Coronel and Hezemans fastest in Austria

Free practice for the seventh round of the FIA GT Championship got underway at the A1-Ring in Austria on Friday, with the Carsport Holland team dominating both sessions in the wet and the dry

Coronel and Hezemans fastest in Austria

Mike Hezemans has been joined at the wheel of the number 25 Chrysler Viper GTS-R by fellow Dutchman Tom Coronel for this race, and the 1999 Formula Nippon champion has rapidly adapted to driving the Viper.

"Both the track and the car are new to me," Coronel said. "But I was surprised at how nice it was to drive. If the weather stays like this, the rest may as well go home now: they have no chance."

The Viper's best time was of 1m30.177s, which was faster than the 1998 pole-setting time when the FIA GT's last came to the Austrian track. In both sessions, the Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper was second fastest. Vincent Vosse and Boris Derichebourg are currently joint third in the Drivers Championship, behind Britain's Julian Bailey and Jamie Campbell-Walter, but Vosse is in for a long weekend, as he is planning to compete in tomorrow's 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as well as Sunday's 500 km FIA GT race.

With Vosse being granted a special dispensation to miss qualifying, Emmanuel Clérico, a race winner for Paul Belmondo Racing last season, will deputise for him today (Saturday).

The Championship leaders, Lister, had a difficult start in the first session, having never raced at this track before. "The rain, and our 100 kg penalty weight don't help," Julian Bailey admitted. The Storms improved in the dry to set the third and fifth times, separated by the second Paul Belmondo Racing Viper, driven by the eponymous team owner and Claude-Yves Gosselin.

The N-GT class sees another factor enter the season-long battle between Luca Riccitelli in the RWS Porsche GT3 and Christophe Bouchut in the Larbre Competition car in the shape of 1998 Le Mans winner and Audi driver Stéphane Ortelli. The Frenchman has joined G-Force for this race, driving alongside his friend Robert Nearn.

"I started Endurance racing with Robert, and I'm very pleased to be able to help him this weekend," said Ortelli, who set the GT2 pole in 1998.

Riccitelli remained the man to beat, however, setting a time of 1m48.168s in the number 77 Porsche. "I am quite happy, but we have had some engine problems so we might change the engine before tomorrow," the Italian driver explained. "It's a good thing I like to drive in the rain - it's always the same weather here."

Combined Practice Times

Pos No Class Drivers Car Time
25 GT Hezemans/Coronel Carsport Chrysler Viper 1m30.177s
12 GT Derichebourg/Vosse Belmondo Chrysler Viper 1m31.608s
14 GT Bailey/CampbellWalter Lister Storm 1m32.678s
11 GT Gosselin/Belmondo Belmondo Chrysler Viper 1m32.859s
15 GT Springer/Favre Lister Storm 1m33.149s
3 GT Kaufmann/Grasser Freisinger Porsche GT2 1m33.243s
21 GT Cappellari/Matteuzzi Racing Box Chrysler Viper 1m33.493s
29 GT Lafon/Jarier MMI Chrysler Viper 1m33.860s
4 GT Hane/Palmberger Freisinger Porsche GT2 1m34.119s
1 GT Felbermayr/Felbermayr Chamberlain Chrysler Viper 1m34.231s
27 GT Sabatini/Spinelli/Villa Orlando Porsche GT2 1m34.865s
5 GT Konrad/von Gartzen Konrad Porsche GT2 1m35.945s
77 NGT Riccitelli/Quester RWS Porsche 996 1m35.263s
23 GT Kronseder/Jobst KRT Lamborghini 1m35.562s
52 NGT Bouchut/Goueslard Larbre Porsche GT3 1m35.956s
51 NGT Nearn/Ortelli G-Force Porsche GT3 1m36.307s
56 NGT O'Rourke/Sugden EMKA GTC Porsche GT3 1m36.715s
55 NGT Bertuzzi/Masselli ART Porsche GT3 1m37.023s
57 NGT Colloni/Mancini ART Porsche GT3 1m37.333s
50 NGT Wallinder/Smith G-Force Porsche GT3 1m37.343s
24 GT Müller/Trunk MRT Lamborghini 1m37.363s
22 GT Wieth/Wieth Wieth Porsche GT2 1m37.504s
53 NGT Chereau/de Lesseps/Arhle Larbre Porsche GT3 1m37.971s
7 GT Reid/Reid Proton Porsche GT2 1m38.127s
66 NGT Cattotri/Rapetti MAC Porsche GT3 1m38.462s
79 NGT Höfer/Willems/Blieniger RWS Porsche 996 1m38.520s

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