are expected for later rounds.
JMB Racing has an all-Austrian line-up in their lead Ferrari 575 M Maranello, with 1999 Champion Karl Wendlinger, N-GT race winner Toto Wolff and Robert Lechner, older brother of KoNo.ad Motorsport's Walter Lechner Jr. Bert Longin and Ian Khan, both former N-GT competitors, are joined by Christophe Pillon in the No. 18 car. The team's third car is shared by Antoine Gosse and Peter Kutemann, who both drove for the team last year, along with Stéphane Daoudi, who drove from RWS Yukos in 2003.
Zwaans GTR Racing created a surprise by announcing French triple Champion Christophe Bouchut and Belgian Sportscar driver and former F3000 driver Marc Goossens as team-mates for Arjan van der Zwaan in the No. 10 Chrysler Viper GTS-R.
The RML line-up has been confirmed as Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton in the No. 7 Saleen S7-R, with Chris Goodwin and Miguel Ramos in the No. 8 car.
Lister Cars have only one car racing in Monza, shared by Tom Coronel, Paul Knapfield and Patrick Pearce, who is racing in the FIA GT Championship for the first time. Coronel is also competing in the FIA European Touring Car Championship, driving a BMW 320i for Carly Motors.
Vittorio Zoboli and Paolo Biglieri have joined Wolfgang Kaufmann in the Wieth Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello car
Graham Nash Motorsport's line-up is confirmed as Paolo Ruberti, Jesus Diez Villarroel and Harald Becker, last seen in the Championship driving a Marcos LM 600.
The N-GT category includes five Porsche cars and a Ferrari 360 Modena.
First Free Practice Session
The cars took to the track for the first time in the 2004 season during Friday's 90-minute first free practice session. The track was still slightly damp early on, but soon dried. In the early part of the session, the two BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars were fastest, with the No. 2 car of Gollin and Cappellari setting a time of 1:44.950.
However, half-way through the session, the Saleen cars began to improve, with the RML, KoNo.ad and Vitaphone cars all moving up into the top five. The Vitaphone car of Alzen and Bartels moved into second place with a lap of 1:45.433, and then went fastest, shortly before the chequered flag, with a time of 1:44.824. The No. 2 BMS car was second, with the No. 4 KoNo.ad Motorsport Saleen S7-R of Walter Lechner Jr, Toni Seiler and Franz KoNo.ad third. The No. 14 Lister Storm, with Tom Coronel at the wheel, missed much of the session, but quickly improved to fourth, with a lap of 1:46.177.
In N-GT, the No. 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr was fastest in the early part of the session. By the end of the 90 minutes, the No. 62 GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena of 2003 Monza winner Fabrizio De Simone and 2001 Champion Christian Pescatori set the best time, with a lap of 1:50.890, ahead of the No. 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche of Ortelli and Collard, who set a time of 1:51.327.
Second Free Practice Session
A few drops of rain fell before the start of the session, but it remained generally dry. Early on, the No. 14 Lister Storm was the fastest on the track, with Tom Coronel setting a time of 1:46.182, while the No. 62 Ferrari remained quickest in N-GT. The No. 2 BMS Ferrari went fastest with a time of 1:45.027 after 30 minutes. However, 5 minutes later, the red flags came out after new Lister driver, Patrick Pearce, hit the barriers on his first lap out of the pits. He was unhurt, but the car was damaged at the front; the team are working to repair it for tomorrow. After the session was restarted, the No. 1 BMS Ferrari improved to second overall, with a time of 1:45.927. The red flags came out again when a puncture stranded Matteo Bobbi in a dangerous position on the track. After the second restart, the No. 5 Vitaphone Saleen set the fastest time of the session, with a time of 1:44.697, the fastest time of the day.
In N-GT, the No. 50 Freisinger Yukos Motorsport Porsche of Stéphane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard set the best time, with a lap of 1:51.608, ahead of the No. 99 car of Maassen and Luhr, and the No. 63 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena, which had been fastest in the morning.
The No. 22 Wieth Ferrari is not allowed to go onto the track before the steering column was changed to the homologated one. Furthermore, four Saleen cars - the No. 4 KoNo.ad Motorsport, No. 5 Vitaphone Racing and No. 7 and 8 RML cars - will not be allowed to participate in qualifying, warm-up or the race, unless a favourable new inspection is passed before the FIA Technical Delegate.
The wearing of the HANS device has been deferred by the World Motor Sport Council. However, the system remains recommended during the 2004 season of the FIA GT Championship. If it is worn, it must only be worn with a listed compatible helmet.
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