Deletraz – He (Still) Loves GT Racing
Despite What Happened at Adria

Jean-Denis Deletraz (left) and Andrea Piccini went into the penultimate race of the FIA GT Championship, at Adria on Sunday (October 15) with a fighting chance of challenging the #1 Maserati drivers, and Bert in the Saleen, for the title – and the Swiss was understandably furious at what transpired on lap 16, barely 20 minutes into the three hour race.

“It was really close and fair between the three championship cars (his Phoenix Aston Martin with Andrea Piccini at the wheel, the Zakspeed Saleen and the #1 Maserati – with Christophe Bouchut involved too.. plus Fabio Babini) – but Babini was 20 metres behind Andrea, when I am sure he lost his braking point.

“He claimed that Andrea braked early, but that is ridiculous. You saw it on the TV? He smashed our car off the track.

“But do you know why the BMS car pitted so often (four times) for new tyres? The team had 1,000 guests there, and it was really important for them to show well. The car qualified on soft tyres, but they could only do about 30 laps on each set of tyres!”

BMS seem to do a good job of preparing an Aston Martin though - even one that has been thoroughly soaked in champagne....

So from potentially going for a championship, Deletraz and Piccini were reduced to bystanders – although the Phoenix Aston Martin did briefly resume racing five laps down after repairs, although it was soon retired with terminal brake problems.

Jean-Denis Deletraz was more than a little surprised to find that the FIA stewards considered that the contact from Babini was a racing accident. Deletraz made his feelings known to Stephane Ratel, who pointed out that he (Ratel) is in the hands of the FIA officials: it is their job to judge any incidents and penalise any offenders.

“No one wants the responsibility,” said a highly aggrieved Deletraz today. “It’s really bad for the sport when there is contact like this but no penalties. We have had several incidents like this during the season. But we never have penalties. In F1, the drivers immediately get penalties.

“All the drivers see these incidents, and maybe they think they can do the same…. But at Adria, we did have a lot of good racing, side by side racing, and no contact. Passing means racing side by side – but Babini never got near Andrea until he hit our car.”

Here's Piccini leading Janis, Babini and Bouchut - and below that, the Italian's brief charge through the leaders (Gollin behind #5), after a five lap repair, but before an imminent retirement.

With 65 FIA GT races to his name, and four overall victories, Jean-Denis Deletraz is suitably qualified to comment on where the FIA GT Championship has got to in 2006 – and where it is going.

“The problem is that every team would like something different for 2007 – short races, long races, in Europe, outside Europe, with the DTM, not with the DTM. I don’t know how Stephane is going to manage this problem.

“My opinion? It needs to go outside Europe – and it needs non-European teams, maybe from Asia and South America. I prefer races outside Europe – big races, which need to stay at three hours, maybe four hours. Everyone wants short races for the TV, but I say that means going up against F1 and the DTM, which is impossible. GT racing needs to be different (from those two).”

So what are you considering for next year?

“First of all, we will decide about the last race at Dubai. We will decide whether to go or not very soon. It’s very expensive, and we would be going just to race there – maybe against a small number of GT1 cars, with the championship over. We should have been going there to decide the championship.

“Peugeot’s decision to support the Le Mans Series is very significant. They are helping to build the support package with their small cars, and they will be spending a lot of money on the TV and the media exposure. Peugeot has a lot of power, and that makes the Le Mans Series really strong. It’s very bad for the FIA GT Championship.

“But I want to do more than five races in a year! Le Mans is like two races – with the test day and then race week – so that makes seven. My ideal would be nine, so Sebring, five races in Europe, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans at the end – that would be my perfect season.

“I love GT racing – but I’m not sure about the FIA GT Championship.”

The FIA GT calendar was expected by the end of this month, so perhaps then we will see where the Championship is heading for 2007.


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