ROUNDS 11 & 12 PREVIEW
Zandvoort, The Netherlands
7 October 2011
The Final Showdown
The 2011 FIA GT3 European Championship has seen the closest-fought season since the Championship began in 2006, with no less than twenty drivers and seven teams still capable of winning the two European titles at the final meeting in The Netherlands on the 14-16 October. This will be the FIA GT3 European Championship’s first visit to Zandvoort, a circuit that is rich in racing heritage and it is a fitting venue for the final showdown of the year.
In the last round in Slovakia, Mercedes-Benz became the latest brand to take an FIA GT3 race win, when Brice Bosi and Dominik Baumann won the first encounter in the HEICO Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Mike Parisy and Philippe Giauque then took victory in Round 10 in the Graff Racing SLS to complete the double for the German manufacturer. Mercedes-Benz now joins Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche as race winners this season, a great endorsement of the Balance of Performance that allows all of these magnificent GT cars to compete on a level playing field.
The current Championship leaders are Italians Francesco Castellacci and Federico Leo on 97-points, a 14-point advantage over their nearest rivals, former French GT Champion Mike Parisy and Switzerland’s Philippe Giauque.
“Even with a 14-point advantage, the championship is still wide open,” said Francesco Castellacci. “I know that it will be difficult, but we have to arrive there with the same mentality that we had for the other races. Full attack, but always using our heads and being careful to not make mistakes.”
In a change at Graff Racing for this weekend Mike Parisy will drive with fellow Frenchman Gregoire Demoustier and Philippe Giauque will move to the nr4 Mercedes and be partnered by former FIA GT1 driver Thomas Jaeger.
“Graff Racing and Mercedes have done a very good job this year,” said Mike Parisy. “We were really unlucky at several races and lost some points, but we are in the battle for the title and we are very motivated to win. I have never raced in Zandvoort, it will be a new experience for me, but in general I am quick to adapt, so it's not a problem for learning a track. I’m looking forward to racing with Gregoire at Zandvoort.”
Snapping at the heels of Parisy and Giauque is the Belgian / French pairing of Maxime Martin and Gael Lesoudier, lying just 16 points behind the championship leaders. After three podiums this year, FIA GT1 World Championship race winner Martin is eager to take his first win in GT3 this year, which would also be the first for himself and Gael Lesoudier since their victory in a Morgan at Silverstone in 2009.
The local fans will have the all Dutch Faster Racing by DB Motorsport BMWs to cheer on, with Silverstone race winners Jeroen den Boer and Hoevert Vos currently holding 4th position in the Championship. The team is currently second in the Teams title race, just 19 points behind the other BMW team, Need for Speed Team Schubert. Den Boer’s and Vos’ teammates Nick Catsburg and Harrie Kolen are currently 10th in the Drivers’ championship, and still have a mathematical chance of taking the crown, but their efforts at their home circuit could ensure the FIA GT3 European Team Championship remains in The Netherlands following Sunday’s final race.
"My family, friends and sponsors will be attending, so it would be exciting if the effort we will be putting in as a team will pay off with great results,” said Nick Catsburg. “The debut of FASTER in GT3 racing has already been successful but will be even more satisfying if it could be crowned with a title, either as teams or for the drivers!"
While Faster Racing by DB Motorsport have a strong driver line up, the same can be said for their German rivals, with the two Team Schubert driver pairings just 1-point apart in the driver standings. Race winners Edward Sandström and Abdulaziz Al Faisal are in 6th overall on 75-points and Claudia Huertgen and Csaba Walter pulled themselves back into title contention with a double podium in Slovakia.
Sandström and Al Faisal are tied on points with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT pairing of Greg Franchi and Enzo Ide, who are currently holding 5th place thanks to their race wins in Portugal and Spain but for the season finale the two drivers will have new partners. Franchi will be with French driver Didier Andre in the nr32 Audi, while Ide will have the experience of 2009 FI AGT3 European Champion Christopher Haase to help him in his title quest in the nr33 car.
Thanks to their race win in Slovakia, Brice Bosi and Dominik Baumann have given themselves an outside shot at the title, lying 30-points behind Castellacci and Leo in 8th overall. The final contenders for this year’s title is the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini duo of Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof, the German pairing having scored two hard fought wins in Spain and in France. They were also heading for some good points in the first race in Slovakia until puncture put them out of contention while leading the race.
Whoever becomes the latest recipient of the 2011 FIA GT3 European Championship title, the fastest of the winning pair of drivers will receive the Michelin Award. This is a €150,000 prize-fund, with up to 40 sets of Michelin tyres as well, to move up to the FIA GT World Championship in 2012. 2010 FIA GT3 European Champion Christian Hohenadel has raced an Aston Martin DB9 with French team Hexis AMR this season alongside Andrea Piccini and is currently 4th in the FIA GT1 World Championship, with one win and two further top 3 finishes to his credit.
There will be live television coverage of every round of the FIA GT3 European Championship in many parts of the world, with a full rundown of the TV channels on the official championship website, www.gt3europe.com, where the races will also be streamed live and on demand. The latest championship news, results and other information will also be available immediately after each race on the official website.
CLICK HERE for the provisional entry list for Rounds 11 & 12
Jeff Carter/ Media Press Delegate.
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