The third round of the 2007 FIA GT championship came to Romania. A brand new venue in the city of Bucharest and the first time in 10 year that the FIA GT championship has visited a street track. Sean’s last street race was in the 1998 French karting championship, so it was going to be a whole new challenge for the young Brit.
Practice was a lottery, with the heavens opening on the Romanian streets. Sean went out on wet tyres to begin with, setting the early GT2 pace. He then came in for Intermediates and a setup change. They worked on the setup of the car, for the wet conditions and found a good balance, which put them on top of the GT2 times. Sean then got out and handed the car to Leo, who stayed on Intermediates, but other teams opted for slicks and obviously went faster on the drying track. Leo was just learning the track, before the rain came again and put a halt to Sean getting any dry running.
The second practice was dry and saw Sean put the Tech 9 Porsche in third position. The team were working on their dry setup for this track, which was pretty difficult and took some time for Sean to be happy with the car over all the bumps. “At the moment we are still struggling with the car over the bumps” said Sean. “But we have set a pretty good time and I am still getting used to the track”.
Qualifying was dry and the Tech 9 machine ended up in third place, which later became second when Marc Lieb’s car was DQ from the results. “I am happy to be second, as it is really important to be near the front on a street track because it is hard to overtake” commented Sean. “I was struggling over the bumps with a light fuel load and the front of the car was jumping off the ground over them, which made me hit the wall on the exit of the last corner. Luckily there was no damage, but we are going to make a setup change for the race if it’s dry.”
Sean put the 997 RSR on top of the GT2 time sheets and seventh over all in the wet warm up and he only did 3 laps at the end of the session. “The car is really good in the wet conditions and we are looking good for the race! Porsche might even be able to win overall if it is wet enough” said Sean.
The race was going to be though, two hours round a street track in the wet and no room for error. Sean would again start the car, with Leo doing the middle stint and Sean finishing. “It is key that we don’t have any problems or mistakes, as it will probably mean the end of our race” said Sean.
The race was looking to be very wet and would start behind the safety car, as the organisers thought there might be a disaster at T1 if the normal rolling start was done. Sean got a good start and latched onto Emmanuel Collard in the #97 Porsche. Collard got by the two BMS GT1 Astons pretty quickly, but they blocked Sean for a while and he had a bit of a moment behind one on lap two. “I was following a Aston and he braked really early for T2, I had to swerve to avoid him and brushed the wall and went straight across the chicane, luckily there was no damage!”
Once he got passed the Astons, he started to real Collard in, but then the safety car came out for a big crash evolving a 575 Ferrari and an Aston Martin. Tech 9 called Sean in, to take advantage and get Leo in the car for a free pit stop.
Some how the AF Corse Ferrari managed to gain a whole lap on the GT2 field and this left all the Porsche camps very bemused. It was now looking almost impossible for a Porsche to win, unless the Ferrari had a problem. On top of it all, Tech 9 were then given a drive through penalty for supposedly having more than five people on the car in the pit stop. “Seeing as we only have five mechanics in our team, some idiot on the pit wall has made a mistake, we only had four people on our car, as we were not changing tyres, this sort of thing that is just not acceptable” said Phil Hindley (Team boss). They later found out that a mistake by a pit lane reporter, who had got teams mixed up, had cost them a drive through.
Leo handed the car back over to Sean, in 5th place, 1 lap and 30 seconds down on the GT2 leader, with 1 hour to go. Sean had to do the impossible, if they were to have any chance of winning. “I was pushing 100% to try and win the race” said Sean. He was the fastest person on track over all and was lapping 4-7 seconds a lap faster than the leading Ferrari. He was soon up to fourth place and catching Marc Lieb at 4 seconds a lap for third.
He had caught the GT2 leader and un lapped him self within 18 minutes and could see Lieb ahead. With the #97 Porsche getting a stop/go penalty of 1 minute for not stopping at the red light in pit lane, when the safety car was coming past, Sean got 3rd.
So, he was nearly in a net second place and with the Ferrari having to make a pit stop, the gap was going to be down to 45 seconds with 40 minutes to go. He was pushing really hard and ended up glancing the tyre wall on the entry to the round about! “I was just lapping the JMB Masarati of Aucott and I was offline for the last section, I braked offline and the left front locked, I managed to get it sorted but I was going way too fast for the corner and hit the tyre wall and it was game over” said a very disappointed Sean.
They were on for a definite second place and had a chance to win the race, but when you are pushing that hard on street tracks, mistakes are easily done. Sean will be looking for a better result at Monza in just over a month’s time and just try to put this weekend behind him.
The second round of the 2007 FIA GT Championship visited the UK, which is the home of Sean Edwards. He was looking to impress on a circuit that he knows like the back of his hand and he certainly proved that!
Practice was a time to set up the car and try to get the best balance for qualifying and the race. But the team were struggling to set up the car for qualifying, so they changed it radically and it had seemed to work for Sean! He was P1 for most of the session and then dropped to P3 with a late charge from two Ferrari’s, but he was still top Porsche ahead of the factory backed BMS Porsche!
