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REPORTS

F1VWC 2003 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
Monza, Italy

Race Reports
September 19, 2003

SCUM HOLDEN

Points was the name of the game for Shiro Ryong this weekend, and he delivered on his promise, finishing a fine 6th place from a 10th row grid position. It would turn out to be a very tricky weekend for the whole SCUM Holden team, with his team mate Peter Harding finishing only down in 11th place, and scoring no points.

Shiro Ryong maintains his championship lead, be it at a reduced lead of now just 9 pts to Mikko Jakonen. Shiro enjoyed a trouble free race regarding the start, the pitstops and his eventual finish in 6th place: "There weren't any problems with traffic or mistakes and it was quite fun to drive even if I wasn't able to keep up with the leaders."

Shiro had a fantastic start jumping from 10th place to 6th, challenging the EIRE of Kieran Ryan for 5th . On lap 15 he made the first of three planned starts, and it was fast one, eventually rejoining in 4th place. His next stop came on lap 29 and again ran smoothly though there was some initial time lost due to a sticking front left wheel. His 3-stopper was suiting his style and the car's style, enabling him to push hard to the flag, and his final stop came on lap 43, with 10 laps to go, slipping from 5th to 6th , behind Ryan's EIRE. Ryong posted the 6th fastest time, and did the best he could on a track where the car is disadvantaged, and did some very good damage limitation, now refocusing 9 points clear of second place and 10 clear of third, with two rounds to go.

" I believe it was my 3 stop strategy which allowed me to keep the tyres reasonably fresh during the whole stint and helped me push to the limit every lap."– Shiro Ryong.

His teammate and eventual 11th place finisher Peter Harding had more of a difficult afternoon's work then his teammate's. He struggled with his three stop strategy pitting on laps 12, 27 and 42. "Looking back we really should have only done 2 (stops)." He was running well with the car but any occasion that brought him to catch other cars would just bring a pit board out telling him he needed to stop, a bit of a slinky effect.

The main issues facing the whole team but in particular Peter was his lack of hsp, he summed it up later when been lapped by eventual race winner Joe Consiglio: "Joe passed me down the front straight; I couldn't believe the top speed he had....it was like I was standing still."

Later Rab (Peter Harding) acting as both driver and CEO of SCUM summed up the next 2 races in the managerially position:

"The next two grands prix will be medium and high downforce tracks, and they'll suit our engine." He thought the team achieved all they could at Italy and that they look forward to securing the Driver's Championship come Indianapolis.

The SCUM team performed beyond what originally was expected of them on this engine power circuit, picking up 3 points from starting in 10h place was no easy target, but Shiro managed to secure it, and keeps his championship well on course.

Shiro Ryong 98, Mikko Jakonen 89, Daniel Wilkinson 88.

PHOENIX F1 RENAULT

Phoenix's point was made on the race day, but this had pretty much already been achieved on Saturday qualifying when Jan Kelder qualified in the points place of 8th and in the end settled with it. His teammate Antonio Irissari, who qualified in 11th sadly only moved up one place at the flag. On a day where EIRE scored 12 points, Phoenix in their fight to claim 3rd place in the Constructor's only claimed the one point, and pretty much were non-movers come race day.

Jan Kelder, the only Phoenix driver to score here, reported that the car was harder to drive with the extra fuel on board and thus forced 3 stops during the course of the race. He started in 8th, went up to 7th after the first lap and stayed that way until an error came on lap 14 (a half-spin), and decided to limit the damage by coming in and making a stop, dropping him to 10th. He quickly reasserted himself and by lap 27 was 7th and making his second of 2 stops. Rejoining in 11th he fought hard once again but ultimately the 3 stopper was not effective enough, and on lap 40 he pitted again; dropping from 7th to 9th but on lap 42 passed Peter Harding, to claim 8th place with a single point, finishing 1m 42s behind Consiglio and lapped. However, the race did go smoothly for the Dutch born driver as he later reported: "The pit crew did a very good job during the pit stops. No bad feelings about my race at all!" The Dutch driver was pleased enough to keep Ryan within his sights but in the end he had to stop and lost his gap, but 8th is still a point: "I have to be glad with the gained point, but with only 5 BHP more on board it could have been two points." Perhaps Jan was in defeatist mood when he said later that: "Pressure is over now!" It may seem over Jan, but there still are 2 races left to fight for! J

Team mate Antonio Irissari had a less than impressive performance. Qualifying saw him only 11th fastest, and the race didn't fare better with only one place advancement, finishing eventually 10th, a lap adrift and another driver who used a three stop strategy. He lost ground at the start, and never really recovered it, briefly holding 8th place before conceding it to his pit stops. However Antonio would later blame cars attempting to pit and holding him up as his main problem:

"I lost a lot of time passing slower cars, and this really damaged my race. I also had to let the leaders by which didn't help my cause."

