Collard to Make His Debut in the Estoril GT Open while Gião-Couceiro Will Lead a Portuguese Armada
• French GT star to drive a fourth Porsche 997 RSR by Autorlando• Fourth round attracts strong Portuguese delegation• Up to 22 cars expected in the only all-GTA (GT2) event of 2008
After a 6-weeks recess, activity is resuming for the International GT Open, and it does so in grand style: the main GT2 pro-am continental series is heading, on the week-end of 12-13 July, towards South-West Europe, to the beautiful circuit of Estoril. No doubt that the welcome will be warm, as always in Portugal, and that summer, the Atlantic coast and near-by Lisbon will add the most pleasant touch to this fourth round of the season. A round which, for the second time of the year, will pair with the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) and offer to Portuguese fans a full program, completed by the Formula Master, the Portuguese Touring Car Championship and the SEAT Eurocup.
An International GT Open round, also, that will present the particularity of offering a grid composed solely of GTA (GT2) cars, as the GTS (GT3) class, whose calendar is based on 7 events only, is prolonging the break. But GTS cars will be back only two weeks after Estoril, when the International GT Open will inaugurate the Valencia Street Circuit, in what will be a unique and historical motorsport event.
The Estoril all-GTA entry list, which will be released officially, next Monday 7th July, looks impressive, as over than 22 cars could be present on the Lusitanian soil, already visited by our Dunlop-supported series in 2006.
The major novelty in the field is the presence of GT and Sportscar champion Emmanuel Collard, who will drive a fourth Porsche (in this case, a 997 RSR) entered by reigning Italian squad Autorlando. The 37-year old French driver is without any doubts one of the most prestigious endurance drivers in the world, having won no less than 4 sportscars titles (FIA and LMS), 14 FIA-GT rounds, without forgetting his overall wins at the 24 hrs of Daytona2005 and his GT wins at the 24 hrs of Le Mans (2003) and at the 24 hrs of Spa-Francorchamps (three times). Collard will pair with Portuguese champion Francisco Cruz Martins, who currently leads the Italian GT series.
.With the support ofThe 18 cars that compete regularly in the series will obviously be present, at this crucial point which marks the half-season, but they will be joined by a significant Portuguese delegation, as the event is attracting la “crème de la crème” of Portuguese GT racers, who normally compete in other series and mainly in the Iberian GT Championship.
This Lusitanian armada will be led by a pair that is starring in all International GT Open events of this year, Manuel Gião and Pedro Couceiro, who drive one of the Ferrari F430 of Scuderia Playteam SaraFree all year long. These two stalwarts of Portuguese motorsports are currently third in the overall standings, having visited the podium on three occasions (actually, at every circuit visited so far), and fighting for the title. Needless to say, they will do everything they can to clinch their first victory on home soil. “That would be really nice, although racing at home always means some extra pressure”, they say.
The other regular Portuguese contender, Rui Aguas, who shares one of the Advanced Engineering Ferraris with Croatian Boris Maletic, is no less motivated and will seek to score points for the third time this season.
The strong Portuguese delegation will include several other local heroes. Among already confirmed presences, ASM Portugal will be back to the series with a Porsche 997 RSR for Pedro Bastos, the only Portuguese driver with an International GT Open overall win so far (that was precisely in Estoril back in 2006) and Antonio Gellweiler. Still in the Porsche camp, a 996 RSR is entered by Luso-French team Estoril Racing for Manuel and Claude Monteiro, while the impressive Marcos LM600 of Antonio Nogueira and Antonio Coimbra is also back.We are therefore set for an exciting event, with a strong Portuguese flavor, that fans not present in Estoril will be able to follow live or semi-live, through the usual set of TV networks, including among others Eurosport (54 countries), Canal + Deportes, TDT Popular TV (Spain), Sport TV (Portugal) and Nuvolari (Italy).