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BMS Scuderia Italia opens account

3 June 2002


A long hot race in Spain saw BMS Scuderia Italia take its first win in the FIA GT Championship, after a dominant performance from Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz saw off the assorted challenges from Viper and Lister alike.

Piccini started from pole and pulled away, despite the scorching heat, and the Italo-Swiss pairing were never seriously threatened. Carsport Holland's Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans ended their run of bad luck to take second, ahead of Lister Storm Racing, which finished sixth with Nicolaus Springer and Jamie Campbell-Walter to retain the points lead.

In N-GT, Freisinger Motorsport took their second consecutive win, with Stephane Ortelli and Sascha Maassen. Championship leaders Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini, in the JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, just managed to hold on to second place from the RWS Motorsport Porsche of Antonio Garcia and Hans Fertl.

Two weeks after claiming its first pole position in Brno, with Tomas Enge, BMS Scuderia Italia scored its first win of the year. It was a textbook lights-to-flag victory, with Piccini and Deletraz - who did not get the chance to race at Brno after the car's early retirement, setting the pace in nearly every session, and fulfilling their promise to deliver a win in the #23 BMW Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello.

Piccini started the race and, for the first hour, was consistently the fastest car on the track, extending his lead to more than 26secs. Deletraz kept the lead through the second hour, and Piccini stepped aboard for the final hour to finish the race 33.270secs ahead of the second-placed Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R.

''I didn't push very hard at the beginning as I didn't know how the tyres would be,'' the Italian admitted, ''It was the first time I had driven with a full tank of fuel, so I had to push, but try to keep the tyres. After a while, the car was more neutral to drive, so it was easier. However, a lot of the cars were difficult to overtake. The last stint was a lot better - we had made the gap and just had to control it. The car was perfect, and the Michelin tyres were very constant.''

After a run of bad luck, which saw them retire from the lead in the past two rounds of the championship, the Carsport Holland driver pairing of Hezemans and Kumpen took second position in the #3 Chrysler Viper GTS-R.

The pair started second, and tailed the Ferrari all the way to the flag. Although they were never more than 25secs behind the car, they never appeared to be in a position to challenge for the lead and, in the final ten minutes, Hezemans dropped back and settled for second.

''The car was okay, but we were not fast enough this weekend to keep up with the Ferrari,'' Kumpen admitted, ''We are usually the fastest car on the track, but not this
time - we will have to find something to help us improve for the next race.''

The second Carsport Viper of Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Capellari was running strongly, and was involved in a tight battle with the similar #1 Larbre Competition car for fourth position, until it suffered an electrical failure during the second hour and retired.

The reigning champions went on to finish third to maintain its record of four podium finishes out of four races with Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien. However, the Spanish heat came at a cost as Bouchut was taken to the medical centre after the race with burned feet.

''Considering we have 70kg penalty weight, I think this was a good result,'' Terrien said afterwards, ''Christophe spun just before handing over, so I started in seventh
position, and had to push hard to come back. The tyres were very constant, and Michelin have done a very good job after the Dunlop domination at this track last year. This is the first time this season our tyres have been so consistent.''

Vincent Vosse and Carl Rosenblad finished in fourth place in the second Larbre Viper, while Paul Belmondo and co-driver Claude-Yves Gosselin took fifth, ahead of the leading Lister.

''My brakes had gone by the end,'' the French owner-driver reported, ''I got close to Vosse, but then I went off a little bit on the outside, so I thought it would be better to finish fifth than to not finish at all. I am happy with the result. It was a pity for the other car, which retired with an oil pump problem, but they were running well in the early stages.''

Despite the best efforts of the various Viper teams, however, Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer continue to lead the championship for drivers after finishing sixth overall in the #14 Lister Storm. Campbell-Walter was never higher than third and, when he handed the car over to Springer without changing the tyres, the car
dropped back. The German struggled around the 3.8km track, and pitted after 40 minutes, leaving JC-W to make an extra stop for fuel with 20 minutes to go.

''Sometimes you get just sixth place!'' Campbell-Walter sighed, ''It was very hard doing one hour and 20, especially in a car with the engine in the front. I feel alright from the driving - it is my feet that are the problem. The car and tyres were okay, but we were so far behind fifth that there was no way of catching them. We are still leading the championship, having finished in the points every race, so we cannot complain.''

