dailysportscar.com
LMES - Spa-Francorchamps - Preview
An Invigorating Prospect

It’s been a spectacular success in almost every respect hasn’t it, this LMES? Monza, Nurburgring and Silverstone are out of the way – but perhaps the best is yet to come?

Spa may have its magnetic appeal, but signs that the entry was going to creep nearer 50 than 40 were overly optimistic: it now looks like 41 to take to the track on Friday morning. We’ve lost the Taurus Lola, Larbre Panoz, Randaccio Tampolli, K2 Pilbeam, MAC Racing Viper and Denis Cohignac’s Porsche – leaving ten LMP1s, eight LMP2s, six GTSs and 17 GTs (although the Panoz and Cohignac Porsche are now back on the list).

GTS is the most straightforward class in terms of the driver points table:
1 Steve ZACCHIA 25
- Pedro LAMY 25
- Christophe BOUCHUT 25

4 Danny SULLIVAN 15,5
- John BOSCH 15,5.

dailysportscar.com

With the withdrawal of the A-Level Porsche at Silverstone, only five cars started, so half points were awarded – so after a third win, the Larbre drivers still cannot quite confirm that they’re the champions. It would require all six cars to start, the #86 550 to retire and the Sullivan / Bosch / Biagi Barron-Connor Ferrari to win the class, if Larbre’s trio are to be denied. The French entrant has wisely entered a second car, for Tomas Enge, Patrice Goueslard and Robert Pergl. Enge should be spectacular around Spa.

Danny Sullivan says farewell to top line international motor sport at this event, choosing to leave it to the younger men.

So it’s two 550s against two 575s against two S7-Rs. The Vitaphone Saleen has had a spectacular season, but three FIA GT wins haven’t been matched by one in the LMES. The GNM Saleen has had a steadier LMES season, and been rewarded with two podium finishes. Alzen against Bouchut against Enge should be very entertaining.

The GT points reflect the fact that we’ve had three winners in three races:
1 Stéphane DAOUDI 21
2 Xavier POMPIDOU 16
3 Stéphane ORTELLI 14
4 Adam JONES 13
- Sascha MAASSEN 13
- Kazuyuki NISHIZAWA 13
- Haruki KUROSAWA 13
- Roman RUSINOV 13
9 Manabu ORIDO 12
- Piers MASARATI 12
11 Philip COLLIN 11
- Thorkild THYRRING 11
- Lars Eric NIELSEN 11
- Patrick LONG 11.

dailysportscar.com

dailysportscar.comStephane Daoudi is on top because he’s scored one win and two good finishes – and he’s always been on the ultimate pace in the JMB Ferrari. We don’t think Roman Rusinov completed enough of the Monza race (one hour) to score points. Xavier Pompidou (right) scored a fortuitous second at the Nurburgring, in the Sebah Porsche, then a deserved second, with Piers Masarati, at Silverstone. The Frenchman’s prospects have been recognised with the inclusion of none other than Marc Lieb as his partner.

Stephane Ortelli has switched team-mates this year in the Freisinger Porsche (he won with Dumas at Monza, then drove with Collard), so he’s alone on 14 points (what a difference a better fuel calculation would have made at the ‘Ring, where the car was disqualified). Adam Jones and Sascha Maassen deservedly won in Germany, but had an alternator problem at Monza and an engine failure at Silverstone. They’ll be going all out for the win. The others in the group above are the real outsiders: the wins have been shared by the three top teams, and either Cirtek, Freisinger or JMB is likely to add a second win – but the three races so far have been enticingly open.

The purple TVR very nearly provided an upset at Silverstone, and there are two of them on the entry this time – but entered by RSR Racing now. Tim Sugden is driving the Perspective Porsche (with Ian Khan and Michel Heydens), and we know how well this car can perform at Spa (Sugden led the 24 Hours last year), while Andrew Kirkaldy in the Cirtek Ferrari is another interesting prospect. We’ve seen nothing but outstanding racing so far, and Spa is likely to present a fourth exciting GT race.

LMP2 has been both predictable and unpredictable.
1 Marc ROSTAN 23
- Pierre BRUNEAU 23

3 Jean-Marc GOUNON 20
- Alexander FREI 20
- Sam HANCOCK 20
6 John INGRAM 10
- John GAW 10
- Rick PEARSON 10
9 Jean-Bernard BOUVET 8
-Jean-René de FOURNOUX 8

Marc Rostan and Pierre Bruneau have had far from trouble free runs at the three events, but they’ve scored points every time – and won at Monza, thanks to being the ‘last man standing’. It’s taken fine runs from Gounon / Frei / Hancock to show what can be done in this class, with a clean run to the win at Silverstone, and a highly eventful one (to their first win) at the Nurburgring. With Gounon joining Pescarolo, Hancock and Frei (plus TBA?) have got to outscore the red Pilbeam to take the championship honours, and a reliable run from the Courage C65 should see them do just that. It will be a different chassis this time though. The Belmondo Courage has Spa specialist Wim Eyckmans driving for the first time, and this one deserves a finish, having failed to do so thus far.

dailysportscar.comThe WR has performed better than expected, only airbox trouble in Germany preventing this unusual car from taking victory there, but it scored a strong second last month. The rest of the cars are upgraded SR2s (the Tracsport car the most consistent of them, with two good finishes - left)… except for the new Lucchini. It had a troubled test recently, and it might be asking too much for a reliable run first time out – but it should be quick. Quicker than a Courage? We’ll see.

And so to LMP1.
1 Allan McNISH 28
Pierre KAFFER 28

3 Johnny HERBERT 24
- Jamie DAVIES 24
5 Rinaldo CAPELLO 19
- Seiji ARA 19
7 Soheil AYARI 9
8 Martin SHORT 8
- Joao BARBOSA 8

Monza and the ‘Ring saw the most furious racing imaginable between the two Audi Sport UK / Team Veloqx Audis. Silverstone didn’t quite match the other two for drama, the Herbert / Davies car annoyingly just off the pace there, and losing out to the Goh Audi in the last hour. The British team is very determined to make it four LMES wins out of four, which would go some way to avenge defeat at Le Mans, or as Allan McNish expresses it: “Claiming the LMES title would go some way in easing the pain of missing out on Le Mans glory.”

dailysportscar.com

“Only one result is important to me at Spa and that’s a victory,” says Johnny Herbert.

The three Audis, the Rollcentre Dallara and the RML Lola have each finished all three races, but realistically the biggest challenge to the R8s will again be the Creation DBA. What a shame the factory Zytek won’t be present to even up the odds a little. Andy Wallace and Hayanari Shimoda outpaced the Goh Audi in the wet in last year’s 1000 kilometres: that was the Creation chassis, of course. The Jota Zytek will also be a real contender – while Marc Goossens in the Lister (back to a black livery) and Jean-Marc Gounon in the Pescarolo add to the dramas in prospect.

dailysportscar.comJohn McNeil is a little wary of the Nasamax’s form through the likes of Eau Rouge, but the powerful Judd-powered car will be the quickest thing in the place up the long straight beyond. "Spa is another high downforce circuit, and we will be seeking more downforce.. (but) the power and mechanical grip we have should help redress the balance," says McNeil.

The weather has played its part in two of the races this year, and there’s a very good chance it could do so again. There are two practice sessions (45 minutes) on Friday and two on Saturday: race action begins at 13.00 on Sunday. This is likely to be another thriller. The rewards are high - an automatic Le Mans entry for the top three teams in each class.

 

              Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.