Saturday saw an early start for the warm up at 9.45, and after the Tech 9 mechanics stayed up all night to fix the blown head gasket on the #99 Porsche, it would be the only chance they would get to test the car before the start of the 24 hours of Spa.
Their hard work had paid off: Sascha Maassen finished the session without any problems and it looked like they were all set for the start of the big race, all be it already very tired.
Four o’clock approached and the usual build up to the event was well under way, with the driver’s parade round the track. Sean Edwards, Phil Hindley and Sascha Maassen had come to the decision that it would be best to use Sascha’s experience of 24 hour races to start it from the back, due to the a penalty for changing the head gasket, and work his way through the slower GT3’s, before handing over to Sean for the second stint and Leo Machitski for the third.
The start neared and there was nothing more the team could do but watch as the race got under way. The car started in 46th and last place respectively, but Sascha quickly moved up through the field and one hour into the race he was up to 19th overall and right on the back of the GT2 field. After about one hour and twenty minutes he came in to hand over to Sean and was in 9th place in GT2.
The car was running well and Sean quickly picked up where Sascha had left off, making his way through more of the GT2 field to5th place and in the process setting the #99 machines best lap of 2.25.560. He briefly lead the GT2 field, as some of the leaders had already done their second stop. After a consistent stint he came in to hand over the car to Leo and said: “The car is running really well at the moment, we have a strategy to keep a consistent, comfortable pace with no risks and see where we are at the end. Our main goal is to finish, but it would be great to get a podium, as we really deserve it.”
Leo’s stint went without a hitch and he put in a great performance, only being one second off Sascha’s pace and two seconds off Sean’s pace, which is the closest he has been all year. “I am really impressed with Leo’s pace at the moment” Sean said “He is really going well and he is doing a really great job, but there is still a long way to go in this race.” “Leo is obviously revelling in the amount of time he is getting in the car, as he is getting closer and closer to Sean’s pace, which is great to see” Said team boss Phil Hindley.
After Leo’s superb stint, it was Sascha’s turn to do a double (around two hours forty minutes to three hours). In his first fuel stop, the team noticed the car was using a lot of oil from the data, which was not a good sign with the engine troubles they had earlier. But luckily it was only a faulty cap on the endurance oil tank that had broken, spilling oil everywhere, which they had to clean up in the next pit stop (loosing them around four minutes) and re fill the oil tank.
Sascha had done a great job and it was Sean’s turn to do a double stint as Sascha came in at around 11pm to hand over. Obviously by this time it was night and it was Sean’s first lap in anger at night. “It was really weird, it’s hard to see through the corners and the GT1 lights are really blinding when they come up behind you, it’s impossible to judge the distance when they start flashing you” commented Sean. After a consistent first stint, he came in for fuel and new tyres, by this time he was used to driving at night and immediately went out and set a blisteringly fast pace on the new tyres and another fastest lap for the #99 car of 2.24.498. They had now made it up to 4th place in GT2. Sean continued his second night stint at a very fast and consistent pace and he had stayed out of trouble in preparation to hand back over to Leo at around 2am. He then got some well earned rest, well all that he could, before he had to get in for another double stint at 6am. “Karen woke me up (women in charge of everything to do with the drivers) and I was still very tired, as I could only manage one and a half hours sleep during the night.”
It was Leo’s turn to drive in the night now and he went pretty well, with a consistent stint in the car. “It was quite fun driving at night, but a word to all those GT1 drivers, when you flash us from a long way back, it just makes things worse, as we don’t know how far you are behind, so it will just take longer for us to let you past… And some of the GT3 cars have a stupid amount of lighting as well, they look like GT1 cars!”
Sascha was out next for another double stint and again kept out of trouble and kept a fast and consistent pace. “We are going well at the moment, we have had no problems with the car really and it all looks good. We just have to keep this pace up and keep out of the pits to be in the frame for a podium.”
He came in from his double stint and handed back over to Sean, just as the rain started to fall. “It started to get tricky then, as it was wet and dry around the track, so tyres were very hard to choose between, but I stayed out on slicks for as long as I could, until it really started raining.” The team put Sean on Intermediates and sent him on his way, with the car handling so well; they were one of the fastest out on track. A big crash brought out the safety car and the #99 took the opportunity to come in for full wets and a splash of fuel. They were up to fourth place now and so close to the podium they could almost smell it. Luck struck when the second place AF Corse car had a big crash at the top of Eau Rouge and that promoted them to third place in GT2 and tenth place overall and brought out another safety car.
It was raining hard now and Sean was still out there, nearing the three hour maximum driving time for one driver, he was called in to hand back over to Sascha, who went out on dry wets. By this point Sean was pretty tired, retreating to the Porsche truck for a massage, only to be interrupted half way through, because he was needed to go back out on track already! Unfortunately for him, Leo was not feeling too well and Sascha only wanted to do one stint on the dry wets, so Sean had to rush back into his suit and get back in the car in record time. “It was literally a split decision for me to go back in and I had three minutes to organise my self. I was still putting my helmet on when he stopped in the pit box, it was a mad rush!”
