Sean Edwards and Leo Machitski had the chance to really see what the new Porsche 997 RSR could do, in the first official FIA GT test of the year. Sean impressed everyone, setting the early pace for GT2 and being right up at the front by the end of day one. Leo was still getting to grips with the whole concept of the Porsche’s weird handling characteristics, comparing to his Aston Martin of last year.
Day two, Leo spent most of the testing time in the car and eventually pushed a little to hard and lost the car at the infamous Paribolica corner. He backed it into the gravel, just scraping the tyres wall. With the flat floor of the Porsche, the car acted like a bucket and was full of gravel. It took the team 3 hours to rid it of the gravel and it put everyone on the back foot missing the second session of the day, which was the fastest. Leo said “I tried to take more speed into Paribolica than Sean and it was obviously too much as I just lost the back end and couldn’t catch it in time!”
Subsequently Sean had to do his new tyre run at the end of day, when the track was not at it’s best, but still Sean posted a respectable time. He commented “The car felt really bad on the brakes, we have not had much time to tune the setup today and the new tyre run was a waste of time really. But we were happy with day one’s performance and hope to carry it over to Nogaro in a few weeks time”
A bright but frosty Brands Hatch today (February 7) was the venue for the shakedown of Tech 9 Motorsport’s brand new Porsche 911 GT3-RSR, driven by the team’s 2007 pairing, Leo Machitski and Sean Edwards. The 2006 British and FIA GT3 Champions – Machitski in the UK, Edwards in Europe – have come together to take on the challenges of the next step up the GT ladder.
The first images shows Leo Machitski setting off for the first time, then completing the first lap ever by the car. That was run on the wet tyres which are customarily fitted to new race cars.
“The target today was simply to put 200 kms on the car and bed everything in,” commented team owner Phil Hindley. “The car ran beautifully, as you would expect. Porsche got us into an early build slot so that we could shake down and then test the car before it goes to Zhuhai, for the start of the FIA GT Championship.”
Leo Machitski was the first man to sample the Porsche, and although he was restricted to 6,000 revs. initially (then 7,000 – the flat-six revs to 9,000 once everything is bedded in), he came away with a very favourable impression of the new GT2 car.
“I’m quite tall, but it’s very comfortable, and everything is where you want it to be,” he commented. “It was very tempting to squeeze the throttle, and despite the cold weather, it was very hard to go slowly. I can start to feel the excitement already.”
Having two GT3 Champions in the car is a real asset for the team: Phil Hindley (right) explains how at least part of the arrangement came about.
“Stephane Ratel and I talked about the project at the end of last year, and he was very keen to see the FIA GT3 Champion step up to GT2. He suggested a package to support us, and SRO added to the budget, to help Sean. Part of Sean’s reward for winning the European GT3 Championship is a factory tyre deal with Michelin, which means 40 sets of tyres for this year.
“That’s very significant for a team like this: every penny counts and we run the team very frugally. I believe the same offer will be made to the 2007 GT3 Champion.”
Hindley added that it is “crucial that we have a good season. The top two cars in the two classes (GT1 and GT2) are offered a Le Mans entry for the following year. Our long term aim is for Leo to race at Le Mans, so we’re looking to build on what the two drivers achieved in 2006. It’s fantastic to have the two GT3 Champions racing together.”
The Tech 9 plan for 2007 also includes a new group of young drivers racing in the FIA GT3 Championship, with the aim of moving some of them into GT2 in 2008. Phil Hindley is very keen to extend his team’s run of four consecutive GT titles (in British GTs, and then in Europe in 2006).
“We’re very close to having four seats filled in the three European GT3 cars,” adds Phil Hindley, “so we’ll only have two left. We’re also close to announcing our driver pairing for the British GT3 Championship.”
Sean Edwards experienced the Tech 9 ‘championship touch’ in 2006, and describes Phil Hindley as “so dedicated to what he does. He’s completely committed to winning. He’s not much fun at the track because he’s so focused on what he’s doing, but he’s very different away from the circuit.”
Edwards was remarkably relaxed before he sampled the new Porsche, but this was a routine (and totally trouble-free, as expected) shakedown. The real challenges will come as these two take on the likes of Emmanuel Collard and Matteo Malucelli in another GT3-RSR, plus a whole fleet of Ferraris, beginning at Zhuhai on March 25.
Leo Machitski is looking forward to a year in which he can develop his skills in the GT2 Porsche, but will also be racing the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBR9 in certain Le Mans Series races.
“That will stand him in good stead for the Porsche,” remarks Phil Hindley, “because he’ll be able to experience the extra downforce of a GT1 car.”