Sean had time for a quick comment after qualifying “I am really pleased for the team as they worked really hard to give me the car to deliver the goods. They did just that and we got 3rd place, which is great! Considering the fact that we ran the medium compound Michelin’s as well, which is quite a bit slower than the soft one, it is a great result.”
The race was quite a different matter though, 2 hours is a long time and consistency between both the drivers is paramount. Sean was going to start the race; with Leo doing a 35 min stint in between, before Sean finished the race.
As the red lights went out, Sean got an amazing start and jumped both the Ferrari’s and a GT1 Corvette to gain the GT2 lead! “Me and Phil (Hindley) have a great thing going for the start, I went from seventh to second in Zuhai and now from third to first at Silverstone!”
Sean was holding his own, at the front of the GT2 field, holding back the likes of Andrew Kirkaldy in his number 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari. “I could keep him behind without having to defend too much, but the GT1 Corvette ahead was proving to be difficult and holding me up a lot, which meant that every time I pulled a lead, the Corvette would get in the way when he made a mistake and Andrew would be right back on my tail!”
On lap 10, the Michelin Ferrari’s were closing fast on Sean and the team decided to not hold them up and just keep to their own strategy. “They were coming up fast” said Sean. “I got told not to defend and the three of them went through. I tried to keep on the back of them, but they really were too fast for the Porsche at the moment.”
Sean held station in 4th place, ahead of Andrew Kirkaldy for the rest of his stint before the top three Ferrari’s pitted, and he then regained his lead. “I hit the pit lane speed button twice round Club by accident, when the car got sideways, with the bottom of my hand I guess! Andrew (Kirkaldy) got past me because of it and I then had to re take him loosing us some valuable time…”
Sean pitted from first place, bang on the hour to hand over to co driver Leo Machitski. The pit stop went perfectly to plan and Leo rejoined in third place, behind two Ferrari’s. He found it hard to get to grips with the Porsche on old rubber and subsequently spun twice in his stint dropping down to 6th place. But still put in a good effort to bring the car back in a competitive place.
He pitted after his mandatory 35 minute stint and handed back over to Sean for the last 25 minutes. “I told Sean he had to push 100% every lap and we might get a podium, and he did exactly that” commented Hindley.
He came out in 6th position and quickly overtook the Scuderia Ecosse and Edil Cris Ferrari’s to take 4th. “Phil (Hindley) came over the radio and told me there was a 20 second gap to Matteo (Malucelli) in the BMS Porsche and that I was closing him down at 4 seconds a lap!” said Sean. “He also said I was catching the second place Edil Cris Ferrari, and might have the chance to gain second in the remaining minutes.”
He drove flat out and caught up to the BMS Porsche quite quickly and within a lap made a great move into Brooklands on Matteo and took third place! But, it then all went pear shaped, as Matteo seemed not to like having another Porsche beat him fare and square and spun Sean right off the track into Luffield. “I was fuming, I overtook him and gave him room and he just blatantly rammed me off the track. He is obviously not a very intelligent driver and what goes around comes around is all I can say.” said a very frustrated Sean after the race.
He rejoined in sixth place and tried to get back past Kirkaldy in the last 5 minutes of the race, but his flat spotted tyres did not help and he finished just over 1 tenth of a second behind the Scotsman.
Sixth place and another three points was Tech9’s reward for a hard weekends work, but it should have been a whole lot more than that… Sean Edwards and Leo Machitski are equal fourth place in the drivers championship, with Tech9 also being fourth in the teams championship respectively.
Bucharest is in a little under two weeks away and Sean is looking for a good result there, on the hard street track, a result they really do deserve after there first two amazing race performances.
Sean met the 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell in a press conference today at Silverstone. “It is really weird to be racing against one of my F1 heroes from when I was young, as I was only 6 years old when he won his F1 world championship!” commented Sean.
“He is a really nice guy to be honest and is very relaxed about racing in the FIA GT championship this weekend. I wish him every success, but I will obviously be aiming to beat him.”
Nigel Mansell will be racing the number 63 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari in GT2, as a direct competitor of Sean.
Sean Edwards was asked if he could come and help with the commentary for the FIA GT3 championship, which he won last year. He accepted and tried his hand at commentating on the first race of the 2007 FIA GT3 Championship and the feedback from the fans and TV directors was so good that he has been asked to do it for the whole season.
“I really enjoyed it, it was a different experience to watch and commentate on a race from behind the scenes and really interesting to see how it all works. It looks easy from the outside, but I can tell you that it is a very hard job for them, especially when going out live to thousands of people!” said Sean. “I will be helping them out for the rest of the year now, with what little time I can spare during the FIA GT weekends.”
“I was a bit nervous to begin with, but once I got into it, I found it really enjoyable and fun, so it is one more thing to keep me busy on the weekends and I am really looking forward to doing it for the rest of the year.”
Sean ca be heard live on Men and Motors for both the GT3 races on Saturday and Sunday. The TV schedule will be updated for each and every weekend that the FIA GT3 championship is run.