The third round of the FIA GT Championship, watched by approximately 40,000 spectators gathered around the Pergusa circuit in Sicily, saw Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari cross the line first in the GT category at the wheel of their BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - only to be excluded at scrutineering.

The Italian duo ran strongly in the top three throughout, taking the lead when their team-mates lost time in the pits and going on to finish ahead of the #23 Ferrari 550 Maranello of Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi - the winner of the opening two rounds - with the Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nathan Kinch third. However, a faulty airbox caused the car to be excluded after scrutineering, promoting Biagi and Bobbi to their third successive win. The BMS team has appealed against the disqualification, and the results therefore remain provisional.

In the N-GT class, a thrilling end to the race saw British duo Tim Sugden and Martin Short take their first win in the FIA GT Championship, driving the EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS home ahead of a closely matched field. Sugden only took the lead on the last lap when Fabrizio de Simone, in the #52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, spun after a frantic last-minute battle between the two cars. Twin brothers David and Godfrey Jones took third place in their Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS, competing a good day for the Brits.

''We had a pretty bad start to the season, but today everything went well,'' David Jones grinned, ''My stint went quickly and I had to come in early, so Godfrey had to do a longer stint. I don't know if we are the first twins to be on the podium of an FIA Championship, but I would think we must be the first 50-year olds!''

''With the three-hour races, this is very different from the one-hour British races,'' his brother confirmed of their graduation to the international scene, ''The car was perfect today, but we'll have to take the rest of the season one race at a time - it is all very new to us.''

Jean-Marc Gounon started from pole in the Konrad Saleen S7-R and ran strongly throughout his stint, easily keeping the lead of the race.

He was followed by the #22 BMS Ferrari of Cappellari and Gollin, but the #5 Force One Chrysler Viper, so fast all weekend, suffered early damage after blowing a tyre and retired, bringing the #14 Lister up to third place.

When Gounon handed the Konrad over to Toni Seiler, the car dropped back, while the three BMS-run Ferrari 550 Maranello cars came to the fore. By lap 43, Bobbi was leading from Cappellari, with Seiler third and the #21 Care Racing car fourth. On lap 68, however, the Saleen retired due to a broken gearbox, leaving the three Ferrari 550 Maranello cars in their almost customary positions ahead of three Lister Storms.

''I am very disappointed, as the car was unbelievable today,'' Gounon sighed, ''I was keeping the lead easily, barely touching the kerbs at all. But, in the end, we had similar gearbox problems to those we had at Magny-Cours. It's a great shame.''

The #23 car then lost time during a long pit-stop, due to a broken speed limiter, demoting it behind the #22 while, towards the end of the race, a late splash-and-dash for the #21 promoted the Lister to third on track.

''It's been very disappointing - a hard weekend, because our car does not like the kerbs,'' Campbell-Walter said of the black car's inability to fight for the lead, ''It is a bad track for this car, even if we did win here in 2002.

''The Ferrari cars were very fast here, but we just battled on. I had a problem at the end of my stint with a puncture, so we pitted early. Due to this change of strategy, we were worried about fuel. We only changed two tyres, but we could not have won here today, and I am pleased to be on the podium.''

''This is my first podium, and it's nice to be here,'' team-mate Kinch observed, before noting that the Lister had not been the most comfortable car to drive in the Sicilian heat, ''The car was really tricky on the kerbs, and it was really hot in there.''

After the #22 was excluded, the race win has provisionally been awarded to the #23 of Biagi and Bobbi, with the #14 Lister of Campbell-Walter and Kinch second, and the #21 Care Racing Ferrari of Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Stefano Livio third. Fourth place is provisionally taken by the Creation Autosportif Lister of Bobby Verdon-Roe and Marco Zadra, with the second works Lister of Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz fifth. Phillipe Alliot and rookie Steve Zacchia were sixth for Force One Racing, with the sole remaining Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R of Ni Amorim, Pedro Chaves and Miguel Ramos seventh. The final point for eighth point went to the Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper, which plugged away all day.

''Everything went wrong today - we had brake problems, and we were still not fast enough,'' Piccini said, ''Something was wrong, as both Jean-Denis and I were very slow. This is not the sort of result I am looking for.''

BMS Scuderia Italia now have 46 points, leading Lister Racing by 20, with Bobbi and Biagi fourteen points ahead of Gollin and Cappellari in the drivers' classification.

''It was not really a difficult weekend and, even with 80kg in the car, it is fantastic,'' Biagi said afterwards, ''There was a lot of traffic, and some very hard braking here, and with 80kg it is like having another person in the car. In my stint, I was following one of the JMB cars, and it hit the throttle when I was very close, so I spun. But Matteo did a very good stint. Later, I had problems with my pit-speed limiter, and did the pit-lane at 30 kph instead of 60, so I lost a lot of time. But this is a very good result
for the championship.''

