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VAG Group shot.....GTI and R8

Reflections on Spa waters

“The teams don’t show enough commitment”
Maserati will give the GT Championship a big, big boost
British GT Championship saved the day
Sports and GT cars have to run as separate categories
Sports car teams are just enthusiasts
Get the three FIA track championships in one big tent

There was no doubting Stephane Ratel’s disappointment on arriving at Spa on
Friday to find an 11-car grid for the sixth round of the FIA Sportscar
Championship...the previous week it looked as though 20 or even 22 cars might
be presented in Belgium, although chief whip Benjamin Franasovici cautioned that
“we should get at least 18”.
Andy Wallace, RN Motorsport DBA4 03S Zytek
Victory in SR2 for Lucchini Engineering Lucchini SR 2002 of Piergiuseppe Peroni, Mirco Savoldi and Filippo Francioni
Cor Euser, Marcos Mantara
Franck Lagorce, Pescarolo Sport Courage C60 Peugeot
Jan Lammers, Racing for Holland, Dome S101 Judd

Sports car teams are just enthusiasts
“Our weekends are supported by manufacturers” he said. “BMW, Alfa Romeo,
Renault, Ferrari, Chrysler, Porsche, they are all here. The sports car teams have
no manufacturers, they are just enthusiasts with cars like Lola, Dome and

That was then, and this is now. If Stephane Ratel wants to have an FIA Sportscar
Championship in 2004, and he says that he does, he will need to promote it,
nurture it and elevate its status.

Of course all the teams want to compete in the Le Mans European Series. It is
understood, too, that the FIA GT Championship competitors want an exclusive
show with Ferrari usually represented on the podium. Is there a need for four FIA
Sportscar Championship races as well?

Assuming that is a short FIA series events supplementing the European Le Mans
Series in 2004, these will only be attractive to the sports-prototype teams if they are
part of the Eurosport backed LG Super Racing weekends. Their events would,
then, be seen by a large crowd, would be part of a major promotion and would be
more attractive to sponsors.

Space would have to be found in the paddocks for the FIA Sportscar
Championship teams, even allowing that they would be junior to the FIA GT and
FIA European Touring Car championships.

Media interest would be greater, too. I can’t remember how many times I have
been the only English-speaking journalist attending an FIA Sportscar
Championship race, working alongside the national and local media who perform
important tasks within the host country.

The FIA GT and FIA Sportscar Championships do not have manufacturers in
common, that is taken for granted, but there is a kinship (as BMS Scuderia Italia
and Jean-Michel Bouresche have acknowledged, in crossing over the small
divide) and they share the passion for endurance racing...what I often refer to as
sitting down to read a good book, rather than a short story that unfolds in Formula

Sports and GT cars have to run as separate categories
It is abundantly clear that Sports and GT cars have to run as separate categories in
single events, as they have always done at Le Mans and in the American Le Mans
Series. It makes a great show for the spectators, the most valuable assets we
have, and thank heaven for the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s decision to hold a Le
Mans European Series in 2004, and beyond.

This will be the saving of endurance racing, in my opinion. If the event is strong
and prestigious, as anything with the ‘Le Mans’ title will be, the GT teams are only
too happy to run with the Sports-prototypes, even if it does mean that they get
relegated to sixth positions and downwards.

When Mangoletsi ran the FIA Sportscar Championship in 2002 he and Ratel stood
back-to-back, like duellers preparing for a starting signal that was never sounded.
Mangoletsi saw no need to have GT cars on his grids, while Ratel told me very
definitely at Brno that no, he would not make a habit of allowing the sports cars on
his calendar.
Stephane Ratel celebrates his 40th birthday at the races

Get the three FIA track championships in one big tent
Get the three FIA track championships together in one big tent, M. Ratel, s’il vous
plait. We don’t care if the FIA races are held on Saturday afternoon, or evening, we
don’t even care if the cars are in a sub-paddock which can be found at all the
major circuits, so long as they carry some prestige and have an audience.

