Here’s an offer from the DSC archive, our report, from Malcolm Cracknell, of a very significant race in modern motorsport. The first-ever GT3 race, Round One of a Silverstone double-header of the FIA GT3 Championship – 5 May 2006.
42 brand new cars packed the Silverstone pit-lane that weekend, as the powers-that-be took baby steps in BoP, two balancing sessions on the Thursday, 70 kilos for the Viper etc.
The race itself though was a classic – and saw two true talents emerge – enjoy this dose of nostalgia.
FIA European GT3 Championship, Race 1
Simonsen Excels, Edwards & Others Too
Before we get onto the first race of this new championship, let’s just clarify what happened to the Vipers during Thursday, Friday and Saturday, specifically the #29 Pouchelon Racing Viper.
In the open test on Thursday, the team ran one car and topped the unofficial times with lead driver Anthony Reid. Christophe Bouchut then tested the car on behalf of the FIA and posted a lap 2.4s quicker than Anthony Reid. At this point, in addition to the 50kg ballast already in the car, the team was instructed to fit a 45% smaller air restrictor. However, the FIA scrutineers had assumed that the ‘Bouchut test’ had been done with the restrictor in place and imposed a further 60kg of ballast, making 110kg in all.
Running with the smaller restrictor and new mapping in Friday’s free practice sessions saw the Reid / Duqeine car still fastest.
Overnight reconsideration by the FIA, with technical input from Viper Racing representative Gary Johnson saw an alternative proposal on Saturday morning, offering an alternative to the 110kg equalisation measure, a 10mm increase in ride height.
The team took the ride height option as being the safer way to go and sent the cars out for Qualifying 1 with this, the air restrictor and 50kg of ballast. Reid, not having driven the car in the new configuration, planted the Viper on the second row
“It’s disappointing that they threw us the penalty just prior to qualifying if it had been yesterday, we could have done something about our set-up,” commented Anthony Reid.
Just to clarify an incorrect assumption that we made earlier, the times from the second session count for the grid for the first race and vice versa. So that meant Reid starting from 23rd on the grid… in the wet.
“We can’t change tyres,” said the Scot, “because of our five stud fixing.”
That became relevant at the mid-point of this fascinating event.
Wet tyres were the choice at the start, although the Ascari / DAMAX team took the decision to change to slicks on all three cars. Then they weren’t allowed to leave the pit lane, and had to start from there and initially went further and further backwards (Aaron Scott, below).
Lap 1 had a British GT flavour (from last year) as Hector Lester and Dimitris Deverikos help P2 and P3, at least as far as Club.
“He knocked me into a spin,” said the Irishman, who plummeted down the order. Deverikos (below) recovered much more quickly, but the #34 Ferrari finished lap 1 in 30th place.
Max Mugelli led from the start in the #23 BMS DBRS9, followed by a train of Vipers. Gilles Duqueine, using his hand controls, took over second place after the Club Corner skirmish, and at the end of the first lap, it was Mugelli from Duqueine, Zonca in the #26 Viper, Ceccato in the #27 V10, then von Splunteren in the next of the Tech 9 Porsches, Martin Rich in the best of the Barwell Astons and Deverikos recovering in seventh.
This is into Stowe on lap 2.
The midfield was rather more congested… as the #77 Maserati prepared to spin… for the second time at Stowe, on consecutive laps.
The #20 Corvette was the first retirement.
Duquiene, an ex-F3 star before a road accident left him in a wheelchair, took the lead on lap 3, with the other two Vipers in third and fourth still, then the two Tech 9s. Three Vipers, two Porsches and an Aston Martin.
Hector Lester had recovered to 20th, up ten places already.
Ian Khan and Palma in Maserati #76 were both going well, the AF Corse Gransport Light up to sixth by lap 5 (from 23rd on the grid): it was that sort of race, helped by using the starting order from second qualifying. Here’s Ian Khan passing the van Splunteren Porsche, at Club.
Those three Vipers were 1-2-3 by lap 6, with Deverikos the next man to be catching Mugelli’s Aston Martin: the 2005 British GT Champion was the fastest man on the (drying) track, in the 2:13 area. There was a lot more pace to come as the track dried…
By lap 10, some drivers were looking for damp patches and with Hector Lester up to 17th, the JMB team was readying slicks.
