This weekend, the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship travels to Belgium for the second time. In 2010, Spa-Francorchamps was the host venue and this year Zolder will stage the first European round of the new season. The circuit was a firm favourite on the FIA GT Championship calendar and was the stage for the final round of the 2009 season that saw the chequered flag come down on 13 years of FIA GT history. Now, after a gap of one year, Zolder is included on the calendar of the FIA’s newest World Championship and is sure to provide two action- packed races.
Two weeks ago, at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship got underway and it was Belgian team Marc VDS Racing which was celebrating first with victory in the Qualifying Race for Maxime Martin and Frederic Makowiecki. The Ford GT held off the two JR Motorsport Nissan GT-Rs of Richard Westbrook/Peter Dumbreck and Michael Krumm/ Lucas Luhr to score their first GT1 World victory. Later the same day the Westbrook/ Dumbreck Nissan was once again challenging for victory but this time a lightening pitstop by Hexis AMR put the Aston Martin DB9 of Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp in a winning position in the Championship Race. It was Dutch driver Dusseldorp’s first ever GT race weekend and Monaco’s Piccione first GT1 World race win.
Five manufacturers are represented on the GT1 grid this season : Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford, Lamborghini and Nissan, with two teams of two cars for each marque. The performance of the cars is balanced by the FIA to ensure close, action-packed racing for each of the 60-minute races.
Aston Martin is represented by French team Hexis AMR and German team Young Driver AMR. The Hexis team travel to Belgium as victors in Abu Dhabi and leaders in both the Drivers and Teams Championship, thanks to Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp’s victory and a fourth-place finish by the second car of Christian Hohenadel and Andrea Piccini. The Young Driver team scored valuable points in the Middle East, although they would have challenged for podium finishes in both races but for an accident and a wayward wheel in the Qualifying Race, forcing the driver pairings of Tomas Enge / Alex Muller and Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke to start the Championship Race towards the back of the grid.
The Corvette teams consist of Exim Bank Team China and DKR Engineering. Dutch pairing of Mike Hezemans and Nicky Catsburg had a strong showing in the opening round and a single championship point from the event does not do their efforts on track two weeks ago justice. The DKR Engineering Corvette of Jaime Camara and Michael Rossi was the innocent party in the first corner accident of the opening race causing extensive damage to the car. The DKR mechanics worked hard to repair and get the car on the grid for the Championship race but the team from Luxembourg will be hoping for better luck closer to home.
Both Ford teams are based in Belgium and will be the teams that will attract a lot of local support this weekend. Marc VDS Racing had a very bumpy ride in Abu Dhabi with engine issues causing sleepless nights for the mechanics as they struggled to find the problem. However they had the consolation when their hard work put Maxime Martin and Frederic Makowiecki in a race winning position in the Qualifying Race. Bas Leinders and Marc Hennerici were forced to sit out of the Championship Race when the engine problems forced the second Ford GT to stay in the garage. The Belgian Racing team is new to GT1 World this year and runs in the black, red and yellow national colours. Vanina Ickx, daughter of Belgium’s favourite racing son Jacky, will make her GT1 World debut on her home track.
The Lamborghini Murcielago won three times in 2010 in the hands of the Reiter team. In 2011 All-Inkl.com Muennich Motorsport is joined by Swiss Racing, who switch to the Italian manufacturer from the Nissans they ran last season. All-Inkl’s Marc Basseng and Marcus Winklehock scored a very welcome podium in the Championship Race after a weekend where the two cars were the quickest in Abu Dhabi but dogged by gearbox issues. Nicky Pastorelli and Dominik Schwager posted the fastest qualifying time of the weekend but were denied a top 3 place finish by an accident in the first corner of the Qualifying Race. The Swiss Racing team boasts the services of the highly experienced Karl Wendlinger and Peter Kox and the pair will be hoping for an improvement in performance in Abu Dhabi that saw them net six championship points.
The two Nissan teams boast two highly experienced driver line-ups. 2010 team Sumo Power GT are joined by JR Motorsports this season, running the Nissan GT-R. JR Motorsports had a very successful first weekend in Abu Dhabi with three top 3 finishes. British duo Richard Westbrook and Peter Dumbreck scored two second places and were challenging for the lead in both encounters as the chequered flag was waved. Germany’s Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr were a fighting third in the qualifying race. Sumo Power’s driver line up has former F1 drivers, a Le Mans 24 Hour winner and two former FIA GT Champions. A 4th place in the Qualifying Race for Enrique Bernoldi and Ricardo Zonta was the highlight of the weekend for the Brazilian pair. They were leading the Championship Race in Yas Marina but a pitlane incident with the Marc VDS Ford forced the car to retire. Australia’s David Brabham and Britain’s Jamie Campbell-Walter also had an up-down weekend but managed to leave Abu Dhabi with a couple of championship points that might prove to be very valuable at the end of the season.
There have been some small changes to the regulations for the new season to help improve the show even further. The teams are now allowed to use six sets of tyres, instead of four, during the weekend, which means each team get two sets of tyres for both races. There are more championship points available for the Qualifying Race, with the top six finishers scoring 8-6-4-3-2-1 instead of just the top three finishers. The points for the Championship Race remain unchanged, with 25 points awarded to the winner down to 1 point for 10th place.
There will be live television coverage of every round of the FIA GT1 World Championship in many parts of the world, with a full rundown of the TV channels on the official Championship website,www.gt1world.com, where the races will also be streamed live and the latest championship news, results and other information will be available immediately after each race.
Info FIA GT1 Media
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