EMKA Racing, consistently one of the fastest Porsches this season, finally took its first win in the championship, having competed for a number of years without success. Previously with Steve O'Rourke partnering Tim Sugden, the team now sees the Pink Floyd manager taking on a similar role at the track, handing the second driver role to British GT stalwart Martin Short.

The British crew were lying second towards the end of the race, but a final splash and dash for the JMB Ferrari brought it back out on the track just in front of Sugden. The EMKA Porsche took the lead, but a thrilling battle between the two cars saw the Ferrari regain the upper hand on the penultimate lap. On the final lap, however, former ETCC star de Simone succumbed to the pressure and spun, allowing Sugden to cross the line first.

''On the fifth lap, I was involved in a crash with the #50 Porsche - on the straight,'' Andrea Bertolini reported, ''The tyres and mirror were damaged in the crash, but the
suspension was okay, and we were able to continue. But this is not an ETCC race....''

''Unfortunately, although I feel we had the best car today, the crash did damage it, and we struggled to come back to the front today,'' a crestfallen de Simone admitted, ''But it was an excellent fight with the #61 Porsche.''

The #52 Ferrari had started strongly from pole, ahead of the two similar TMC Ferrari 360s. However, an early collision between the #52 JMB car and the #50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche meant an early pit-stop for the Ferrari, which dropped down the field. Freisinger tried to repair its car, driven by Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb, but the car was eventually forced to retire.

As a result, the two TMC Ferraris looked to be dominating the race, but the #89 car developed gearbox problems, leaving the #88 in the lead ahead of the #51 Freisinger Porsche of Bert Longin and Gabriele Gardel, with the fast recovering #52 JMB Ferrari closing in.

The #57 MENX Ferrari then went off the track into the barriers, bringing the safety car out for a brief interruption. The #88 Ferrari decided to come into the pits during this period, but misjudged its timing and received a 30-second stop-and-go penalty for exiting pit-lane when the light was red. When the #51 Porsche retired with an engine problem, this was to become a more costly mistake, and the #61 EMKA Porsche, which had been consistently fast throughout, inherited second behind the #52 JMB Ferrari. The final four laps saw the lead change four times, with Sugden finally taking his first win, after 500km of racing, on lap 102.

''This is quite surreal,'' Sugden smiled, ''EMKA has raced in the championship for two years and, although we were often quick, this is the first time we have managed to win. After we had massive problems in Barcelona, Martin and I were really quick in Magny-Cours but, today, I was really surprised to take the flag - I thought there were thirty minutes left!

''This is really amazing. The fight at the end was really good, and de Simone put in a great overtaking manoeuvre, and I would like to applaud him for that.''

''I must say I have one of the best team-mates possible,'' Short said of team leader Sugden, ''Along with Stephane Ortelli, he is one of the fastest men in a Porsche, and he has taught me how to drive it. We had a big fight this weekend, and the last lap was quite breathtaking. I could see the JMB team shouting on the wall, and then the
Ferrari spun - and it was our turn to shout !''

Third place went to the Jones twins, David and Godfrey, in the #75 Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS - the first time they had finished a race in the championship - while the battle for fourth place was equally exciting, with the all-Russian crew of the #77 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS gaining the advantage on the final lap over their Polish counterparts in the #56 Alda Motorsport Porsche. With four points for fifth place, these were Alda's first points in the championship.

''This is a fantastic result for us - the best finish for our team so far this year, and our best result ever,'' Nikolaj Fomenko bubbled, ''We had a really bad weekend, changing the gearbox three times and the engine once, missing out on free practice and the second qualifying session. The start was also not good, but then we decided to change strategy after the [sister] #99 car developed engine problems, and went for two stops. The end of the race was great, overtaking the Polish car on the final lap. My dream then was that the #61 and #52 would take each other out and we would be on the podium!''

''I am also extremely happy with this historic result for Polish motorsport,'' Alda's Andrej Dziurka echoed, ''For the first time, our team has scored points in the FIA GT Championship, and we did it on the most difficult track in the series.

''After a very bad day yesterday, with a broken suspension in the first qualifying session and an engine problem in the second, before the race we expected more misfortune. We started with a full tank and, for the second time in a row, we managed to do the full distance with only one stop. The engine was not very healthy - I was
losing time on the straight - and, with 100 per cent engine power, maybe we would finish on the podium.

''Maybe next time - Brno is our 'home' circuit, we know it well and tested there in the winter. After this result, we may expect many more Polish fans and journalists in the Morava capital.''

''I was completely exhausted by the end after driving for 90 minutes in this heat,'' team-mate - and weekend birthday boy - Wojciech Dobrzanski admitted, ''We should have been in fourth position, but Vasiliev caught me on the last lap. I made a mistake on the chicane and he passed me on the inside of the Curvone. Before the race, I would have been in heaven with points for fifth place, but now I'm not so happy.''

The #53 JMB Racing Ferrari of Peter Kutemann and Antoine Gosse was sixth, with the two TMC cars taking the final points for seventh and eighth.