2007 French GT Nogaro Race - Saleen Solution

A Pair Of Vettes Topple An Old Foe At Nogaro

Andrew Jewitt Sep 14, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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'07 FFSA GT Team Overview

The Corvettes

Team: PSI Experience
Cars: C6.R No. 16 (shown) and C5-R No. 17
PSI returns with the same pair of Vettes it ran so successfully in 2006. Last year's title challengers, Markus Palttala and Pertti Kuismanen, have opted not to return, so their seats have been taken by former SRT racers Christophe Bouchut and Yvan Lebon. The second PSI car also fields unfamiliar faces this year, with erstwhile Viper pilots Jean Claude Police and Mathieu Zangarelli taking the spots.

Strengths and weaknesses: The team are in their second year of the championship and are sure to learn from the mistakes that cost them the title last year. Bouchut is one of the top GT drivers in the world but can be hot-headed at times. Parallel participation in the FIA GT series and a Le Mans campaign might dilute PSI's efforts.

Team: SRT
Car: C5-R No. 5
SRT returns with just one car this year-a C5-R-and its regular driver pairing of Eric Cayrolle and Laurent Cazenave.

Strengths and weaknesses: SRT has extensive endurance experience and will be looking to build on its familiarity with the French circuits. Running just a single car this year could focus the team's efforts, as could its decision not to race in the Belgium GT Championship. A parallel FIA GT Championship campaign could be a distraction.

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Team: Luc Alphand Adventures
Car: C5-R No. 8
Luc Alphand is a French living legend. The ex-world downhill ski champion has won the Paris-Dakar rally, and he scored a superb seventh overall in the GT1 class at Le Mans in 2006. While he isn't driving in the French Championship in 2007, Alphand's influence is bound to seep through to a strong driver lineup of Gabriel Balthazard and Jerme Policand, who moved over from the Ferrari 550 Maranello they campaigned last year.

Strengths and weaknesses: Inexperience in the French series could count against them, and running two additional cars in the Le Mans series could stretch resources.

The Opposition

Team: Oreca
Cars: Saleen S7Rs No. 1 and No. 9 (shown)
The major opposition in 2007 will come, once again, from the Oreca team, which returns with two of last year's title-winning S7Rs. Soheil Ayari and Bruno Hernandez, the '06 champs, are split between the cars, with Ayari lining up with Raymond Narac, and Hernandez teaming with French Formula Renault champion Laurent Groppi.

Strengths and weaknesses: Oreca has enormous engineering depth and a wealth of experience that is second to none in endurance racing. Ayari and Hernandez are both quick and dependable, though Groppi has little experience in GT racing. A simultaneous Le Mans series campaign is unlikely to have any effect on the team's French campaign. This is the team to beat in 2007.

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Team: Larbre Competition
Cars: Aston Martin DBR9 No. 3 and Ferrari 550 Maranello No. 2
Larbre is one of the most experienced teams in the championship, with a host of FIA GT titles behind it. The Aston pairing of Patrick Bornhauser and Frederic Makowiecki is experienced and fast, and should feature strongly at most tracks. The Ferrari is too long in the tooth to feature significantly, even if drivers Jean Yves Adam and Steve Zacchia are both pretty tidy pedallers.

Strengths and weaknesses: The team has a tremendous racing pedigree, with enormous strength and depth, while former champ Bornhauser forms a strong lineup with young gun Makowiecki.

Team: Tarres
Car: Saleen S7R No. 4
After struggling through 2006 with an uncompetitive Viper GTS-R, the Tarres team has stepped it up with the purchase of a Saleen for 2007. Drivers Eric Debard and Oliver Thevenin have limited experience in the Saleen, but both will be eager for wins after disappointing '06 campaigns.

Strengths and weaknesses: This long-established team has a great deal of experience in the French series, if not with the Saleen. Thevenin was the '06 champion and is fast and experienced.

Team: Protek
Car: Saleen S7R No. 7
Protek has been around the French GT Championship for some time, as have drivers Dominique Dupuy and Franois Fiat. The team featured strongly in the '06 title fight, but its Saleen is getting on in years and seems unlikely to pull off a repeat performance.

Strengths and weaknesses: The team has experience in a title fight, but its S7R has had a hard life and is not at the pace of the newer cars.

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Team: Mirabeau MTO
Car: Chrysler Viper GTS-R No. 10
While the Vipers have had to rely on performance breaks to remain competitive, Mirabeau might just be the strongest of the three teams running them. Gal Lesoudier and Anthony Beltoise form a strong and experienced driver lineup.

Strengths and weaknesses: A Viper is not going to challenge for the championship, no matter what breaks it's given, though reigning Porsche Carrera Cup champ Beltoise is as quick as anyone.

Team: Red Racing
Car: Chrysler Viper GTS-R No. 14
Red Racing had a terrible time of it in 2006, running a Lister Storm in selected rounds. The'07 season promises more of the same.

Strengths and weaknesses: They're running a Viper, and an old one at that. Furthermore, the driver lineup of Thierry Prignaud and Nicolas Maillet Avenel is unlikely to strike fear into the opposition.

Team: Espace Racing
Car: Chrysler Viper GTS-R No. 20
Espace steps up to GT1 after running a Porsche 996 in C1 last year, retaining the same driver lineup of Christian Philippon and Franck Labescat.

Strengths and weaknesses: Limited experience and an uncompetitive car yield a grim outlook for Espace.

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