Magny-Cours: Post-race report

JMB LEADS MASERATI ONE-TWO-THREE ! TWO IN A ROW FOR GRUPPEM Three hours of close and exciting racing in unseasonably hot temperatures saw the Maserati MC 12 claim a first-ever one-two-three in the FIA GT Championship. JMB Racing's duo of Karl ...

Magny-Cours: Post-race report


Three hours of close and exciting racing in unseasonably hot temperatures saw the Maserati MC 12 claim a first-ever one-two-three in the FIA GT Championship. JMB Racing's duo of Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Bertolini took their first win of the season, while the two green and black Vitaphone Racing Team cars finished in second and third places, after a hard-fought battle around the technical Magny-Cours circuit.

The GT2 fight was equally close, with Emmanuel Collard taking a well-deserved home win, after he and his team-mate Tim Sugden overcame their Gruppe M team-mates to come home in first position, ahead of Monza winners Lieb and Rockenfeller. The Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360 Modena of Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy was third, winning the British GT Championship race-within-a-race.

Having taken the lead at the start, ahead of the Russian Age Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, the nr 15 JMB car regained the lead during the final round of pit-stops, and Andrea Bertolini proceeded to give the 36,000 Magny-Cours spectators a nail-biting finish after the Italian went into the gravel just seven laps before the end of the race, leaving the chasing Timo Scheider less than six seconds behind. Andrea managed to hold on, crossing the finish line 4.7 seconds ahead of the nr 9 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12, having completed 104 laps of the 4.411 km circuit. "It was a good race today !" Bertolini said afterwards. "It was so close ! The last stint of the race was unbelievable. Every lap, I was speaking with my engineer to find out where Timo [Scheider] was. Then, I lost grip on the front and it was impossible to brake. This is not good for my heart !"

Racing at home, Emmanuel Collard and his Britsh team-mate Tim Sudgen put in a spirited fight against their team-mates in the nr 66 car to claim their first win of the season. "It was a very hot and good race," Tim Sugden commented afterwards. "It is going to be a very good fight all year between the two GruppeM Porsches. Manu did a brilliant job today." Lieb and Rockenfeller finished second, ahead of Kinch and Kirkaldy in the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360.


1st GT1 Karl Wendlinger, nr 15 JMB Racing Maserati MC 12 GT1

"It worked very well today. We had a consistent and fast car. It was not easy to overtake, especially with an experienced guy like Michael [Bartels] who knows how to close doors if it is necessary. So I decided to stay behind and left the job to Andrea [Bertolini]. Luckily, he did it and then he made me nervous at the end. But I trust him and he managed to do it !".

2nd : Michael Bartels, nr 9 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12 GT1

"It is a great day for Maserati and Pirelli to finish here in the top three positions. As in Monza, we missed out on victory. But for the team, I am very happy to be second and third and also to be leading the Drivers classification with Timo now ! I had a fantastic fight with Karl, which takes us back to our early Formula 3 days when I helped him to win the Championship ! Karl was putting a lot of pressure on me during the race and I was trying to survive. It should always be like this in a FIA GT race. Now, we are looking forward to Silverstone where we will face new competition which will certainly give us a hard challenge!"

3rd : Thomas Biagi, nr 10 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12 GT1

"I am happy, especially for Maserati and Pirelli as they managed to put three cars in the three top positions. All the Vitaphone team did a fantastic job, as did Fabio ! Pirelli provided us with consistent tyres. I have finished 10 times on the podium in 13 FIA GT races, which is a very good average"

GT2 1st : Tim Sugden - nr 88 Gruppe M Porsche 996 GT3 RSR

"It was a very hot and good race. It is going to be a very good fight all year between the two Gruppe M Porsches. I have to say that Manu [Collard] drove very well this weekend. He got the lead and pulled away. We had a 14-second lead at one point but unfortunately, the safety car took all our way. It was a good fight and Manu did a brilliant job".

2nd : Marc Lieb., nr 66 Gruppe M Porsche 996 GT3 RSR

"The fight was very good. In the race, we had engine problems and in my first stint, I had misfires. In the last 25 minutes, the engine was completely gone and I could not shift in 6th gear in the straight line. We were lucky to finish second with a broken engine. We got 8 points which is very important. And we will be back at Silverstone !"

3rd : Andrew Kirkaldy, nr 83 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360 Modena GTC

"We had to concentrate on the British race today. We hoped we could keep up with the Gruppe M Porsches but it was not the case after the first couple of laps. We just had to drive our own race. We had big problems with the car all weekend but we managed to cure them during the warm-up. The mechanics worked until 2 o'clock last night. We are pretty happy with the result".

