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 car entries.

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 six times.

dailysportscar.comTomas 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.
Johannes Gauglica


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