Nef, Lemeret and Porsche Win 2004 BTCS
Winter, Van Hoof & dsc Polo Are Vice-Champions
The last two rounds of the 2004 Belgian Touring Car Championship
were held at Spa last weekend (October 30-31), where title contenders
in all the classes were found to be as busy with setting up their
cars as they were with calculating points (the current points system
is rather complicated but the organisers have promised to make it
simpler for 2005). With Audi/VW Belgium putting in a big marketing
effort and with former tennis star Henri Leconte, plus Vanina Ickx,
joining the grid (both in a Porsche) the grandstands were quite
full on an otherwise cold day.
For the overall
championship, favourites Stéphane Lemeret and Laurent Nef
just had to finish in the top six of the first race to be crowned
champions, even if the official Audi A4 Turbo won the race.
the smaller classes things were less straightforward. The dailysportscar.com
VW Polo Lehmann (probably serving Team 86 for the last time, as
the car is to be sold to Germany) had a rather uphill mission to
accomplish. Bob Winter and Marc Van Hoof would have to win both
races, with the Peugeot driven by Englishman Karim Norris finishing
second only once, and the championship leaders in their factory-built
Citroen C2 VTS not finishing higher than fifth in both races.
The first race
saw the Silhouette Jaguar X-Type storm to the front, only to run
out of track halfway around the first lap. The Audi on the other
hand did what it had to do: charge hard from pole position and try
to win at all costs. The GPR Porsche boys also did what they had
to do: trundle around within the top six, making sure not to make
any mistakes and steer clear on any incidents.
gods at the back of the grid had a tougher task. "The points
system makes it difficult for any team to have a too large advantage
coming into the last race weekend, or to catch up if you miss a
race like we did," Bob Winter explained. "Three
cars and driver pairs were still fighting for the title, and two
more could still have a go, finishing second or third in the championship.
Prisoners would therefore not be taken!"
Rain had upset
the apple cart a bit in practice, with the Collin / Ronveaux Peugeot
setting fastest time in class, Marc van Hoof qualifying the Polo
in third. "Their car is a bit faster than ours, but I think
their Dunlop tyres were better in the rain than our Michelins,"
matter too much in the race because, although cold, the track would
be dry (the previous night's six-hour Fun Cup race, Le Mans winner
Guy Smith’s favourite discipline, had to be red-flagged because
of fog reducing visibility to about twenty metres). Collin and Ronveaux
were gone at the start and not seen again until the finish, while
Winter and Van Hoof had to settle for second. "Halfway
through the race that didn't look too bad for the championship as
they would take points away from everybody," Winter said
(driver change for the Polo, below).
But with the
Citroën in third and the Peugeot in fourth, it looked like
any title hopes would have to be buried at the finish flag. "That
was before the unthinkable happened and both the Citroën (fuel
pump) and the Peugeot (engine) retired within one lap from each
other. Unfortunately for us they both covered 60% of the race distance,
so they would take points."
So out came
the pocket calculators again, because if the Peugeot was out of
the equation for the title it could still "help" the Polo
by taking points away from the Citroen. "Unfortunately,
they couldn't get their engine fixed, so that put paid to our title
ambitions. It also meant we would be vice-champions if we just finished
within the top three," Winter continued.
At the (standing)
start of the race a mass crash was avoided when the David Loix /
Sylvie Delcour car stalled, but that couldn't keep newly crowned
champions Nef and Lemeret from going as fast as they could. Without
any pressure, they just had a ball and led the whole race, leading
from the Jaguar, the Audi and the Vanina Ickx Porsche. The Audi
spun in the Bus Stop Chicane and had to pit for repairs, giving
an easy victory to the GPR Porsche, half a minute clear of the Jaguar
and almost a minute ahead of the second GPR Porsche driven by Pascal
Mathieu (who, apart from being extremely quick, is also the guy
who paints all the helmets for Bell in Europe) and Martial Chouvel.
the B-Class Collin and Ronveaux once again sped away in the distance,
with Winter and Van Hoof (waiting to get in, right) settling
for second. "The Citroen again retired, but this time early
enough for us not to worry," Winter said (having just
got out, below left).
then on it was just relaxing and enjoying the ride."
Until the gearbox
broke four laps from the end.
just waited at the La Source hairpin and rolled down the track when
the flag came out. The only semi-retirement we have had to endure
all year. So where did we lose the title? At the first two races,
where we didn't show up because the engine wasn't ready. In the
other nine races we scored one win, six seconds, a third and a fourth,
so with that finishing record, I'm sure we would have scored a similar
result in the opening rounds and had a better chance at the title.
Nevertheless, we're quite happy with our second vice-championship
in three years, but we'd obviously like to win it next year,"
For 2005, the
BTCS is likely to expand from six weekends to seven, each time with
two races per weekend, except for the 12 Hours. Races are scheduled
at Spa (4), Zolder (1) and Dijon in France (1), with a second one
to be held in Flandres at either Zolder or the Coxyde military airport
by the coast. The points system is said to be simplified, and some
other detail changes are expected as well. With the French Silhouette
series in trouble for 2005 it isn't unlikely that quite a few of
these tubeframe BMWs and Peugeots will make it to the BTCS as well.
And Team 86?
"Marc, who owns the car, is looking at a 2-litre FSI Polo
for next year, which will make our lives a bit faster but also more
difficult as the 2-litre class is the best attended of the championship.
Depending on sponsorship, we even might race something different
altogether, but we'll know for sure around Essen Motor Show time
when we know what's for sale."
BTCS - Round 10 - Spa
1. Verbergt/Hemroulle Audi A4 Turbo 34 laps in 1h30m25s095
2. Delcour/Loix BMW M3 Silhouette at 0m13s543
3. Chouvel/Mathieu Porsche 911 GT3 at 0m41s932
4. Nef/Lemeret Porsche 911 GT3 at 1m11s326
5. Ickx/Chaillet Porsche 911 GT3 at 1 lap
6. De Sordi/Deblauwe Porsche 911 GT3 at 1 lap
7. Lupant/Corbissier BMW M3 Silhouette at 1 lap
8. Dumont/Schmit BMW M3 at 3 laps
1. Collin/Ronveaux Peugeot 106 29 laps in 1m33m15s427
2. Winter/Van Hoof VW Polo Lehmann at 1 lap
3. Deridder/Thiebault Citroen C2 VTS at 6 laps
BTCS - Round 11 - Spa
1. Nef/Lemeret Porsche 911 GT3 (above) 35 laps in 1h32m13s199
2. Thiry/Dumont Jaguar X-Type Silhouette at 0m30s912
3. Chouvel/Mathieu Porsche 911 GT3 at 0m50s501
4. Ickx/Chaillet Porsche 911 GT3 at 1 lap
5. Lupant/Corbissier BMW M3 Silhouette at 1 lap
6. De Sordi/Deblauwe Porsche 911 GT3 at 1 lap
7. De Pauw/Leconte Porsche 911 GT3 at 2 laps
8. Sterckx/Heeren Renault Clio at 3 laps
1. Collin/Ronveaux Peugeot 106 29 laps in 1m34m05s938
2. Winter/Van Hoof VW Polo Lehmann at 4 laps
DNF Deridder/Thiebault Citroen C2 VTS at 18 laps