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Ferrari finds favour in photo-finish

14 July 2002


A fascinating photo-finish end to the sixth round saw Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz take their third consecutive FIA GT Championship win, and gain the lead in the drivers' classification in Oschersleben.

Their BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello crossed the line just a second ahead of the charging Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer, who helped Lister Storm Racing retake the teams' points lead. The Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Marc Duez and Fabio Babini finished third.

An extremely close N-GT race was finally won by the Autorlando Porsche of Philipp Peter and Toto Wolff, overhauling the RWS Motorsport Porsche of Antonio Garcia and Horst Felbermayr Jr. Andrea Garbagnati and Andrea Bertolini were third in their JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, further increasing their team's points lead.

Piccini and Deletraz had signalled their intent by setting fastest time in the warm-up session, but were hounded throughout by the Viper pairings of Mike Hezemans/Anthony Kumpen and Fabio Babini/Marc Duez. Garcia was the fastest of the N-GT runners in the #76 RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R, the Spaniard taking the position from Philipp Peter and Toto Wolff in the #58 Autorlando car that would be its biggest threat in the race.

Piccini dropped from second position on the grid to fifth at the start, but made up places to run second at the first round of pit-stops. Deletraz stepped aboard and took the lead from Springer in the second hour. However, the #12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper of Babini and Duez was always in close attendance, and it took the lead at the final round of stops, when the team elected not to change tyres.

''At the start, I thought that one of the cars passed before the green light,'' Piccini claimed, ''I couldn't close the door so dropped to fifth. It was very difficult for me to pass the Carsport cars, because they were very fast in a straight line. I don't think that Gollin saw me and I hit him, and I am sorry about that. I didn't hit him deliberately - I was all over the grass, but we touched.''

The last hour provided one of the races of the season, with the top three battling hard, but it was Piccini who controlled the race from the front, allowing Campbell-Walter to close at the flag, despite coping with worn front-tyres.

''I started to push to catch the Lister, but there was always traffic,'' Piccini continued, ''We lost time in the pit-stop with the refuelling but, when I took the car over, I was only five seconds behind. I had to close the gap which, was hard because the front tyres were gone. It was a hard race.''

The Lister pair had to settle for second position, after team tactics played another major part in the result. Springer took the car for the second hour of the race with fresh Dunlop tyres for the first time this season, and was able to lap competitively throughout. The team made up further time when it changed just the left-side tyres at the final stop for Campbell-Walter, but it was just not enough.

''I had a good start and a good beginning of the race,'' JC-W related, ''We decided to give Nic the new tyres because the nature of the circuit makes it hard on the front tyres. He did a great job, the best all year, and obviously benefited from the new tyres.

''We had great fuel consumption this weekend, so we could run an hour and eight minutes on the fuel. When Nic came in, we changed only the two left tyres which gave us good track position. It was a good race, and it got close at the end, and congratulations to the Ferrari.''

Belmondo Racing duo Babini and Duez recorded their second podium of the season when they finished third overall. The pair had taken the lead at the final round of stops when they elected not to mount new Pirelli tyres, but were delayed when they suffered a sticking throttle towards the end of the race, and dropped to nearly a minute behind at the end.

''I am very happy for this result,'' bubbled Babini, ''The last hour we had a good car, and the tyres would do the two stints, but we had a problem with the throttle cable at the end. The throttle was open, and it was difficult under braking like that!''

Larbre Competition saw drivers Carl Rosenblad and Vincent Vosse finish fourth overall, but team-mates, and erstwhile championship leaders, Christophe Bouchut and David Terrien failed to finish for the first time this season. The #1 Chrysler Viper GTS-R suffered a misfire problem, followed by transmission failure, and eventually retired.

''We had no real problems, although the traffic was heavy, which cost us some time,'' Vosse reported, ''At least we have scored some points again, and I am on the same number of points as Hezemans, Kumpen, Duez and Babini - which is good for the rest of the season.

''I've finished all the races in the top six, but we haven't been close enough to fight with the big boys. I'm looking forward to Spa, where I will be sharing the #1 Viper with Bouchut, Terrien and Sebastien Bourdais.''

The Carsport Holland team got both of its Chrysler Viper GTS-Rs to the finish, although only the #4 car of Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Capellari scored points, taking fifth at the flag. The #3 of Kumpen and Hezemans suffered a puncture in the first hour that threw it out of sequence with the pit-stops, and was were further delayed in the pits when the car refused to start at the second stop.