The sister Lister of Bobby Verdon-Roe and Paul Knapfield, retired in the first hour with a clutch failure but, and Lister Storm Racing only scoring one point, Larbre Competition Chéreau is now only four points behind the leaders in the teams' classification.

Stephane Ortelli raced to his second consecutive victory in the N-GT category, this time sharing the #54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R with Weissach expert Sascha Maassen. The Monaco driver steadily extended his lead throughout the first half of the race, pitting just short of half-distance to hand over to Maassen. The German driver had enough of a gap to make a last-minute stop for fuel and still come out in the lead, and a second successive win has moved Ortelli up to second position in the N-GT drivers' classification. The team's second car, driven by Bert Longin and Stephane Daoudi, was delighted with fourth place in the class in the #55 GT3-R, equalling their Silverstone performance.

''I was not yet on the reserve tank at the end of the race but, when the JMB Ferrari pulled into the pits, we decided not to take any risks and to stop too, so as not to risk running out of fuel,'' Maassen explained.

''It has been a very good weekend for us,'' Ortelli said, ''Sascha did a good job in the Superpole, and the first place on the grid gave us a big advantage. I pulled out a good gap and I was able to do some quick times at the end of the stint, as our tyres were still good.''

Despite the Freisinger pairing coming out on top, Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini extended their lead in the drivers' championship with a second-place finish in the #50 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena.

Montermini started seventh in the N-GT class after failing to make it into Superpole, but made his way through to second before handing to Pescatori just short of half distance. The Italian fought with the #76 RWS Porsche of Antonio Garcia, but then extended his lead far enough to make an extra stop for fuel with just ten minutes remaining. He came out just ahead of the Spanish driver, and had to defend his position for the final laps.

''I had started quite a way behind, after a difficult qualifying session,'' Montermini admitted, ''Luckily, I managed to stay out of trouble, despite a big war going on between some Porsches in front of me. I avoided any contact and just put the lap times in. Eventually, I managed to get up to second place and then handed over to Pescatori. He had a big battle with Garcia, but managed to keep second place, which is good for our points.''

Andrea Garbagnati and Andrea Bartolini were fourth in their #51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, increasing the team's points to 43 - now 19 ahead of nearest rival Freisinger Motorsport.

''The drinks bottle stopped working, so that made it very hard in this heat,'' Bartolini revealed, ''It was not possible to push too hard. We only made one stop, and the fuel was okay. Andrea Garbagnati did not have much fuel left, but I was fine during my stint.''

Spanish driver Antonio Garcia gave RWS Motorsport its first points of the season on his return to the championship. The former Telefonica Nissan title winner took third position in the #76 RWS Porsche 996 that he was sharing with German Hans Fertl, crossing the line scant metres behind Pescatori's second-placed Ferrari.

Garcia had not expected the Ferrari to make two stops, so he had dropped back during the final stages of the race. However, when Pescatori emerged just in front, he started to push despite the heat and having been in the car for nearly two hours. Despite closing to within 0.2secs, the Spaniard was unable to pass the Ferrari in the time remaining, and had to settle for third place.

''We had hoped to do the race on one stop, so Hans started, running smoothly and saving fuel and tyres,'' Garcia said, ''However, we started to have problems after 40 laps, so we had to change the strategy. I got in and ran for the rest of the race. It was very, very hot. I didn't expect the Ferrari to have to pit again, so I was just keeping the pace. When I saw the Ferrari go in, I pushed hard to try and take second, but it was too late and I had to settle for third. It was a pity.''

''I would like to thank Antonio Garcia for his fantastic job in qualifying, the Superpole and the race - he did a fantastic job,'' Fertl complimented, ''I was just pleased to be able to hold on to second position at the start despite an oversteer problem.''

For the first time this season, the Autorlando team failed to score any points, despite starting strongly. Toto Wolff and Philipp Peter were running third and pitted for the first time while leading, but a left-front puncture forced them to stop a second time, and they came home in seventh, one place ahead of their team-mates Joel Camathias and Luca Rangoni.


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