Brno 3 Hours – September 25
The weather was breezy and autumnal over the Automotodrom Brno; the on-track action could have done with a breath of fresh air, too. There were two endurance races on the agenda on Saturday, and both saw displays of dominance.

dailysportscar.comThe Endurance Touring Car Series was run over four hours, and was by and large a BMW festival. Best of the M3s was Duller Motorsport's Blue Meanie driven by Philipp Peter, Dieter Quester and Stefano Zonca; this team controlled the race at will, and had an advantage of two laps over the two Max cars of Liberati / Cerrai and Peroni / Argenti. This was their second win in a row, so it is fair to say that this series is getting Duller by the race.

dailysportscar.comIf this race was not exactly thrilling, the spectators had no reason to hope for any more excitement from the last scheduled event of the day. Initially it looked like the Czech 3 hour enduro would be entertaining for a change: as this was also a round of the Polish series, Maciej Stanco had brought along his Saleen S7-R as well as his venerable Porsche 993 GT2. The Czech regulations require the use of catalytic converters, the Polish regulations do not. The Saleen does not have a catalyst, and thus, it was grounded. Incidentally, Max Stanco and his Star Moto Racing Team have plans for a full season in FIA-GT next year, with an all-Polish driver lineup and a fresh S7-R already acquired from Franz Konrad.

Stanco started the race in the Porsche; but the contest for victory was effectively over at this point. We’d best ignore the presence of Antonin Charouz' ex-DTM Mercedes CLK altogether; suffice to say that it sped off into the distance and won both the three hour race and the sprint race on Sunday with ease. It all seems a rather pointless exercise by now, and one can only hope that the organisers and the Czech sporting federation will finally level out this blatant performance imparity in time for next year - while there is still some competition left.

The battle for "Best non-Merc" honours was between a handful of Porsches. Machanek Racing had two cars in the race, a GT3-RS driven by team owner Rudolf Machanek and Jaroslav Honzik, and a GT3 Cup car for Istvan Racz / Stefan Rosina / Josef Venc. Milan Bezak fielded another Cup 996 for himself and Peter Gehrling, and another Cup car made the front row.

The prototype-proven Renauer Motorsport team campaigned a Porsche for the first time, for Manfred Jurasz, Petr Valek, and the ubiquitous Wolfgang Kaufmann. They also had a catalyst related run-in with the officials before the race that required a pre-race "quick fix"; in the race, the Renauer car managed to stay ahead of the Machanek Cup car and Stanco's GT2; when the latter departed from the race after some 40 minutes, second place seemed relatively safe for the Renauer crew. But going into the last third of the race, they fell back to third and eventually fourth place, behind the MB Racing car."My team mates are doing a good job", said Wolfgang Kaufmann, "but being a three driver team, we are losing too much time in the pits. Also, the team is only familiarising itself with the new equipment; that's why we are here." He then took over for the last stint, and his objective was clear: get second place back. The MB Racing 996 retired soon thereafter so all that remained was to reel in the Machanek car; but this was easier said than done. Most of this race happened in total darkness, and the special flair of
night racing adds drama to even the most boring race: this was no different.

As the observer's eyes lose sight of the cars, and they head off into the Great Unknown that in the daytime is simply Turn 1, the ears begin to compensate for this lack of vision. Sound seems to travel further through the cold and hazy night air, and the sounds of the race filter back from all around the track. It is magic that works every time, and one would be content with just watching the fireworks display of headlights piercing through darkness, brake lights flashing, brake discs glowing, exhausts spitting flames, to the reassuring soundtrack of engines singing their song. But the action happened on the timing screen: would Kaufmann make it? Racz / Rosina / Venc already had a substantial advantage; Kaufmann took chunks out of this advantage lap after lap. In the end, a mere twenty seconds decided it in favour of Machanek Racing, with the Renauer team taking a fine third place on its debut outing with the 996.

Renauer did not take part in the 10 lap sprint race on Sunday which turned out to be an entertaining affair (never mind the Merc). Again the Machanek and MB Porsches, both driven by the respective team owners this time out, were in the middle of the action, with Robert Maderyc's Audi A4 Super Tourer and European Hillclimb Champion Robert Senkyr's BMW M3 Special joining in the fun. And fun it was to see these four cars engage in a real dogfight, that went on for several laps, nose to tail, alongside, three wide, four wide. It was, as they say, an accident waiting to happen, and when it happened on lap 4, the two Porsches were gone from the race. On the approach to the first downhill corner, Machanek was spun around by another car, presumably Bezak, who also parked his Porsche just a few yards down the road. A lap later, Maderyc squeezed past Senkyr and held on to a well-deserved second place all the way to the flag. If only this had been the race for the lead.

And thus ended the 2004 Czech Championship, but the highlight of the Czech racing season is still to come, on 9 October: Europe's only 12 hour endurance race. Chances are Mr. Charouz and Mr. Janis will find this one a trifle harder to win.
Johannes Gauglica


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