Catalunya GT Open

The Final Battle Is Heating Up!Three driver pairs still in contention for the GT Open title:Lietz, Couceiro and Montermini’s views on Barcelona finale

The countdown towards the last round of the 2008 International GT Open has reached the final week, as teams and drivers, which generally come in high number from all over Europe, for the last big GT event in the continent before the winter break, are getting ready for the journey to the Circuit de Catalunya.

This said, if general expectation is growing ahead of a round that will be decisive for two out of the four titles (the Overall and GTA ones), anxiety is higher for some. Three driver pairs and two teams are still in contention for the Overall and GTA titles are eager to defend fiercely their chances.

It will be again a battle between Ferrari and Porsche, and Autorlando Sport and Scuderia Playteam SaraFree (mentioned in alphabetical order!), a duel which is going one since last season and reaching its climax.Reigning Champion Richard Lietz, and his 2008 team-mate Gianluca Roda, at the wheel of the Porsche 997 RSR by Autorlando Sport, are on top of the overall standings, with 155 points (and 5 wins), while Scuderia Playteam SaraFree, already assured of the Team title, has two teams in the fight: Portugal’s Manuel Gião-Pedro Couceiro are 12 points behind the leaders (at 143 points), after a strong and consistent campaign that has seen them 7 times on the podium but never on the highest step so far, and Andrea Montermini-Michele Maceratesi, long-time provisional leaders but now in third position in the provisional standings, with 133 points (and 3 wins), trailing 22 points behind Lietz-Roda.

With 44 points still to be awarded (22 per each of the two races composing the Barcelona event), anything can still happen and all the actors of this exciting finale are sharpening preparation and tactics.

Ahead of the decisive moment, Richard Lietz remains very cool: “It will be a big fight against Ferrari, but this will be nothing new, it has been so during the entire season!”, says the Austrian, “This year, we have seen that teams and drivers are racing harder, which is a sign of the growing importance of the GT Open for everybody, but we are confident that we will have a clean and good fight in Barcelona. Because of our win in Monza, we will have some high handicap in Race 1,

therefore Race 2 will be the really crucial one for us, but we will push hard as always. We have a good car, the team is doing a perfect job and Gianluca is now very fast with the 997, so we will try to stay calm and focused and bring home a second title.”

In the Playteam camp, concentration is at its highest after some set-backs in the last races, and so is the will to re-conquer a title already obtained in 2006 (with Michele Bartyan), despite the slight disadvantage in points and the tactical complication of having both the team’s cars still aspiring to the title.

Analyzing the situation of the best-placed among the two silver-blue Ferrari, Pedro Couceiro comments: "I'm delighted that we are reaching the last event in a position which means fighting for the Championship. It is great to be in front and a title contender in such a competitive series. We already reached one of the year's targets, as Scuderia Playteam Sarafree is already the 2008 Team Champion and we are proud to have contributed to that achievement. However, the other goal is still possible and Manuel and I will do our best to allow Scuderia Playteam Sarafree and Ferrari reaching also the drivers title. We have two cars in the team that can make it against the Porsche and honestly, although I would clearly prefer winning the title myself, I will be equally happy if it is the other Playteam pair succeeding. When you are part of such a great family as the Scuderia Playteam, who wins doesn’t really matter, the important is that the driver title lands at Playteam anyway”.

Andrea Montermini is on the same length wave: “Barcelona will be the most important round of the season”, says the former F.1 driver. “After what happened in Monza, Michele and I will only have one thing to do: go for it and attack, from the first to the last lap available. Both the team and us know that we can rely on a package of absolutely premium level, and that therefore any achievement is possible. And we definitely believe in our chances!”

Clearly, fans in Barcelona and TV watchers across Europe can expect some action- and suspense-packed weekend.

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