G2 Winners : Ryan Hooker, nr 103 Vauxhall Monaro

"I got the call to drive on Friday. Obviously, you never turn down an opportunity to drive in a new place, like Magny-Cours. I knew it was going to be a steep learning curve. We had limited time in practice and qualifying due to a few niggles, which unfortunately took a bit longer. Nevertheless, with a three-hour race, you always have a chance. The first priority is to finish the race, and that's what we did. Obviously, to give the first win to a Vauxhall Monaro in the FIA GT Championship is headline news !"


For the first time in the history of the FIA GT Championship, a Corvette C5R finished in the points, closely missing out on a podium finish. The car ran strongly throughout, and without some minor incidents, could have finished third. "First finish, first points.

But it was not quite so good today," Kumpen said afterwards. "Bert had a spin, and he had an incident with a Ferrari, and lost around 25 seconds. We just didn't' have enough grip today, but I think it was the same for everyone except for the Maserati cars. They were too quick for us this weekend. I hope we will be better in Silverstone. For sure, the potential is there, we were not as good as in Monza, but we're going in the right direction. A few steps higher next time and that'll be OK."


New team Russian Age Racing had a good weekend in Magny-Cours, claiming pole position and its first-ever FIA GT point. Bouchut put up a good fight against the nr 15 Maserati in the early stages, taking the lead on lap 16. But two laps later, a collision with a Porsche sent the Ferrari 550 Maranello back to the pits with a puncture. The car continued, making a fine recovery up the field, and eventually finished eighth. "We are happy because this is very special for our team," Nikolai Fomenko said afterwards. " It was a strange race, with a big incident for our car. But the whole team worked hard; we had to change strategy, make an extra pit stop. I really like the FIA GT because it is real, strong racing - my favourite sport ! It is really great, as you always have a chance. We had many problems with the car, but we finished and got one point.We are just starting in the FIA GT this year, and I think it will get better and better."


Racing at home, Larbre Competiton did not have the easiest of weekends, with the Ferrari 550 Maranello cars struggling to find the correct set-up round the challenging Nevers Magny-Cours circuit. In the race,Lamy/Gardel finished 5th, and the all-Swiss car 6th. "We just didn't find the right set-up at all," Lamy said." In the end we decided to run with the hard compound tyres, and I don't think it was the right solution. At least we finished in the points. It was a difficult race, especially when you are feeling slow and have no possibility to fight against the others, it can be very frustrating"


The Reiter Engineering Lamborghini is proving its potential, with a strong showing at Magny-Cours. However, it stopped before the end with a drive problem, classified 13th in GT1- "The first half of Peter [Kox]'s first stint was actually quite good," Norman Simon explained. "But then we had gearbox problems, and it became very hard to shift up. We drove almost all the race with gearbox problems. We expected a top four here, because the car was really good, especially on used tyres. But unfortunately the gearbox failed. 30 minutes from the end, Peter lost the drive completely, and that was it. "


Scuderia Ecosse secured a double victory in the three-hour race on Sunday at Magny Cours. The Ferrari 360 Modena GTC of Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy finished first in the British GT Championship, third overall in the FIA GT2 class. "It's obviously important to get points at the start of the Championship," Nathan Kinch said. "The race was good for us. Andrew [Kirkaldy] started from pole position and gave me the car in the lead, and we made a great call in the safety car period. It was just a case of getting my head down and building up a lead."

The second Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari, the nr 82 of Tim Mullen and Chris Niarchos , ended the race in second place. Mullen and Niarchos also set the fastest British GT lap of the race, with a time of 1:45.470 around the 4.411 km circuit. Chris Niarchos was very happy with the performance and is looking ahead to a great season. "We have got stronger and improved steadily over the last year and it's a huge confidence boost for us to be running so close to Andrew [Kirkaldy] and Nathan [Kinch]," Niarchos said afterwards.

The Porsche 996 GT3 RS of Mike Jordan and Michael Caine gained third place after the final pit stops. "I'm not exactly pleased with the result, but it was probably the best we were going to be able to do this weekend - the Ferraris were just too quick for us, but Mike [Jordan] had a tremendous race," Michael Caine said.

Warren Hughes and Patrick Pearce (LNT) had been running in third position until Hughes went wide in the TVR T400R, which cost them a podium finish. Hughes and Pearce eventually crossed the line in fifth, with team-mates Lawrence Tomlinson and Jonny Kane overtaking them during the pit stops for fourth. "About ten minutes into the third stint, after I took the car over from Patrick [Pearce], I got a right rear puncture. I didn't have any warning, I just braked for the Adelaide hairpin and had no brakes or power at all, because of the puncture," Hughes commented. Emotional Engineering's Vauxhall Monaro of Matt Griffin and Ryan Hooker, who were running in the G2 class, won the race in their category. "We are so pleased! We had so many problems over the weekend and we had to work really hard to get the car out there," Ryan Hooker was quoted after the race. "It was always going to be a tough race, without power steering. We certainly didn't expect to win our class, and it has given the team such a boost now. It's probably the first win for a Vauxhall in the FIA GT Championship, it's going to be headline news. We have no complaints, it was very good!"