At this point, Aaron Scott in the best-placed Ascari was suddenly into the 2:14s, as slicks, at last, became useable, but he was almost a lap behind. A lap later he was into the 2:10s and everyone knew that slicks were the optimum choice, as long as you weren’t stuck with five studs.
Hector Lester pitted after 11 laps, and Simonsen rejoined and now we had a difficult period to follow, with so many cars pitting. Certainly, by the end of lap 13, Simonsen was way down in 32nd, while Scott in the Ascari was 25th, but yet to pit (although no tyre change needed).
Duqueine pitted from the lead after 13 laps, and the stop looked quick enough, as he was placed into his wheelchair. What a great job by that chap with the hand controls and no delay changing wheels. But Simonsen was already lapping in 2:06.7, and he was four seconds quicker than anyone else on the track…
Deverikos maybe stayed out too long, because Sean Edwards (son of Guy) took over after 15 and Simonsen was in the 2:02s. Next fastest man was Klaus Ludwig, and he was six seconds slower. Next lap and Simonsen was in the 2:00s, while Traffort was in the 2:06s in his Policand Porsche.
16 laps and things were clearer, except that Dupard in Viper #11 led, because he hadn’t stopped and he carried on well past the 37-minute point when the pit window closed, and this car incurred a 30-second penalty.
So Reid led in #29, from Cioci in #26, and Simonsen was 11th. At 17 laps, the order was:
#27 Livio – all Vipers
#76 Maserati Sperati
#9 Porsche Edwards
#4 Policand Porsche Savary
#23 Aston Zani
#30 Viper Rachel Green
Collins Ascari 20th.
Look at the lap times a lap later:
1 Reid 2:09
2 Cioco 2:12 –4s
3 Edwards 2:01 –25s
4 Livio 2:12 –28s
5 Simonsen, up to fifth! – 1:59 –35s.
There were 18 minutes left, which was nine more laps. Can you see what was about to happen?
Basically Edwards and Simonsen were gobbling up the Vipers, which were still lapping at almost wet track pace, and Simonsen was catching Edwards.
He wasn’t catching through the first sector though, why was that? “You don’t brake much through there, I had bad understeer and the Porsche is a bit faster down the straight,” said the Dane in #34 Ferrari.
At 20 laps Edwards and Reid were third and fourth, six seconds apart, a lap later it was four seconds, and they were first and second, Simonsen going around the outside of Reid in the Complex.
2.9 and 1.3 on the next two laps, and completing the 24th, Edwards was baulked by a Viper out of Luffield, Simonsen closed…
… dived right towards the pit wall, and was through, from 32nd (his partner) to the lead, in 50 dramatic minutes. These two crossed the line with the gap actually reading 0.000.
Collins, Murphy (Tech 9) and Bryant (Tech 9) were also really on the move in the closing stages, but so was that oddly named Moullin Traffort fellow, and in the last lap drama in the complex, as Reid was tipped onto the grass by Cioci, Collins took third, while Traffort (rather cynically) slammed into Bryant’s Porsche (finished ninth) so Cioci on his wets was fourth, Traffort fifth and Reid sixth.
Really, it was British GT-type sprint racing at its best, and there were parallels with last August here, when Simonsen (again) passed Tech 9’s #9 again, to win the two hour BGT event here.
So drama aplenty, and a bloody good first race. An interested spectator was a certain Danny Panoz…
Hector Lester: “I’ve never started from the front of the grid before so that’s something I’d quite like to do again. It was a fun race apart from the nudge from the Tech 9 car on Lap 1 but I managed to make up some ground and Allan got back out on slicks in about 32nd place and did what he always does!”
Allan Simonsen: “That was quite tough, passing 4 or 5 cars every lap and managing to do plenty of clean overtaking. I was able to push quite soon after taking over the car and made up a lot of ground.”
Dimitris Deverikos: “We had a very good set-up in the wet and the car was very good at the start of the race.”
Sean Edwards: “There were no blue flags at all out there so nobody knew I was leading and it cost me 2-3 seconds a lap. I got the call that Simonsen was catching me fast and Allan finally took the lead when I got badly blocked by a Viper over the start/ finish line.