However, he was thankful from input of team boss and CEO, Andy Graydon, from giving him a hand with setup and some brief advice before starting his race. He was happy to put this grand prix behind him and look forward to the next two gp's:

"I look forward to US and Japan , some medium downforce tracks will suit out car better then this power track."

Team boss Andy Graydon quoting that before this race 7th and 8th place would be a miracle but Jan did manage it, and pulls closer to overtaking his teammate in the championship. However, it appears there are internal pressures and problems existing within the British team as Andy explains the problem: "I've heard rumours he's been testing the Stealth-BMW behind closed doors again. This has happened on several occasions this season – a situation that is causing an uncomfortable feeling within the team." The last thing any boss wants is his own driver driving other cars. It looks like, through constant rumours in the press that Jan has been linked to several teams, one including Stealth.

Internal pressure seems to be the name of the game with Andy admitting Antonio needs to up his pace "if he is to stay with the team in 2004."

Andy seemed happy enough leaving this track behind him as did the whole Phoenix team. For the next two grands prix are fly away ones where medium downforce is required, certainly suiting the Phoenix in more degrees then Monza did. If the rumours are correct, then we could see a situation where neither driver would stay at the team. Not an ideal situation when you want to focus on championships in 2004.

JTM FERRARI

The JTM team slipped from their qualifying positions of 3rd and 7th to finish 7th and 9th, respectively Toby Lock and Matt Maple. Toby Lock seemed to have the measure of his teammate this weekend, out-qualifying and outracing his Maple to claim just 2 points, from a podium qualifying position.

Lock summed up his race: "No errors, just didn't have a decent race pace." He radioed in several times to the pits complaining of difficulties experienced in sector 2, the car seemingly understeering too much through the Lesmos. It was a demoralising result as he later put it, the car suffering from tyre degridation and suspension issues. All of this was confounded when he made a terrible start dropping from 3rd to 10th place. He fought on to see 3rd place again, briefly however, as he pitted the following lap and was never seen again in 3rd . He dropped down again and drove on home to finish a disappointing 7th place – but he did do his best given the car's handling difficulties. "The setup was just slower than we had hoped."

Matt Maple had a very troubled weekend. Lack of time with the car and setup issues faltered him through the weekend. He experienced some problems through the race, being called in for no less than 3 penalties certainly ending any hopes of points.

Like his team mate he had a bad start, though only dropping 2 places to 9th – his eventual finishing place. He went on well until his first penalty on lap 16 – forcing him to pit. He dropped down again, and on lap 35 came into the pits, unknown to his team losing him some more time. He rejoined last, and chased hard to catch Peter Harding, which he did, pulling off one of the few over taking maneuvers of the entire race. Matt made it look easy, passing him down the backstraight on lap 43. Two laps later he was on the attack again this time his target was Irissari and passed the Colombian, though the Phoenix driver did put up a bit of a fight, eventually passed into the Ascari chicance. Matt pulled away and built up a 9 second lap to the Phoenix, crossing the 53rd lap, some 1 lap adrift, and with no points, but a good end to a hard fought race!

"I've just made too many mistakes because of time and things, these will be rectified and I'm sure we will be strong for the end of the season"– Matt Maple

Team boss Juan Tortella was nevertheless delighted with the points, which he pointed out as being very important. He summed up his team's future: "We are still a young team and we are trying to achieve in race our very good qualification performances."

Juan seemed happy just to get his drivers more experience and some points and looked forward to the coming races with new drivers and teams to be welcomed to the paddock in time for the United States Grand Prix, in two weeks' time.

SIMSOA MERCEDES

A double DNS for both their drivers, a bad way to begin a team's career which lacks both experience and finishes. The only comments I can give are from Lawrence Simpson himself, the CEO: "They didn't show up on race day, simple as that." Through no fault of his this occurred, but you need to know where your drivers are for the race, especially when teams are waiting to join. The Simsoa team has been warned by the Governing Body.

EIRE FORD

With the championship in the balance, today both EIRE's did a good enough job to keep that hope alive and kicking. Daniel Wilkinson finished a superb 2nd, now only 1 point behind Mikko Jakonen and 9 behind Ryong, keeping is hopes just alive with two rounds to go. Ryan did a good enough job to maintain his 5th place to claim his first points of a troubled season for him.

Daniel, like Kieran, both suffered through the race, but both managed to compensate for this problem, and this turned out to be Daniel's only gripe with the car. "Joe's car was too fast, so to keep Mikko behind was the main objective. In my mirrors, he faded (away). I had no confidence in my setup but as the race went on that changed and I ended up feeling quite comfortable!" So Daniel seemed to enjoy his race, feeling more confident as the race progressed. His strategy was effective as was his start. He immediately passed Ryan, Loukasmaki, Lock and Jakonen to take 2nd by the end of lap 1, quite an impressive start, already launching an attack to Joe, wasting no time! He stopped on lap 18, but such was his pace he only dropped one place to the winner. He drove on so fast that his next stop on lap 37, came quickly and swiftly, the EIRE pulling off an under-7 second stop to ensure him of 2nd and drove on happily confident that the championship would remain open.