Once that happens, the commitment will come into focus. If the sportscars teams
feel like outcasts, then I am very much afraid that the FIA Sportscar Championship
will not survive the 2004 season. That would be a great pity, not least for the SR2
teams which have no category in which to compete in events run to ACO Le Mans

Mike Cotton

British GT Championship saved the day
The presence of the British GT Championship competitors saved the day for Ratel,
I believe. There were 35 cars on the grid, as many as in any American Le Mans
Series race this year, and the mix was comparable too: 11 sports prototypes at the
head of the field, chased by a noisy pack of TVRs, Moslers, Cor Euser’s unique
and colourful Marcos, and the Alfa Romeo V6 powered Gillet Vertigo, which should
not be object of mirth after finishing strongly in tenth place.

The purists, and I am among them, felt that a Volkswagen Golf GTi and a Renault
Clio V6 had no place in a British GT Championship event and had no right to share
the track with Tom Kristensen in the Team Goh Audi.

The speed differential was well over 80 mph at the fastest parts of the track, a
dread-inspiring gap when the track was wet...and yet, the slower drivers were
almost without exception fastidious in keeping out of the way. Kristensen,
Lammers and Andy Wallace, to name but three, made no complaint at all about
the slower drivers, and it was well noted that the VW Golf GTi out-qualified two
Morgan Aero 8s and two Lotus Elise!

The days when John Mangoletsi could rustle up a grid of 24 sports cars (in 2001,
and he was expecting to see “full grids” in 2002!) have long gone. But still, 16 at
Donington was a very good number, especially when the IMSA organisation
expects to see two Audis, two Panoz LMP, three MG Lola, a Riley & Scott, a 2-litre
Lola and a Pilbeam -- count them, 10 cars on the LMP entrylist.

I recall that Roger Edmondson was adamant that Sports and GT events would be
separated at the outset of the Grand American championship at the start of the
2000 season, and remained adamant until the entry lists predicted a show-case
disaster unless the two types of car were welded into single events. And so it
remains to this day.

Maserati will give the GT Championship a big, big boost
“There are more manufacturers coming in, not just Maserati who you know about,
who will give the GT Championship a big, big boost” says Ratel with justifiable

Jan Lammers, despite winning two FIA Sportscar Championships back-to-back,
has not yet landed a major sponsor, and heaven knows he and co-director Mark
Koense have never stopped trying.

Henri Pescarolo fears that he may lose Peugeot at the end of this year, lose the
supply of engines and most of his annual budget. “It will be very bad for the team”
he says gloomily, although on the bright side, Judd V10 or Mugen V8 engines
would make the Courage C60 Evo at least 50 kg lighter, lacking the plumbing and
cooling needed to keep the Sodemo tuned Peugeot V6 turbo under control. “I am
sure I could win races with a Judd engine” he says, though carefully not making
any contrasts or comparisons.

Of the last event of the FIA Sportscar Championship season, Lammers says that
“it would be financial suicide” if Racing for Holland made the journey to Nogaro on
September 21. And, with the championship settled in favour of the Dutch team,
neither Pescarolo Sport nor RN Motorsport have any incentive to go. If the event is
held it will be a wake, a six-car affair that could see Lucchini Engineering taking top

Somewhere the paths of commitment, financial solvency and bloody-minded
competitiveness, which I believe all the sports car teams share with their GT
cousins, cross over, although the solvency line is much lower than that in the GT
paddock. That much we saw when the GT and Sportscar teams last shared a
paddock at Brno in the summer of 2002.

“The teams don’t show enough commitment”
“I am very disappointed” said Ratel during qualifying. “The teams don’t show
enough commitment...far less than any of the competitors in the FIA GT

True, but almost without exception the Sportscar teams suffer from a chronic lack
of money. If you judged the paddock to be well-heeled after inspecting Racing for
Holland’s two black-and-white chequer trucks, and Pescarolo Sport’s Peugeot
liveried team, you’d be deluded by the professionalism of a handful of teams...I’d
also include Ian Dawson’s Team Taurus Lola and Team Jota with their Pilbeam,
anxious to put on appearances beyond their means.

The FIA GT Championship, by contrast, is quite wealthy even in these hard times.
The race weekend is busy and well promoted, with Eurosport coverage, and build-
up is a strong plus-factor, sponsors are happy with their exposure and the whole
weekend is on an upward curve.
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