He was back on full wets, with the rain coming down so hard, that the safety car was called out because cars were aquaplaning off everywhere. Sean spent almost an hour behind it, before getting going once again. He nearly did another three hours in the car before handing back to Sascha and at this point it was already about 1pm, with only three hours to go, everyone was starting to get paranoid, nothing had gone wrong with the car yet and they had a comfortable lead over the Ebimotors Porsche in fourth, surely nothing could go wrong now?
Sascha came in and handed back over to Leo for the final stint of the race and he worryingly said there was a low water pressure alarm, but it was nothing to be too alarmed about and he was told to cruise home, which he did. The car came across the line to the roar of the team, who had been up for god knows how many hours and they had secured third place in their first ever 24 hour race, a race which is hard to finish, let alone on the podium!
“Finally we have got our podium, we have waited long enough for it and what a race to get it at! I am so happy right now, but it’s kind of an anticlimax after driving for 24 hours and then to be doing nothing, no noise, no adrenalin and nothing to think about anymore. The whole team did an amazing job and I just want to thank every single person for all they have done” said Sean.
“It was a great experience for my first 24 hours and the whole team did such a great job and Sean did an amazing job, driving almost twelve hours on his own!” Leo said.
“The team and my co drivers did a great job and I am really happy to be on the podium here in GT2. We had no problems with the Porsche and it shows how much this car has come on in one year, with all the problems we had last year with the development car!” said Sascha.
So, to conclude Tech 9’s and its two regular driver’s first 24 hour race, it was an outstanding success. They kept to their strategy of a comfortable pace and keeping it out of trouble and they ended up with a podium. To finish first, first you have got to finish and that was very true of this race, especially for the championship leading AF Corse cars, who both crashed out due to driving errors and now throws the championship wide open!
Adria is next and back to the normal two hour format, but this time on Saturday night and the team will be carrying the momentum from Spa through to this race and will be looking for another podium, maybe even one step higher this time?
The Total Spa 24 Hours is the sixth round of the 2007 FIA GT championship and the blue ribbon event of the season and what better place to have it then Spa Francorchamps! Tech 9 started their preparations for their first 24 hour race weeks ago, as it was going to be a tough race for the team, drivers and car alike.
Practice one saw Sascha Maassen (Porsche factory driver) spend most of the time in the car setting it up for the race, red flags, among other things made this very difficult. Never the less he was happy with where the car was and said it only needed a bit of tweaking to make it near enough perfect. The last thirty minutes of practice one was left to Leo Machitski and Sean Edwards, Leo starting and handing over to Sean after twenty minutes of driving. Unfortunately for Sean, a red flag left him only to complete an out and in lap before the chequered flag. “I have not driven the new configuration of Spa and not had a chance to drive this car round here either, so it’s a bit hard having so little time in the car, but hopefully next session I can get a bit more in.” Sean said.
In practice two, Sean and Sascha spent forty minutes tweaking the setup of the car between them and agreeing on a setup for the race and qualifying, with Leo spending most of the time getting used to the track in the Porsche. Sean commented “I got 6 flying laps this session, which was good, but traffic is a big problem out there, Sascha managed to get one free lap in, but I didn’t. I was 0.7 of a second up on him through Eau Rouge before I hit traffic though, so it’s is looking promising for qualifying. Although I am still not totally comfortable with the car and track yet, hopefully I can get some decent running in the three qualifying sessions.
Qualifying one was split between Sean and Leo with Sean just trying the limits of the car and track before his soft tyre run in qualifying three. “I set a pretty good time and am happy with the track and car now and I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow morning!” said Sean. Most GT2 cars used there three sets of new tyres in the first qualifying, which put the Tech 9 machine slightly down the order in GT2, but it looked good for there qualifying run.
Unfortunately just before qualifying two (at night), they found that the cars water pressure was increasing quite drastically and could damage the engine. So the three drivers had to complete there one mandatory lap at night and then park the car unfortunately, while the Porsche engineers went to work to find the problem. IMSA had already taken the spare engine from Porsche, after blowing theirs on the way to the parade on Wednesday. So they set about taking the engine apart and finally found that it was the head gasket that had gone and needed replacing for the race. “Luckily we found a problem after stripping the engine and we are fixing it now, so we should have no more problems with that” said team boss Phil Hindley.
The penalty for this though was the Tech 9 car would have to start from the back of the grid for the 24 hour race, behind all the G3 cars. Although qualifying is not important, as the race is so long, it will still make it hard in the early stages of the race, something that they could have done without.