"I'm quite comfortable with Indy, and Japan will be hard to set up for- it should be a good showdown." – Daniel Wilkinson

On the other front, Kieran Ryan was less happy with his car, complaining of understeer and gearbox problems. He verbally commented on his pitstops to William Ponissi, unfortunately we can't tell you what he said. His stops were slow, one of the slowest on laps 18 and 38, adopting like his teammate a 2 stop strategy, briefly holding 3rd place at one point. A brief fight with Loukasmaki would be the highlight of his race, but in the end, disappointed: "On one hand, I took points from Shiro and finished 5th on a track I hate, and scored my first points. On the other side is the car wasn't good, I could only push 95% without the risk of getting a penalty."

A switch on lap 18 to a different steering wheel on his first stop, did nothing to cure his gear selecting problems, eventually losing the use of 3rd gear and switched to manual changing for the rest of the race. However, he looks happy towards the remaining 2 grands prix:

USA brought me 4th last year and most laps led, so I should go well there. More improvements however are needed, but I'm confident of them. Japan is my favourite on the calendar and the car should go well there."

William Ponissi was happy with his drivers results and remained quietly optimistic: "Our main concern was reached this weekend, we kept Shiro behind." He reiterated how his cars should perform come USA: " We need a performance like this in Indy too." He strode off quietly confident of a good fight for the championship as does this reporter think too.

Wilkinson finished 2nd , and now just 10 points shy of Shiro. Kieran Ryan scored his first points of the season, and now is 15th in the championship, ahead of team boss Ponissi.

STEALTH - BMW

A guy by the name of Joe Consiglio wrapped up the 2003 Italian Grand Prix; he won by 33 seconds, took pole position by over 4 tenths and set fastest lap in the process, a feat any driver would desire through a weekend. This guy is not a stranger to leading, or taking pole position but to winning, and finally put all his critics behind him today, was a first when he crossed the line to his and the Stealth team's first grand prix victory. A one-off grand prix for Stealth was the only opportunity he would have for the rest of the season to take a victory, and as we saw on the podium, he took the win with both hands, and lifting not only the trophy high but the Stealth team to an all new era. However while one side of the camp was in true euphoria the other side was in a sad state of mood, car no. 8, Chris Galloway was forced to retire sadly, from a wrist injury which finally took the better of him on lap 34. He had battled on through the race with it, but after the first pit stop it was clear that it was going to be terminal, sliding down through the rankings until he retired.

"When I crossed the line my main emotion was RELIEF, we had finally done it!" – Joe Consiglio

Joe had no bones to pick after the race, his car was perfect from Friday tests to Sunday's race. He had worked incredibly hard through the days and found a fantastic qualifying setup and later found a better race setup enabling him keep up competitive leads, never relinquishing his lead once, through the 53 laps; from 7 tenths on the first lap to 32.924 at the end of the last lap.

His first stop came on lap 18, having opened up a 8.4 second lead over Mikko Jakonen, who at that stage had just pushed past Wilkinson for 2nd , but both were to stop anyway. After a record seven-second stop, he was off again, giving the Stealth boys and extra warm hug at the end for a truly brilliant stop: "The stop was only 7 seconds or something, really quick!!"

Coming out of his pitstop, he had made an extra 0.7 tenths over Daniel and pushed on. Through laps 29-34 he had some problems over taking some back markers of Irissari and Harding; nevertheless he got them without too much trouble. Lap 36 he was in again for his final stop and remained in a comfortable lead, now he just had to maintain it for another 17 laps to the finish.

"I just really wanted to prove to myself as much as anyone." – Joe Consiglio

From laps 36 – 53, Joe did not fail to entertain the crowd nor the team, making some slight errors, but getting away with them. He remained untouchable and once in the lead at lap 1, was never seen again. Lap 53 marked the end to his winless streak and finally put the critics to sleep.

His teammate Chris was sadly unavailable for comment, still recovering in hospital from his wrist injury. Before the injury he made a good start, jumping from 9th to 7th, later to be passed however by Kelder and slip to 8th until lap 13, where through other's pitstops he managed to make it back up to 7th until his own stop on lap 17. This wasn't fast and he dropped down to 11th place, after some 14.5 seconds stationary, now beginning to complain of a wrist injury, but after brief words he went back out there and fought on. He rejoined the race on lap 18, now down in 11th . He went on to pass the JTM of Matt Maple on lap 19; however he was repassed in a neat over taking maneuver on lap 21. After another brief run in the points and in 8th place, the injury began to become a real factor, and after a couple of slow laps, he dropped down to 11th once again before pitting on lap 34, and retired with the injury; a sad way to finish a race but also because it was his last of the season.

Team boss Ted Cragg was speaking later of how much of a loss Joe will be to the team, however he wasn't all down and out, with rumours of a just as fast driver to be set to take his place come the 2004 season opener down under in Australia, Melbourne. "We are close to securing the services of a driver possibly just as fast as Joe. It is a shame that he can't race any longer though."

