Nielsen confident of Donington SRWC glory

Former Le Mans winner John Nielsen believes he can give the Panoz marque its first ever win on British soil when the SportsRacing World Cup circus visits Donington Park this weekend

Nielsen confident of Donington SRWC glory

The Dane's David Price Racing-run LMP-1 Roadster S starts the event as favourite following the signing of double SRWC champion Vincenzo Sospiri as Nielsen's co-driver.

Ex-Formula 3000 champion Sospiri is using the race to make his comeback after sitting out the season so far with a shoulder injury. Following a successful test at Snetterton yesterday (Wednesday), the Italian is primed to form the strongest driver pairing on the grid. The team also runs a second Panoz for the first time for Danish team sponsor Karsten Ree and youngster Casper Elgaard.

"It's great to have someone of Vincenzo's calibre with me in the car," said Nielsen "After all, he is the champion from the past two years. I think we lost our chance to win the championship by only finishing fifth in the last race at Brno, but we're not giving up. We want to win races so we build a good base to continue next year."

To score the car's first win of the season, however, the duo will first have to beat the championship-leading JMB Competition Ferrari 333SP of young chargers Christian Pescatori and David Terrien. They have won two of the four events so far this year, and have proved a rapid and reliable combination. The French team has won the SRWC title for the past two years, running Emmanuel Collard and Sospiri himself. Although now a six-year-old design, the Ferrari chassis is still a great handling car, and will suit Donington's sweeps and turns.

Their biggest threat in championship points among the 30-strong grid comes from the R&M Racing Judd-powered Riley & Scott MkIII of former World Sportscar Champion Mauro Baldi and rising South African star Gary Formato. The winners of the second round at Monza, they lie second in the title race, 20 points (the equivalent of one race win) behind the JMB car.
The Italian R&M team is building its own chassis for 2001 based on the ageing Riley & Scott, and has developed a new nose section which will be put to use this weekend.
Baldi said: "We really need to win this race if we are to have a chance [for the title]. Twenty points behind with four races to go is still a big gap. But I've always liked Donington and I think we'll be competitive."

Of the 14 primary SR1 class contenders entered for the race, there are no less than six Ferrari 333SPs. Beyond the JMB car, the other two most competitive runners are the car of one-time Grand Prix driver Giovanni Lavaggi and the lead BMS Scuderia Italia machine of Austrian single-seater convert Philipp Peter.

British interest will centre on the new Judd-powered Ascari A410, piloted by capable South African Werner Lupberger along with team boss Klaas Zwart. An encouraging debut at Brno saw it challenge for the lead, and if it can run reliably, it will be a dark horse for honours. Also making its race debut will be the new Porsche-powered Harrier chassis, which will see British Formula 3 hotshoe Ben Collins make his first SRWC start for two years.

In the SRII class, Britons Mark Smithson and Peter Owen are leading the championship in their Redman Bright Pilbeam-Nissan, and are aiming for a good finish to keep their points tally rising. Among a host of Italian Lucchini, Tampolli and Picchio chassis, two other British marques also appear.

The new Rapier 6 of British company LM3000 makes its long-awaited debut in the hands of experienced campaigner Ian Flux, while Castle Combe expert Adrian Cottrell and Richard Fores join Mark Bailey Racing to race the Rover-powered MBR.

The entire 16-car field of the secondary class machines will be stretched to beat the works Tampolli if the Italian team's plan comes off, however. Ulstermen Dino Morelli, an experienced Formula 3000 campaigner, and Richard Lyons, last year's Formula Palmer Audi runner-up, are aiming to team up in one of the Alfa Romeo-powered cars for the Donington race. If the deal goes ahead, look no further for the SRII winners at the end of the two and a half hour race.

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