FIA GT returns to the classic circuit of Monza, the home of Ferrari, for the fourth round of the championship. The circuit, which was built in 1922 was very different to today, with its fast layout and notorious banking; it proved to be very dangerous. These days however, it is a shadow of its former glory, although the high speed banking is still there, it has not been used in years and the track is now up to the standards of modern F1, even so, it was looking like an exiting venue for round four of the championship.
The team had prepared with a couple of days testing, which had allowed Leo Machitski more seat time to get closer to team-mate Sean Edwards’ pace.
“It was great for me as I wasn’t feeling comfortable in the car,” said Leo. “Not with the seating or anything, more the fact that I wasn’t able to push hard straight away and it was a really good test from that point of view. I ended up just 1.3s away from Sean by the end of the two days and I felt a lot happier.”
The opening free practice session was a promising start, with Sean setting a time which put him third in class, just half a second off the second placed Edil Cris Ferrari of Paolo Ruberti and Damien Pasini, while the pace setting Ortelli/Bruni Ferrari was only a few tenths further away.
In the second session it was a slightly different story, with the Porsche finally settled into 8th in class by the time the chequered flag was waved. But, the team had already made the decision that going for an outright time was a pointless exercise, so were working on a race set-up.
Sean headed into qualifying where the home bred Ferraris managed to lock out the Porsche runners from the top three places. However, Sean managed to set a lap that put the Tech 9 car fifth on the GT2 grid. Even more encouraging was that when the team studied the data after the session ended, he had set two sector times that could have put him second on the grid – unfortunately, not over the same lap!
“We were looking for a top four when we went into qualifying, so fifth wasn’t too bad,” he said. “But, the data shows the car was good enough for P2, which would have been good. We have a good car for the race though as it’s hardly using its tyres.”
With a good car and solid, front running pace, the team headed into the two hour race on Sunday afternoon in top form, knowing that it should be able to mount a challenge should any of the cars ahead falter.
As the lights went green Edwards got his (now becoming) normal flying start and charged from fifth to second as the field turned into the notorious first chicane at the end of the main straight. “I could have got the lead, but did not want to risk too much into T1 of the first lap, after all its a two hour race…” he said.
He managed to hold the place for the first half of the lap, before one of the Ferraris demoted him to third. He then had a battle with the chasing cars behind him and in doing so, lost out to the pair in front.
After holding on to the final podium position during most of his stint, Edwards handed the car over to Leo Machitski for his turn in fourth place, before he would climb back behind the wheel for the final part of the race.
Leo put his extra seat time to good use, putting in a good drive during the middle part of the race. A charging Andrew Kirkaldy put him under pressure in the early part of his drive and once he got past, Leo was able to latch onto the back of the Ferrari and pick his own pace up. Unfortunately, he went a bit fast and took a trip across the Parabolica gravel, losing time, but able to continue – before handing back over to Sean in sixth place.
The team lost out slightly to the Ferraris by having to change tyres at the second stop. The Tech 9 car was being good on its rubber, but the Italian machines were better, gaining valuable seconds during the pit-stops.
In the final stint Edwards pushed as hard as possible and had a comfortable cushion between himself and Tomas Enge behind him, although the cars ahead of him had too much of a gap for him to catch them.
With just two laps to run it was Sean’s turn to have a trip across the gravel at Lesmo two, when he ran wide on water from another car. The moment wiped out his lead over the Ferrari behind and the final lap was a tough battle between Sean and the Czech star, which ended up as a three car charge across the line, as one of the GT1 Aston Martins came up on them at the very last corner.
“It got a bit interesting into the last corner, as an Aston was trying to lap both of us and we were all side by side, with me defending the inside line, but luckily I managed to hang onto the place,” said Sean, who had just half a second in hand over the Ferrari as he reached the chequered flag. “The Ferraris were so good on their tyres, it cost us just that bit more to change, even once,” he added. “Leo put in a superb stint, though. He’s getting better every time he gets in the car.”
“I thought at the start of the season that sixth place would probably be a good result for us in GT2 this year,” said Phil Hindley. “The level of competition is incredibly high and in the two hour races, against these guys, sixth is really good. I’m really pleased with Leo, he’s learning very quickly and the closer he gets to Sean, the better chance we have of pulling a surprise on the guys ahead.”
The team worked so well this weekend,” added Leo Machitski. “The car felt so good every time I got in it. The level of drivers in FIA GT2 is incredible and you have to drive flat out every second over two hours to be in with a chance of a good result. The car was certainly quick enough for a better result, but both Sean and I made small mistakes, which might have cost us another place.”
The Tech 9 GT2 squad certainly has the equipment and the commitment to aim for the top step of the podium, perhaps the Spa 24 hours will be where it can put one over on the rest of the FIA grid. It’s Oschersleben first though, for another two hour race (July 8).
Onboard video highlights from the race.
Again, Leo spent more time trying to get closer to Sean’s time, which he ended the day doing, only being 1.4 seconds off, which will put the Tech 9 crew in a really good position coming into Monza next week. It rained in the afternoon and it was a chance for Leo to get to grips with the car in the wet, which he did. After about 30 laps out there, the team decided to call it a day early, not wanting to risk damaging the car for Monza.
Leo commented “I am really happy with the past two days, it has really helped me a lot and I feel really confident with the car and what it’s doing now. The setup of the car has also improved and it’s more suited to how I like to drive, which is good. I am really looking forward to Monza now and we are aiming for a podium”
Sean commented on Leo over the two days “I am really happy with Leo’s pace now, he has really worked hard and is going really well now, you can see from watching him, that he is so much more confident in the car! I really think we have a good chance for a podium at Monza now.”
Tech 9 completed one of two days testing at the Silverstone south circuit. The aim of the two days was to give Leo Machitski more time in the car, so he could get up to speed with the Porsche. After the first day testing, Leo had reduced the gap to 2.5 seconds off Sean, which was an outstanding improvement!
“I am really happy with how today has gone, Leo has really improved a lot and it’s great to see! We also tested a new Michelin compound and it also was a good step forward, so it should put us in good stead for Monza.” Sean said.