FIA GT Championship – Zhuhai – Preview
Part Eleven

Remember 1999, when the Oreca Vipers were cleaning up in the FIA GT Championship? That was the last time the FIA GTs visited Zhuhai – and both of the ’99 winners (Beretta and Wendlinger) are still racing the same (general) class of car this year.

Oreca won every race bar one in that '99 season – and the other one was a Viper win too, for Paul Belmondo’s team. But 2000 was very different, as the Listers came on strong, as they might well do again next year.

Vipers in 1999 …. Ferraris in 2004. It hasn’t been so clear cut this year though, with the Vitaphone Saleen pitching in with three wins, a second and a third – but from ten races, that means five no scores, which is no way to win a championship.

It’s been a Prodrive / BMS Scuderia Italia dominated year again, the 550 Maranellos taking six wins, and masses of points-scoring results – all this without a recognised pro-pairing in any of the three cars.

The tenth win went to the Wendlinger / Melo JMB Ferrari 575, at Donington – but even that needed an unusual last lap to give the 575 its second FIA GT win (it won on its debut in 2003).

"We would really like to claim our first win of the year," says GPC team manager (and former GT driver) Batti Pregliasco. "We need to finish well to make sure of second place in the GT Teams classification, which was the goal set by (team owner) Giampaolo Coppi at the start of the year.”

The 575 was surely expected to win more than once this year?

The Maseratis are now homologated and can score points, and might just finish the season with their first ‘proper’ win (having finished first on the track at Oschersleben).

The GT points tables tell the story – and there’s no Cappellari / Gollin at Round 11: there’s little to be resolved in GT at the finale. There are some interesting names pitching in at the oriental event though: such as Michael Mallock, Luca Drudi, Frederic Dor, Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien (no, not together!) add some unknowns in a number of cars.

GT Drivers
1 Luca Cappellari 85
Fabrizio Gollin 85
3 Matteo Bobbi 68.5
Gabriele Gardel 68.5
5 Enzo Calderari 50
Lilian Bryner 50
Fabio Babini 50
8 Karl Wendlinger 46.5
9 Philipp Peter 46
10 Uwe Alzen 44
Michael Bartels 44

GT Teams
1 BMS Scuderia Italia 153.5
2 G.P.C. Giesse Squadra Corse 68
3 JMB Racing 56
4 Vitaphone Racing Team 44
5 Care Racing Development 32
6 RML 24
7 Creation Autosportif 16
8 Zwaans GTR Racing Team 11

GT Handicap weights are as follows:
#2 BMS Ferrari 100 kg
#3 Care Racing Ferrari 100 kg
#34 Maserati 70 kg
#33 Maserati 60 kg
#5 Saleen 50 kg
#1 BMS Ferrari 45 kg
#17 Ferrari 10 kg

In N-GT, both of the (Porsche) Championship contenders, the # 50 and #99 Porsches, are carrying 75 kg, while the #62 GPC has 45 kg. The GruppeM Porsche will carry 40 kg, while the RJN Nissan will have 30 kg, as a new entry.

N-GT Drivers
1 Stephane Ortelli 90
Emmanuel Collard 90
3 Sascha Maassen 85.5
Lucas Luhr 85.5
5 Christian Pescatori 48
Alexei Vasiliev 48
7 Gerold Ried 40
Christian Ried 40

N-GT Teams
1 Freisinger Yukos Motorsport 138
2 Freisinger Motorsport 85.5
3 G.P.C. Giesse Squadra Corse 52
4 Proton Competition 41

Ortelli and Collard or Maassen and Luhr? It’s six wins to three in favour of the former AJR ALMS drivers, but Ortelli and Collard won at Spa (an 18 point haul), and have scored in every round. Maassen and Luhr missed out at the opening round, and have been trying to catch up ever since (although the two pairs were tied after five races).

“Our goal is to win, nothing else,” says Sascha Maassen. “We can't really expect to win the Championship now; the cars are so reliable, they have never failed at all this season, and I am sure Stéphane and Emmanuel will not take any risks.”

Extra interest comes from the Nissan 350Z (Ben Collins and Neil Cunningham, representing Jonathan France and Embassy) and the GruppeM Porsche (Tim Sugden and Marc Lieb again).

“I want to have as good a go as we can, to finish on the podium, and to push Freisinger as hard as possible," says Tim Sugden. Does he ever do anything less than give it a good go?

Zhuhai is eight hours ahead of GMT, and Eurosport should have highlights early on Sunday evening in Europe.

 

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