Ted was overjoyed come the end of the 53 lap with a long over due victory for his team, who he has seen come close to this several times, but never quite managed it.

Ted made it know that for 2004 that: "We are looking for the best driver combination possible to take the championship."

The Stealth team finally managed it, after over a year of near-miss grands prix to finally take it. However with the absence of Joe Consiglio how well really will this team do, and just how good is that car in other drivers' hands. The good news is, we only have to wait two weeks to see who will replace Joe and how well he will do. In some ways that driver will have some pressure on his shoulders after the Italian Grand Prix. Joe will most likely finish 8th in the championship, on 26 points.

MAPES-VO HONDA

Now 11 points closer to the team's 2nd Constructor's Championship in 2 years, not bad for any team. They achieved their first Constructor's Championship last year at the next grand prix in Indianapolis, but at this weekend's grand prix the team pulled together and did what they do best, score some good team points. However on a driver's scale, Mikko Jakonen did not perform that what he desired this weekend. A win is what he desired and really needed to remain close to Shiro in the championship, but failed to deliver on this promise, slipping further from his front row grid slot, to finish 3rd behind Wilkinson's EIRE. Petri Loukasmaki, who qualified in 4th place, managed to hold this and challenge his teammate through the race, to finish where he began - 4th, and collecting 5 points in the process.

Both drivers adopted a 2 stop strategy, Mikko staying out 1 lap longer then his teammate in each case. However, right from the beginning, it seemed the Finn would struggle to hold even a podium place. He started 2nd but immediately lost that place to the fast starting Australian of Daniel Wilkinson, also adopting a 2-stopper. However, the Finn did not let this deter him, and he began slowly, to reel in the Aussie lap after lap, never having the gap more then 1 second, and indeed, as both their pitstops were imminent, the Finn caught and passed the EIRE driver on lap 18, at the Ascari chicane, and fought his way through. The two pulled off fast pit stops on lap 18, Jakonen's lasting 8.6, while Wilkinson's' lasted 7.4, the advantage to the EIRE , and he resumed ahead of Jakonen. Indeed, the top 4 pitted on this lap, but Consiglio had maintained his lead through these stops. However, the EIRE was the faster of the two, and began to pull away, stretching his lead to 6 seconds at one stage. The Finn was not happy with the car at this stage: "The car's timing through the 1st sector kept fluctuating, and I kept losing too much time there. Throughout the race I lost most to the guys ahead of me in the first two corners."

Jakonen pitted again on lap 36, it was a faster stop but the EIRE still had the speed over the Mapes at the end of the day, and he kept pulling away. The car was not to Mikko's liking, understeering through turns 1 and 2, where he lost the most time. He resumed 4th on lap 37, falling behind the other EIRE , but only for one lap when the Irishman pitted from 3rd . So Mikko continued on in 3rd , and kept fighting on hard, the two trading their fastest laps, but all in vain. At the end of lap 53, the gap was over 4 seconds, to Wilkinson's advantage.

Mixed feelings he would report after the race, not quite down and out: "Things are getting very difficult. But I just hope that I can get the maximum of the car from the remaining 2 races, that I know of!"

Sadly, Loukasmaki was unavailable for comment. He had a quite day during the course of the 53 laps, starting and finishing where he began in 4th place. He dropped one place at the beginning to the second EIRE of Ryan, but managed to repass him on lap 5 and continued in 4th until lap 17, when he made his first of 2 stops. It was a fast one, 7.7 seconds and he rejoined in 7th but once the other key drivers made their stops he was back up to 4th place. At this stage, around lap 20, he dropped 6 seconds to his teammate, his lap times averaging each lap. However, he ran through the first chicane and lost some vital time to his teammate, and by lap 35 at his second stop had now dropped 19 seconds behind him with Ryan's EIRE closing him down to just 7 seconds. However another turn around stop from his pit crew and he was once again running 4th before he knew it, now having dropped the Irishman. He finished 4th in a somewhat average day for the Finn, but some valuable points were collected.

Matt Maple was realistic about his team's performance today: "Daniel and Joe were very strong today and we couldn't quite keep up with them."

The Englishman was happy enough with the day's result, a 3/4 result is good enough, he would later say. It does give the team more valuable points, and it's increasingly likely that the team will wrap up the Constructors Championship at Indianapolis for the second year running. The team collected 11 points, but EIRE managed to collect more, they collected 12 in a very close fight this afternoon.

When asked about his 2004 driver situation, he replied: " Mikko & Petri are confirmed for 2004, it is mere formalities before we make it official."

The team did manage a good job this afternoon, however in the end their performance could have been better. With Consiglio not racing for the remaining two races, it looks as though the top 3 places on the grid and in the race will be solely disputed by the top 3 in the championship.

Jakonen is 2nd , on 89 points; Loukasmaki seems set for 4th currently on 54 points.

