Report: Preview, Silverstone 2006

Silverstone Supercar Showdown : FIA GT3 European Championship

Almost a year exactly since the idea was first put on paper, the FIA GT3 European Championship will take to the track for its inaugural races.

With a grand total of 51 cars having signed up for the season, a grid of up to 46 cars is expected to line up on the Silverstone grid on Saturday, May 6th, for the first one-hour round.  The remaining cars should be ready in time for the second event in Oschersleben. Eight manufacturers are due to take part in this first race : the Ascari KZ1R, entered by British team Damax, the Aston Martin DBRS9, entered by Barwell Motorsport and BMS Scuderia Italia, the Corvette Z06 GT3, entered by Carsport Callaway and Riverside, the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, entered by Racing Logistic, Racing Box and Pouchelon Racing, the Ferrari 430 Challenge GT3, entered by JMB Racing Ferrari, the Maserati GranSport Light, in the hands of GPC Sport and AF Corse, the Lamborghini Gallardo, from Reiter Engineering and S-Berg Racing, and last but by no means least, the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, raced by Larbre Competition, SOFREV Auto Sport Promotion and Tech 9 Motorsport.

As for the drivers, they are a mixed group, including familiar faces from the British and FFSA French GT Championships, such as Roland Berville and Raymond Narac, racing a Larbre Competition Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, or Demitri Deverikos, who won the GT3 category of the British GT Championship last year with Tech 9, and who remains with the team in the GT3 Championship.  Gabriel Balthazard (Sofrev), Frederic Makowiecki (Racing Logistic), James Ruffier (Riverside) are also French GT regulars.

A number of younger drivers are also taking part, such as 19-year old Jonathan Cocker, who won the British GT Championship in 2004 and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia last year, and who will be racing for Barwell in an Aston Martin DBRS9.  Maxime Dumarey, racing for Tech 9 Motorsport, is only 17, and already an experienced Belcar driver.  Dennis Retera, aged 19, will be racing for S-Berg in a Lamborghini.

Plenty have been regulars in the FIA GT Championship over the years, such as Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Toni Seiler, all racing for BMS Scuderia Italia in an Aston Martin DBRS9.  Bernhard Müller and Michael Trunk return to Lamborghini competition with Reiter Engineering, having raced first a Porsche and then a Lamborghini in the FIA GT Championship.  They will be joined at Reiter by former N-GT race winner Jürgen von Gartzen.
The field is not all masculine, with BMS’s Lilian Bryner being joined on the grid  by Rachel Green in a Pouchelon Racing Viper.

With any drivers over the age of 55 authorised to take part, regardless of their careers, some extremely well-known names will also line up, such as 1998 FIA GT Champion Klaus Ludwig, racing a Carsport Callaway Corvette Z06 GT3.  Or Anthony Reid, who has had a long career in touring and sports cars, and who will be sharing his Pouchelon Dodge Viper with paraplegic racer Gilles Duqueine. Tiff Needell, who raced as far as Formula One, and is now better known as a broadcaster, will be racing for Barwell.

All cars will be on Michelin tyres, and the performance of the cars will be balanced by the FIA, who have been running tests at Paul Ricard and Dijon over the past months.
A colourful and talented grid !  But who is going to be ahead when the cars head for that first corner at Silverstone ?

The Principles of the Championship :
* the most prestigious brands
* the most recent models
* limited racing preparation
* an original series concept
* prestigious meetings
* impeccable presentation
* an international environment with a welcoming atmosphere

* two one-hour free practice sessions
* two 20 minute qualifying sessions, separated by 10 minutes
Each driver takes part in one session
The first qualifying session sets the grid for the first race
The second qualifying session sets the grid for the second race
The fastest driver in each car starts the second race, the slower driver starts the first race
Two one-hour races, with a compulsory driver change between the 23rd and 37th minute, with a rolling start.

Each team must enter three cars
Each car has two drivers, who must not be ‘well-known’ drivers according to the criteria specified in the regulations
A maximum of three teams per manufacturer.
If there are less than six cars per manufacturer, no points will be scored

There are three separate classifications :

* FIA GT3 European Champion for Drivers (scale : 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1)
* FIA GT3 European Champion for Teams (scale : 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 - all three cars score for the team)
* FIA GT3 Manufacturers Cups for Drivers (scale : 10 -6-4-3-2-1) - if at least six cars enter per Manufacturer

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