The second Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm of Bobby Verdon-Roe and Paul Knapfield came home sixth overall having started from 16th following their oil pressure problems during practice and qualifying.

''Considering we had two engine changes in the build up to the race, and we didn't do a lap at speed before the race, I think this was a good result for us,'' Verdon-Roe admitted, ''We blew an engine at Spa, put another motor in, but there was a problem with that, so they put another one in and that is the one that we have just finished the race with.

''And going into the race with no track knowledge, we did well. The first stint was very good, and it was fun passing all of those cars. It was nice to finish after all of those DNFs this season.''

NGT pace-setters Peter and Wolff scored their first win of the year at Oschersleben, after one of the closest races of the season during the first half of the three-hour event.

''Toto did a perfect job at the beginning, and we were running on the engine map that gave the best fuel consumption,'' Peter said, ''When I got the car, I was able to push and make up the position and, every time I made up a place, I could see the crew jumping up and down - so that was nice!''

''This was the team's first win of the season, and my first FIA GT win,'' a jubilant Wolff chimed in, ''I had quite a good start, and the first six or seven cars were running close together. I had a big bang with one of the cars and nearly spun out. Then we had quite a good fight between three Porsches and, every second lap, there was some banging of some sort going on. It really reminded me of my days in Formula Ford!''

Andrea Bertolini, driving the #51 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, took the lead from Stephane Ortelli before the Monaco-based Frenchman retired the #54 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R with a broken wheel rim in the first hour.

Alexander Iradj was running third in the first hour behind the wheel of the #53 JMB Ferrari, with Garcia closing rapidly in the #76 RWS Porsche. The young Spaniard made his way through the pack to take the lead before stopping at mid-distance to hand to Horst Felbermayr Jnr, making his N-GT class debut in the championship, while Tomas Pichler was also getting involved in the battle for third in the class in the #62 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R.

''At the beginning of the race, I missed the start,'' Garcia admitted, ''I was fifth on the grid but, by the first corner, I was ninth. It was hard to re-gain the position but I eventually got behind Ortelli and the Ferraris. I was not pushing, just following the pace. When I saw that I had ten minutes left, I passed him and gave Horst as much advantage as I could.''

''This is my first FIA GT podium, as well as being my first race in the N-GT category, so it's a very good start,'' his co-driver said, ''Towards the end of the race, I tried to slow down to have no fuel problems at the end. [Phillip] Peter is a very fast driver, so I preferred to let him pass and have a safe second place. Now I would really like to do more N-GT races this year.''

Peter took over the Autorlando car in third position for the final 90 minutes, and proceeded to close the gap and take the win in the final half-hour of a spectacular event.

Andrea Garbagnati, partnering Bertolini in the #51 JMB entry, finished third despite a late-race spin. Bertolini took the lead in the first hour of the race, but was eclipsed by the flying Garcia who took the lead in the second hour. Garbagnati was then forced to concede second position to Peter's # 58 Autorlando Porsche 996 GT3-R, but the pair still scored their podium.

''I had a spin at the end of the race, when Andrea was on the radio telling me to go faster!'' Garbagnati smiled, ''I made a mistake earlier, and had ruined a tyre which gave me a problem going left. Then I went in a little too fast and lost control. Instead of spinning, I went straight, but when I was back on the asphalt, I braked and spun. I didn't damage the tyres too much, though, and the car was still performing well.''

Christian Pescatori and Andrea Montermini lost the chance to extend their lead in the N-GT drivers' championship when both suffered a spin, one in each half of the race. The pair, driving the #50 JMB Ferrari 360 Modena, took the flag in seventh position, one place outside the points on a day when their chief rivals, the #54 Freisinger Porsche of Ortelli and Maassen, retired with a broken wheel rim in the first hour.

''The first stint was very difficult,'' Montermini revealed, ''The tyres were cold and I had a spin, but then the car was not that bad. Then Christian had another off and he lost another set of tyres. We threw away a very good opportunity to gain more championship points.''

Team-mates Stephane Daoudi and Bert Longin were fourth at the flag, ahead of Pichler and Raffaele Sanguiolo in the #55 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche. Jurgen von Gartzen and Ian Khan were sixth, the final point-scoring position, despite a late-race spin by the Briton.


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