MY ANALYSIS

While the championship is still very open to the top 3, in realistic terms, the gap remains at 9 – 10 points, for Ryong's nearest challengers. With retirements few for the SCUM team, with Mapes' recent good reliability run it seems set that they will finish the season on a good note finishing the remaining 2 races, however, doubts still cast over EIRE 's reliability. The team missed its final day of testing in Spain, a crucial day in which reliability was to be tested, which does cast doubts over their race-long survival, but touch wood they do finish to make it an explosive final showdown.

Monza was the end to the fast tracks of 2003, while USA does have a 1 mile long straight; officially it's a medium downforce track, like Suzuka which gives only a slight advantage to the other 2 contenders. The team mate role will be more vital the ever, to attempt to be buffers between each contender. I believe the real threats next weekend; will come from Ryan and Loukasmaki. They're both fast and neither have a championship challenge left, so neither has anything to loose. However, Ryong, Jakonen and Wilkinson do, they're all going for the championship and can't afford to let any points slip past them, and so will be that little bit extra careful.

We have seen Ryong use his 3 – 4 stop strategy to impressive results, in essence, being 9 -10 points clear in the lead, he still can risk this strategy in the US, we have seen him use this to success in other such tracks that have 70-something laps in them, Hungary for example. I feel this will be repeated, especially since it's a fast and demanding track next week. The Honda and Ford power plants are still faster then the Holden engine, and for sure will have still a little advantage, but little if any. In qualifying terms, the advantage will really show, and I can see Ryong struggling a little bit, but come race day, the advantage will have slipped away, and they'll all be playing on even grounds. Can force begin to stop Ryong at this stage? His damage limitation at Italy was crude and effective, now with 2 races left, if he finishes ahead of either party, it may well be over. Are we going to see any late rain, or unique strategies, or new drivers become the deciding factor come race day? Will the championship be over in less the one week? Who will be crowned F1VWC 2003 World Champion? Will the king lose his crown? All of these questions may be answered in less then 168 hours time. Will it be blue, yellow or green?

September 21 2003, 16:46 GMT
Kieran Ryan

Qualifying Reports
September 13, 2003

SIMSOA MERCEDES

On a track where team power is of the utmost important, both Simsoa drivers did what they could given their current handicap on engine power bhp. ‘ I’m happy so far with the engine, it’s a big factor here, as we lose more time compared to other teams’ - Alsemgeest

Qualifying in general was rather productive for the team, both drivers complaining of minor problems, both reasonably happy with their runs

Patrick Alsemgeest the team’s Dutch driver qualified his car in 12th place, on the 6th row, alongside Colombian Antonio Irissari. Though the car had its problems, he was still upbeat about his chances:

‘ The car was quite good, a lot of over-steer, but I’m always driving with it. I lost some time on my best sectors.’ He went on to say that that the car would be more suited to a wet condition, but remained up beat about his race chances: ‘ I hope I can finish, the car is not fast but we’ll see what will happen.’ He added that with failures coming from other teams, could he hope to get some points this weekend.

David George, the team’s 2nd driver, had ‘quite a promising day’, and he ended up 14th and last, but with persistent power problems, he could do no better.

‘ My car felt quite good and well balanced if a little underpowered. The track conditions today were good & so I should have performed better than I did. ’

However, David was struggling for most of the weekend, struggling on how to eat into his team mate’s surplus of 1.5 s, down to the single first sector. He was pleased that his errors were minimal. On a track he considers ok – ‘ but not as good as it’s predecessor ’.

The team qualified in eventually in 14th and 16th spots, with Alsemgeest out-qualifying his team mate. Both drivers remained optimistic come race day with the hope of points still within a shout of. This team remember is only new to the scene and its desire for success is admirable. With no finishes yet from their only race start so far at Hungary, both drivers are hoping for better reliability as they head into round 14/16 of the championship.

EIRE Cosworth

Eire produced what would be their best dual-qualification in their short but colorful career. A 5th-6th result and both occupying the 3rd row of the grid should be just what the doctor ordered to help out Daniel in his quest for the championship, now that he’s lying back in 3rd in the championship.

Kieran Ryan made a proper return after his awful Hungarian weekend to start things proper for his new team and managed a fine 5th place on a track he both hates and despises. He spent a lot of the practice fine-tuning the car and after a recent test at the Barcelona track (another track he equally hates) the team returned with a new aero package much to the delight of both drivers.

‘ I had a tricky session, the car was under-steering the whole weekend and eventually out of nowhere I pulled a 1m 20.2xx lap, while that was good enough for 5th in the end, I found a better setup later on – but I ran out of laps, but on the bright side I’m ahead of Maple, Ryong and Wilkinson – all extremely fast drivers ’.

On the other side of the camp at EIRE, Daniel wasn’t having much luck either with the handling of the car, suffering from acute under-steer throughout the weekend, he had real trouble curing it, and ‘settled’ for a 6th place, however he’s quite happy going into the race as he explains: ‘I've won from well down the grid before so I don't find 6th place daunting at all ’.