RJN Motorsport's three-driver-pairing, Michael Bentwood, Ally McKever and Bryce Wilson, who also raced in the G2 category, had to retire due to a broken driveshaft on their Nissan 350Z. The Embassy Racing Porsche had to withdraw from the race shortly before the start after the car of Ben Collins and Neil Cunningham suffered from engine problems.


The teams, drivers and organisation were had just one message this weekend : - Walter - get well soon ! We all miss you !

The news that popular young Austrian driver Walter Lechner Jr, a six-times pole position man in the FIA GT would be forced to miss the year due to illness shocked everyone in the paddock, and all were keen to send their messages to him. The nr 5 Konrad Motorsport car held a special message for Walter, while his brother Robert had repainted his helmet to incude Walter's helmet design on one side. On Sunday, the drivers gathered at the front of the grid to send him their best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Walter's place in the nr 5 Konrad Saleen was taken by three-times race winner in 2005, Uwe Alzen. Although the car showed good speed, especially in the pre-race warm-up, engine problems throughout the weekend eventually forced the car to retire. The second Konrad car, driven by Becker and Konrad, finished 11th in GT1.


Monza saw two women finish in the points in the top category. Lilian Bryner finished 6th in the Larbre Ferrari, while Liz Halliday took her first Championship points in the Lister Storm, finishing seventh.

You both have a background in riding - is there a link between riding and cars ?

LB : "I did three-day eventing, although I do not compete anymore. I was in the Olympic team, but that was the year that Switzerland did not go to Moscow. I did one more year of competition, and then stopped. In some ways, you need a lot of sensitivity in riding, there has to be a connection between you and something else, either the car or the horse"

LH : "I'm still competing in three-day eventing ! I'd like to make the 2008 Olympic team - that is definitely my goal. I'm trying to do both riding and driving this year, so it's a very busy schedule. But I seem to have found a way to separate it in my mind and it is not too difficult to swap between the two. I spend every hour when I'm not at the track, at the yard. The two are similar - I think it's something to do with the weight shift, and balance, and the accuracy. Judging distances for jumps is quite similar to the way you go into a corner."

How do you see the current situation of women in motorsport ? Is the situation improving ?

LB : "I think it is improving. When I was little, I had no information about it. It was something very far away from what a girl could do, as far as society, parents were concerned. I think it's good for girls to see some women race successfully, so they know - yes, we can do it ! The mentality still needs to change. It is hard when you start out, as you are not taken very seriously. You have additional pressure. If we do a mistake, everyone says it's because you're a woman. When a man does a mistake, no-one even notices. Sometimes it is difficult, but I hope things are changing more and more."

LH : "You don't grow up as a young girl with your family suggesting you try motorsport. But I think it's coming up, especially with things like Formula Woman which I am working for this year. There are a lot of women who want to race. But they don't know how to start. They feel in the dark and behind the men. There are quite a few girls in karting and the lower formulae, but not that many in GTs so far. But it is changing. Lilian's been there, she's really good, but we don't know how good Liz is, without giving me a chance to prove. This is my first year in GT1 cars, I won't be at the front of the grid. You have to spend longer building up a reputation than a man would in a similar situation."

What about this season ?

LB : "I didn't have that good start to the season in Monza, as I had to start from the pit lane. But we are not doing the whole season; we are concentrating on Spa and then will have to see for the rest of the season. We are working on getting an Aston Martin for next year and to concentrate on that. This is a transition year for me. But Spa is my real objective for this year. Last year's win did change my career; it got a lot of media attention. It has made it easier to look for sponsorship."

LH : Spa was a great race for me too, it was really special to finish the race in the Autorlando Porsche. I hope this year will be good, as it's my favourite circuit in Europe. Our aim for this year is to keep working on the car, aiming for the podium. The car is very good, the competition is tough, but we need to keep on working. The Lister is a nice car to drive, when you get used to the fact that you can't see. Laurence Pearce has been very supportive; I am very much the rookie driver this year. But it's looking good."

Any final words to girls out there who are thinking about getting started ?

LB : Don't be afraid to get into this men's world.

LH : There is support from organisation and other women out there. So be determined, get out there and find the help.

Next Race @Round 3 Silverstone (GBR) @May 13th . 15th 2005


Standings after Magny-Cours

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