Friday, May 05, 2006

FIA GT kicks off

This weekend sees the start of the FIA GT championship at Silverstone. Technically this is where all the privateer GT teams get to play without fear of being beaten up by factory teams. In practice that means that there's no cars being run by Corvette Racing or Aston Martin Racing - but there are six Astons, and a C6 Corvette.

The most likely team to win with an Aston Martin is the hugely successful Italian BMS team. They've won both the FIA GT and LMES GT1 championships with Prodrive's last car, the Ferrari 550 Maranello. The Aston inherits much of the 550's technology, so reliability should be much better than a new car will typically show. Aston provided full support to Prodrive during development of the car, unlike Ferrari, and the DBR9 already has wins to show for it, Sebring 2005 being the most significant.

Also running the British beasts are Phoenix Racing (who have much experience with Opel in the DTM), Cirtek (who have already raced the Aston last year under the Russian Age banner) and Race Alliance, a new Austrian team with two cars, Red Bull backing and Karl Wendlinger in the line-up.

Primary opposition to these teams will come from reigning champions Vitaphone Racing and their magnificent Maserati MC12s. They have a little more than a year's worth of experience with the cars and four very quick drivers, so must start the season as favourites.

A number of other cars line up in the GT1 class, but probably not with much hope of taking the title. GLPK from Belgium has a Corvette C6, B-Sport Racing arrives with a troublesome but quick Lamborghini Murcielago, and two teams are running Saleen S7s.

GT2 features the usual raft of Porsche GT3s, but face stiff opposition from a number of teams running the Ferrari 430. The new car from Maranello has already shown pace at Sebring and Istanbul, and the JMB team should be the ones most likely to give the Porsche teams a run for their money.

Finally, this event sees the first race of the new European GT3 championship, designed for "gentleman" drivers. It's a great entry list, with 50-odd Corvettes, Vipers, Gallardos, 911s, Astons, Venturis etc. Should be quite a laugh.

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