Acute under-steer was the main problem facing EIRE at this track but at least their speed down the straights was good enough to keep them in the running for the championship.

Team boss Willy Ponissi was delighted at the result: ‘ The guys have been brilliant; a 5th-6th result is a good one. The performance they’ve put in really shows their true value ’.

EIRE will start the Italian grand prix from the 6th row of the grid. With 2 main goals in mind – getting Daniel the championship and holding on to their 3rd place in the manufactures championships, the pressure certainly will be on. Shiro, the championship leader at the moment, has had difficulties this weekend and he ended up in 10th place, some good news to the team, but sadly from EIRE’s point of view, a last minute charge from Petri Loukasmaki placed him just ahead of Kieran Ryan in 4th place with his team mate in 2nd. EIRE may have to rely on the Joe Consiglio to be the hare in the pack and storm away – that’s if EIRE can’t do anything about him. This reporter looks forward to what must be a very close and important race as regards the championship, EIRE need to finish ahead of both their rivals to have a real chance of winning this championship, and Willy Ponissi has also admitted ‘there will be no team orders’, race day can’t come any sooner!

Stealth BMW

Stealth! Certainly the exact word to capture this teams stunning return to form this weekend. Out of no where, Joe Consiglio, their former driver, returned to the helm of this car powered by the most powerful engine on the field, BMW, and took everything and more out of this car to steal pole position by just under half a second from the current champion, and to eclipse is previous best time by over a second; impressive work for your first drive in this car for some months now. Not to overshadow his teammate, who did manage 9th in a very packed mid-field.

‘ I had no errors, the conditions were just perfect, and I was able to push throughout the session. The Stealth is just an awesome car!’ Consiglio

The pole time came down and down, Ryan one of the first to put it on pole, then his team mate Daniel Wilkinson, but along came Joe, and just trashed the lap, setting a blistering 1m 19.268 s, a clear pole position, from a man who maybe, could be considered the Senna of poles, posting just 2 times, each faster then the other, and stormed to a pole position. He recounted how he came back into the Stealth squad: ‘ Ted mentioned that Eric wouldn't be able to drive at Monza. So I decided what better league to do my last race of 2003, than F1VWC!’

Joe made it know that this will be just a one of race for sure this year but as regards next year, ‘ …you never know’

Setup issues were to persist for Chris Galloway through the entire weekend and ended up an uncustomary lowly grid slot of only 9th place, and sadly some 1.6 s off his teammate’s pole. ‘I set a good banker lap, but couldn’t get the car setup right’. However Chris did not resign himself from been competitive, he simply said, Joe’s lap will make me push harder – the exact thing a driver should do when his team mate starts flying.

Chris was definitely not ruling out any chances of any points, podiums or even victories:

‘With the power of the BMW I am confident I will be challenging for the lead into the first chicane’

Ted Cragg, team boss of the squad, had a lot to say about Joe’s lap: ‘Vodafone Stealth-BMW is ecstatic with our results so far this weekend. We knew we had a strong car, and Joe has been very keen from the start to have a good race. But to smash the lap record and to hold off such high-caliber drivers is just tremendous’.

Cautious as ever Ted was about the chance to savour a long overdue Stealth victory, but he does feel the machinery and certainly driver talent is in place to take that victory he’s been dreaming about since he first signed Joe back in San Marino of 2002. He announced that neither Eric Sosa nor Chris Galloway will be available to race for the remainder of the season, such bad luck for the team but again, always the optimistic, Ted reported: ‘up to four race drives available for prospective drivers (and is keen to test some top-notch drivers)’.

A certainly exciting race chance has presented itself, with Joe been the hare in the pack, and he throttle his way to victory with both nothing to loose but a victory certainly in mind. Chris may be lower then he would like but it will take more than 9th on the grid to defeat him, he will push on to increase Stealth’s points tally.

Pole position 1m 19.268s.

Phoenix Renault

Phoenix by past qualifying positions, had an off weekend, even with their driver talent at hand, sadly the lack of top end power must have hampered the team this weekend, from setting times it truly deserves. Antonio Irissari had a troubled session and ended it back in 11th place. He suffered from under-steer like so many of the drivers through the weekend but also from persistent braking difficulties causing him to run wider and wider, eventually posting the 11th best time of the day: ‘I’m making too many mistakes into the braking zones, and running too wide. Jan helped me with the setup, thus enabling me to go faster then before, but I was a little out of it today, I flew Miami-Milan just a little while ago, and I’m still recovering’.

The Renault engine, though underpowered, is reliable and Irissari is hoping for a finish well into the points with the help of other engines letting go, which as we all know at Monza, is quite likely to happen.

Jan Kelder may have set an 8th placed time but he was happy with his efforts and the car’s handling, he remained quite upbeat throughout the weekend, with a smile on his face, glowing rouge red, redder nearly then the Ferrari fanatics! ‘The car however was very good, using the setup, and I could take some advantage of the rubber on the track, laid down by the other cars’.