Dimitris though did a great job, the team chose the right tyres and gave us a good stop. Of course with slicks on a car set up for wets, it was less easy, but I was getting some good laps in. I’m happy to start the season with a second-place.”
Aaron Scott: “We just missed the pit window to get onto the grid and decided (with a bit of help from Neil Cunningham) to go for slicks as it would be the only possible way of getting a result. It was very hard indeed out there at the beginning.”
Ben Collins: “That was a lot of fun. The cars and the race exceeded my expectations, particularly as our car only rolled out of the Ascari factory 2 days ago.”
1st #34 F Lester/Simonsen Ferrari 430 Challenge 1:00:03.661 27
2nd #9 P Deverikos/Edwards Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:00:06.029 27
3rd #45 A Scott/Collins Ascari KZ1R 1:01:13.135 27
4th #26 D Zonca/Cioci Dodge Viper Coupe 1:01:23.465 27
5th #6 P Cattaneo/Traffort Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:01:24.437 27
6th #29 D Duqueine/Reid Dodge Viper Coupe 1:01:26.156 27
7th #8 P Van Splunteren/Murphy Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:01:30.645 27
8th #66 AM Rich/Johnson Aston Martin DBRS9 1:01:40.586 27
9th #7 P Dumarey/Bryant Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:01:43.956 27
10th #27 D Ceccato/Livio Dodge Viper Coupe 1:01:57.060 27
11th #44 AM MacHitsky/Cocker Aston Martin DBRS9 1:01:57.208 27
12th #30 D Dewinter/Green Dodge Viper Coupe 1:02:00.346 27
13th #14 L Ritskes/Von Gartzen Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 1:02:00.447 27
14th #10 D Blanchemain/Bornhauser Dodge Viper Coupe 1:02:05.621 27
15th #13 L Thurnundtaxis/Zoboli Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 1:02:06.930 27
16th #76 M Palma/Sperati Maserati Gransport Light 1:02:46.517 27
17th #16 C Berberich-Martini/Ludwig Corvette Z06 GT3 1:00:14.896 26
18th #23 AM Mugelli/Zani Aston Martin DBRS9 1:00:15.286 26
19th #28 D Baso/Corradi Dodge Viper Coupe 1:00:35.515 26
20th #1 P Berville/Narac Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:00:37.636 26
21st #47 A Turvey/Pirri Ascari KZ1R 1:00:47.415 26
22nd #35 L Mairzedt/Scholze Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 1:00:51.862 26
23rd #38 M Arlotti/Cutrera Maserati Gransport Light 1:00:58.611 26
24th #25 AM Bryner/Calderari Aston Martin DBRS9 1:01:15.924 26
25th #12 D Adam/Makowiecki Dodge Viper Coupe 1:01:21.274 26
26th #77 M Cerrai/Alessi Maserati Gransport Light 1:01:26.915 26
27th #21 C Charriol/Campbell Corvette Z06 GT3 1:01:31.826 26
28th #24 AM Groppi/Seiler Aston Martin DBRS9 1:01:41.061 26
29th #78 M Case/Passuti Maserati Gransport Light 1:01:41.091 26
30th #15 L Trunk/Muller Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 1:00:05.044 25
31st #39 M Gini/Barbaro Maserati Gransport Light 1:00:34.704 25
32nd #4 P Balthazard/Savary Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:00:44.629 25
33rd #11 D Dupard/Zacchia Dodge Viper Coupe 1:00:55.153 25
34th #33 F Comar/Rambeaud Ferrari 430 Challenge 1:01:24.246 25
35th #5 P Chatelain/Beaubelique Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:01:26.378 25
36th #2 P Tonelli/Semioli Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:01:13.349 24
37th #32 F Khan/Earle Ferrari 430 Challenge 51:29.075 22
38th #46 A Adams/Stanton Ascari KZ1R 1:01:09.804 20
22 AM Alexander/Needell Aston Martin DBRS9 39:52.925 16
19 C Terny/Ruffier Corvette Z06 GT3 12:51.360 2
20 C Dessange/Sourd Corvette Z06 GT3 3:00.261 1