Czech 3 Hours – May 1 / 2
So many races, so little time: the first round of the Czech Championship
took place at the Automotodrom Brno on Saturday and Sunday, May
1 / 2, amidst changeable weather. The race format remains unchanged
from last year, with a 3 hour enduro on Saturdays and a 10 lap dash
on Sundays. The sprint was oversubscribed to the point that the
smaller cars got their own race; the entry list for the 3 hour race
was not quite as impressive. The missing prototypes - banned this
year for safety reasons - could not balanced with new GT and touring
From the beginning of
the first practice session on Friday, observers could not help the
creeping suspicion that the playing field for the 3 hour race was
not quite level. Czech Mercedes importer Antonin Charouz brought
his new toy along, a shiny 2003 spec. Mercedes CLK coupé,
previously Jean Alesi's DTM car. His 2001 CLK left the opposition
the whif of a chance, the new car is in another league. On any given
circuit, the 2004 DTM cars are capable of lap times some two seconds
faster than FIA GT machinery, the 2003 cars are not much slower.
So what chance of success does a team like Machanek Racing, who
brought along a brand new Porsche 996 GT3-RSR, have against such
a car? None. Especially when the Silver Arrow is driven by someone
as talented as Charouz' protegé, Tomas Enge.
At the end of
the first qualifying, he had very casually put over eight seconds
between himself and everybody else. They might as well have handed
him the trophy right then and there. The afternoon qualifying session
was washed away by a thunderstorm, so the Porsche and BMW teams
were spared more humiliation. Not that they weren't keen on going
racing, with a handful of new cars coming into the series, such
as former European Hillclimb Champion Otakar Kramsky's BMW E36 GTR...
...and old favourites
like the Tatra Special, still a pleasant sight to behold (below).
As for the race,
we will not even try to make it sound any more exciting than it
actually was. The CLK drove away from the field with ease. #50 remained
at the top of the list even during pit stops, and lapped the field
Enge, and later Antonin Charouz, were not idling about, attacking
the course with gusto, and bettering their practice time by over
a second, with sometimes quite aggressive driving. The main argument
for the exclusion of the prototypes, which might have provided some
competition, was the excessive speed differential over the smaller
cars. But does an unrestricted DTM car really belong in the same
race with 1600cc Fiestas? - very soon, everybody else pretty much
gave up trying to keep up with this pace. Add to this technical
trouble for the main rivals, Rudolf Machanek / Jaroslav Honzik,
that demoted the red 996 (right) to the lower end of the top 20;
they would finish the race in fifth spot.
The GT3-RS of former
FIA Central European touring car champion Andrej Studenic, with
partners Peter Jurena / Milan Bezak, initially took turns in second
place with the fastest 2 litre car, the Bohemia Racing Team Audi
A4; BRT was hoping for rain for their 4WD car. But it stayed dry,
and the Porsche eventually established itself in second place following
the Audi's first stop - so no close finish there, either. The K+K
Racing BMW M3 of Kacirek and Kusin came home in fourth place, and
another BMW M3 Special, for Miro Konopka / Peter Princ, rounded
out the top 6.
On Sunday, the big GTs
and tourers lined up once again for the 10 lap sprint. They would
not get very far. Peter Princ was driving a Porsche 996 GT3 Cup
version this time, taking the start from the second row of the grid.
Charouz led them across the line and into turn 1, a fast 180 degree
right-hander. Coming out of this corner, and accelerating all the
time, the Princ Porsche tangled with another car and spun back into
the field, the driver’s side facing the oncoming traffic.
Marcel Kusin's BMW ploughed into the Porsche at speed. The vicious
impact left both drivers injured; while Kusin was tended to by the
track doctor, Princ had to be cut out of the wreckage with heavy
equipment. After what seemed to be an awfully long time, he was
airlifted to the nearest hospital, where he remains in intensive
care, in critical condition. Understandably, the race was not restarted.