We were suggested to, by Jan himself, that Phoenix may intend to run low fuel loads as ‘(the car seems) to perform better in the field with lower fuel loads.’

Jan remained unfazed by either his position or the lack of top end power from the Renault engine. We have seen him in the past make up a lot of places from such grid slots as the one set today, so all drivers can be on the lookout for the Dutch man mid-field.

Team boss, and CEO, Andy Graydon (former MCR driver) was quite pleased looking after the session despite the car’s unusual grid positions. Given the power of the engine, he was quite happy with Jan’s performance, a creditable 8th on the grid. ‘ Jan seems to be getting better and better in qualifying ‘. Teammate Antonio Irissari has been on holidays for the last few weeks and barely managed to set any time during the whole course of the weekend.

As has been noticed the silly season has take off well and truly with many drivers free from contracts for next year, and Phoenix has several drivers knocking on their door. ‘If he could perform well for the rest of the season it will bode well for his chances of staying with the team in 2004’.

Certain pressure, this reporter feels, is been created within the team, to produce results to keep them fighting on with EIRE but with EIRE now having two strong drivers, 5th and 6th on the grid, Phoenix needs some valuable points this weekend to keep their fight alive. Andy gave his views on how the race should go: ‘I think finishing 7th and 8th would be a miracle’. The one good thing on their side is that EIRE’s reliability has been taking stabs in the past few races with Ryan’s recent oil leak of the engine occurring 3 weeks ago in Budapest; and with the absentee of Willy Ponissi from the last day of testing in Barcelona the reliability test, it will be a test for EIRE to stay alive for the last few races untouched. Phoenix’s will start the race from 8th and 11th places, separated by over 7 tenths.

Mapes-VO Honda

The world champion pulled out exactly what he need, a front row position in an attempt to keep his championship hopes alive today, when he succeeded in holding off 12 other drivers to take 2nd place, on a 1m 19.697s, only 1 of 2 drivers to achieve this sub 1m 20 second lap. His team Petri Loukasmaki also had a good run and joined Toby Lock, most undoubtedly the surprise of qualifying on the 2nd row, in 4th place, on a 1m 20.206s just beating of Kieran Ryan by 0.046s, but with a notable power difference.

It was trouble enough free session for both drivers, both clocking some fast times. The champion though, did have some difficulties through the sector one, clearly visible as he was only 4th fastest through intermediate one: ‘I had most problems in the first sector, I just wasn't able to attack the curbs as aggressively as I wanted’. Though even given this problem the Finn realized the importance of the position and remained unperturbed about his position. The Finn is some 12pts. shy of Shiro Ryong the championship leader and he does need to win this weekend to keep the hope of the championship alive, same goes for EIRE’s Wilkinson being even further behind in the chase.

With some quite difficult races behind the team, they seem to have gotten over their reliability issues and perfected their engine power, being now one of the most powerful engines on the field (going from one of the most underpowered at the beginning of 2002).

Like his Finnish counterpart, Petri Loukasmaki also suffered some minor problems but notably again with the front suspension of the car, and finished a creditable 4th place, with a last gasp effort at the very end of the session netting him his allocated spot.

‘ I was not completely happy with the car, but was able to improve it as the session progressed.’

Petri was able to agree that ‘Mikko and Joe were in their own class today’. He was overly happy with is position as it enables him to be on the offensive down to turn one, and take any opportunity that may arise. He’s noted that he will help in any way he can, to help his teammate to win the championship since he himself is now out of the running.

Starting from 2nd and 4th, the team is happy with their positions. They have one of the fastest engines on the field, but really need to take advantage of this fully if they hope to take as many points of SCUM this race. Shiro, I have a feeling, will not be wanting to be boxed up in 10th for the whole race. The goals of the team were simple and clear, summed up my Mikko Jakonen:

‘ The only acceptable result here, is to win!’

SCUM Holden

A difficult race was noted in the SCUM’s logs before ever reaching the Italian grand prix, and sadly, that’s exactly what they got. Both drivers struggled with the bhp, or lack of bhp from their Holden engine, and on a combined result, did no better then a 10th and 13th placed result.

This problem did nothing to compromise SCUM’s boss and driver Peter Harding, the car as he later put it, was working to it’s usual capacity, ‘(though) the track was a little slipperier than expected’. Peter even given his lack of hsp was doused with some rival issues when one of the Mapes’ briefly touched the rear of the Holden powering SCUM which down the back straight was for sure to cause some loss of initial speed, he ended his session in 13th place, on the last row. When asked about any chance of team orders, Peter replied: ‘if I get the chance to help Shiro in any way, you can be sure that I will. In the end the team always has to come first’. A true honorary driver! As expected the team struggled with their power differential problems but did the best with their current bhp.

