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Bobbi/Biagi maintain perfect record at Donington

30 June 2003


The only possible way to describe the fifth round of the FIA GT Championship at Donington Park at the weekend is 'action packed'.

With temperatures high and the sun shining, the cars and drivers gave the 20,000 spectators lining the British circuit a thrilling show, with a breathtaking three-hour sequence of changes of lead, nose-to-tail battles, daring overtaking manoeuvres and assorted racing incidents.

Although both Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R cars and the number 14 Lister Storm led the race, and the Konrad Saleen and other Lister Storms looked strong, an assortment of mechanical problems and racing incidents meant that the race result was identical to Brno, with BMS Scuderia Italia and Freisinger Motorsport finishing on top of the podium.

Further to the technical scrutineering, the number 18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper, originally classified second, was excluded from the results by a decision from the Stewards of the Meeting. Therefore the results of the race remain provisional, pending the appeal by Zwaan's Racing to the exclusion, and engine checks on both the winning number 23 Ferrari and the number 18 Chrysler Viper GTS-R.

For Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi it was their fifth win, in only their first season of GT racing and as such they continue to dominate the FIA GT Championship, with their seemingly invulnerable Ferrari 550 Maranello. Despite 100 kg penalty weight, and the undoubted speed of the Lister Storm and Saleen S7-R cars, Bobbi and Biagi put in a fine performance to take the win.

''The first stint was very good,'' said Bobbi, ''I had a big fight with the two Vipers at the start; I touched Alliot at the first hairpin and a lap later he pushed me out. I went down to sixth place, and tried to catch Gollin. I pushed very hard and passed four cars, but I could not pass the Lister, as he was very fast. Then Thomas took over and did a very good job. I took the car back over in first position, and it was quite easy to finish the race in that same position. I am very happy because this is a Lister track. We had a little problem with oil towards the end, but it was not a big issue.''

With a perfect score of 50 points, Bobbi and Biagi now have a massive lead of 26 points over their nearest rivals, Care Racing drivers Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Stefano Livio. Their team, BMS Scuderia Italia, is well ahead of its nearest rivals in the Teams Classification, with Lister Racing trailing by 34 points.

''Today we had a very good set-up but in the first stint we had a big problem with the fuel pump,'' noted Livio, ''It was better after the first pit stop, but we continued to have the same problem throughout the race. I am therefore very happy to have third place considering the problems we had.''

In the N-GT class, just like in 2002, St├ęphane Ortelli's fortunes appear to have changed in the Czech Republic. Last year, his Brno win heralded a series of victories that took him to the N-GT Drivers title, and after winning at the Czech track last month, the driver from Monaco continued the sequence with a win in Great Britain.

''This is a very important win for us, just before the 24 Hours of Spa; we are coming back to the front. I expect a good race in Spa,'' said Ortelli, ''I was successful here last year with Romain, and I am very pleased with this win, as it reminds me of last year and what we achieved. We made a lot of progress during the weekend, after struggling during the first free practice session. And I really have to thank my team-mate Marc, as without him, I would really struggle.''

With the second Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Bert Longin and Gabriele Gardel finishing in a fine third place, the team has moved into the lead of the N-GT Teams classification, while Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb have 28 points, two behind the leaders Tim Mullen and Jamie Davies, and just one behind Fabrizio de Simone and Andrea Bertolini. With six drivers within three points of each other, the class is closer than ever, and the upcoming Proximus 24 Hours of Spa should be fascinating.

The surprise result of the fifth round had to be the second-place finish of Dutch team Zwaan's Racing, with its Chrysler Viper GTS-R - the first Viper to finish on the podium this season. However, the car was later excluded from the results due to a breach of the technical regulations, further to a modification made after initial scrutineering. The team has lodged an appeal and the results remain provisional.

This elevates the Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello of Enzo Calderari, Lilian Bryner and Stefano Livio to second. Despite a number of misfire and power-steering problems, the trio managed to keep the car going and took their third third-place finish of the season. Care Racing, despite only having one car, is lying third in the Teams Classification.

Third place went to the Force One Festina Chrysler Viper of pole-sitter Philippe Alliot, David Hallyday and Steve Zacchia, which had looked strong for much of the race, but lost time with two mid-race spins.

The Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R of Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton was provisionally fourth, ahead of the Creation Autosportif Lister Storm, which had run strongly until a long pit stop due to starter problems.

The Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R finished a provisional sixth in class, after looking certain to finish on the podium until late in the race, with the Roos-Optima Chrysler Viper dropping back from fifth as Magnus Wallinder struggled on worn tyres. The car inherited seventh place after the exclusion of the number 18 Zwaans' Racing Chrysler Viper, meaning that the number 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari took the final point for eighth.

German team RWS-Yukos had its best weekend of the 2003 season today, when a strong performance from St├ęphane Daoudi and Johnny Mowlem saw their number 99 Porsche 996 GT3-RS take second place in the N-GT category, giving an all-Porsche podium for the first time this season.

The Team Eurotech Porsche of David and Godfrey Jones was fourth, ahead of the number 88 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena and the number 80 Veloqx car of Smith and Kirkaldy.

The second RWS-Yukos car of Vasiliev and Fomenko finished in seventh place, with the number 53 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Kutemann and Gosse scoring the final point.

The next round is on July 27, at the Spa circuit in Belgium.




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