This issue was summed up with Shiro’s later comments: ‘only problem I had with the car was that it lacked speed’. However, he did have a good run with the car with a fine balanced SCUM, to end up in 10th place, and on the 5th row. But Shiro shrewdly pointed out to me that no matter the result of this weekend, he will still come out on top of the table, a luxury neither Mikko Jakonen nor Daniel Wilkinson can afford. When asked about another repeat of the Hungarian strategy, he simply shrugged it off, as unique strategies are only called for, on unique races were the chance and opportunity is presented.

‘I’d be happy if I could just score some points and hopefully finish on the lead lap!’ – Shiro Ryong.

Team boss and co-driver Peter Harding reported some strange tyre graining on both cars, unusually as Monza’s one of the few tracks on the calendar that has low tyre wear. However, he was happy to report: ‘ We believe that problem has been rectified for the race,’ much to the delight of the SCUM fans, with the championship in hand; it’s the last thing they need to hinder their celebrations.

Both drivers are believed to set some good consistent laps to earn some points and move their way through the field. Be sure to watch out for SCUM, this is a critical race for all concerned and a conservative strategy is not an option!

JTM Ferrari

JTM, once again, were able to once again show to the world their qualification engine rolled out at the beginning of the session courtesy of testing completed at the Barcelona, earlier this month. Toby Lock was the surprise of qualifying, and set a late, but not too late lap of 1m 20.180 s (just 2 tenths of the current champion), not bad for only your 2nd attempt of qualifying in a new team, in a new league. He seems to come off as an Eddie Irvine individual, seemingly and rightfully so, unfazed by any other drivers around him:

‘ Beating EIRE doesn't mean anything to me other than 2 places higher on the grid’.

Initially a struggling Toby Lock remained outside the top 6, but after some aid given by his experienced teammate, and good friend Matthew Maple, he gained some positions, and eventually set the 3rd fastest time. ‘ The car was nervous over the curbs, but after some setup modifications, I made improvements.’

Toby seems to be set for a good race, but seems set on only a podium position: ‘ I don't think we can challenge Joe or Mikko’, but this reporter thinks differently, he has shown some raw talent, and proven that his team mate is beatable, and that both drivers are equally matched.

Matt Maple had an off weekend in comparison to his Hungarian pole position and German front row, finishing a lowly 7th place, and some half a second off his team mate.

He suffered through the session with some crippling over-steer: ‘I had a big spin in the first half of the session, and could only the set the one lap.’ Despite a lack of time on this tricky at times, Monza circuit, he did wind up 7th, still well within contention of a win and his teammate. He knew his main targets were well within sight:

‘ Seems the EIRE's Mapes-VO's and Joey C will be our main challenge, oh and of course Shiro!’

Team boss and CEO Juan Tortella (former driver this year himself) performed exceptionally well, with Toby giving in his best grid slot of the year. The team has been able to push their car right from the word go in Hungary. A tactical strategic move was made by Juan to purchase old Ferrari engines, formally of KRB, and bring them into his team, signing on to extremely fast drivers, and already has a pole position to the teams name; considerable work given the team’s short existence. This writer feels the team will be a potential threat and a thorn in the side of many come Monza, Indianapolis and of course Suzuka at the end of October. The team’s frightfully powerful engine will see them only improve come the next 3 fast tracks, I feel JTM will continue to flourish and be recognized!

My analysis

Once again we have seen Joe underline is true pace in qualifying with a fantastic lap edging him out his biggest ever gap he had on pole. My guess would be, a consistent fighting race, he has nothing to loose, he will be the hare in the race, he needs support no one but himself, he has nothing to loose and even if he doesn’t win, he still is regarded as one of the fastest guys in the league!

Both Mapes’ are right up front and looking in good shape to gain some valuable points this weekend, even given the pressure for the championship battle, they have other rivals appearing as thorns now in the shape of both JTM’s (ironically Matt the CEO of Mapes is one of the thorns) and of the new rival Kieran Ryan, putting in a good performance. So to add with the pressure of Shiro and Daniel, another 3 at least, will be attacking, with nothing to loose. It will be a risky race run by Jakonen, he has Shiro down the field where he wants him but he needs to maximize his points come race day, so that entails been under pressure from the word go.

Wilkinson starts from 6th, he has won from there, but of all the 3 gunning for the championship, he is the one most under pressure, he’s 3rd in the championship but with some luck, Shiro is behind him, but has Jakonen, his team mate Loukasmaki, and Daniel’s own team mate to negotiating around before even thinking of the win. My guess is of a light fuel strategy, and whatever happens, needs to at least finish about 2-3 places ahead of Mikko and Shiro to realistically have any hope of going for the championship.

Both JTM’s are still a real threat, both are fast in race conditions and can only improve, with nothing to loose, a normal strategy I would feel, would be used, a 2 stopper probably, making the first run longer then the 2nd, to be able to attack in the later part of the race.

All is to be revealed, but note this, if Shiro wins at Italy, today and neither Mikko nor Daniel score points, it’s all over for them, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen, it would be nice to have a down to the wire race, to truly decide who’s the true world champion!