It’s looking like Sascha will start the race with a double stint (2 hours 40 min), being the most experienced driver with 24 hour races and Sean will follow with a double stint after that.
So, a dramatic start for the team already, but hopefully they will be a bit luckier in the race, stay tuned for a quarterly update (every 6 hours) throughout the 24 hour race starting at 4pm local time tomorrow!
Porsche have loaned out factory driver Sascha Maassen to be the third driver for the Tech 9 squad at the Spa 24 hours later this month. Porsche superstar Sascha Maassen, who drives the Penske Porsche RS Spyder in ALMS, will be driving along side regulars Sean Edwards and Leo Machitski, for the blue ribbon FIA GT event.
“I am looking forward to it. I hear Sean is very good. We could do well, especially if it’s wet” Sascha told Autosport. “I really can’t wait for this event now, it will be my first 24 hour race and to have Sascha driving along side me is just amazing. I am really looking forward to learning as much as I can off him and hope we can get a really good result” commented Sean.
Tech 9 will be hoping for a good result at Spa, as so far this season, the luck has not seemed to be with them.
Oschersleben saw the return of the FIA GT championship for its fifth round, with Ferrari dominating the opening four races. Was this going to be the turning point for Porsche? Well the statistics said otherwise, with the nearest Porsche being over two seconds off in quali last year, although it being the 996 model, it was still a big gap.
First practice saw Ferrari dominate the first four places, over a second clear of the nearest Porsche and the Tech9 machine even further adrift! “We are really struggling with the car at the moment, but it might be because we are on the tyres from Monza, which are a much harder compound then the tyres Michelin have brought here” Said Sean after practice.
Second practice again saw Ferrari dominate, just under a second away from the leading Porsche and Tech9 still struggling to set any sort of decent time. “We really are struggling with the car right now and we need to have a look through all the data to see what is going wrong before quali” said a disgruntled Sean.
Heading into quali, Sean had this to say “We have had a look through all the data now and it appears the high cross winds have been affecting us quite badly and we have too much rear grip, which is causing all this understeer. We have figured out a setup for quali and in theory it should work! Obviously we will see how it goes, but hopefully we can salvage a decent lap time.”
Salvage a lap time he did and stuck in an amazing lap that put him fourth in GT2 and first of the Porsche’s! “The setup still wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better then this morning and I managed to put a decent lap together and put the car in a good position for tomorrow’s race. I was really pushing on my third timed lap and was -0.187 up on my best after the first two corners, but then I pushed a bit too hard and lost it at 120mph at the fast kink and went through the gravel, which was a shame because it might have been pole…”
It was race time now and the Tech9 crew had worked hard over night to clear all the gravel out and get the car setup for the race. “Hopefully I can get one of my flying starts again (Zuhai 7th to 2nd, Silverstone 3rd to 1st and Monza 5th to 1st) and try and take the lead into turn one and see where we go from there. If I do get out front, I will try and keep the Ferrari’s behind, as we know they are quicker here! “ Sean said.
The red lights went out and the race was go, Sean got another flying start and managed to get the lead round the outside even before the braking for T1. He also managed to just about avoid all the GT1 carnage and still keep the GT2 lead. In the next 20 laps there was a fraught battle for GT2, with the Porsche of Zani, Ferrari of Muller and the Ferrari of Bruni all trying to have a go at the Tech9 machine. But Sean was having none of it and held his ground throughout his first stint. “It was an amazing battle and I have to say Muller and Bruni were very fair drivers, they had a few opportunities to give me a tap, but they didn’t, unlike someone I remember from Silverstone. I had great fun in trying to keep them behind, but we had also lost radio communication and it was hard to know what was going on or when I needed to pit. I just went as hard as I could until the fuel ran out really” said Sean.
After 18 laps, the Ferrari of Bruni managed to get by Sean into the last corner, only a few laps before his pit stop. He then handed over to co driver Leo Machitski for the middle stint of the race and Leo rejoined in a net second place and was holding his own! That was until a certain Mr. Vilander decided to barge his way through at the last corner, causing considerable damage to the Porsche (only cosmetic) and that brought down the red mist with Leo, as he then tried to out brake the Af Corse Ferrari and Edil Chris Ferrari (3 abreast) into T1, which, unfortunately for him, didn’t happen and he ended up backwards in the gravel trap, beached! The Marshalls would not push him out, so he got out of the car, only to then find that the Marshalls were willing to push him out, so he got back in and strapped himself in and drove back to the pits. With no radio communication or tv coverage of the crash, the team had no idea what had happened, until they saw him come down pit lane. At this point Sean was ready to change over, but Leo had not completed his mandatory 35 minute stint and had to go back out for another 4 laps, loosing valuable time.
By the time he handed back to Sean, they were down to eighth place, 3 laps down on the leaders and all hopes of a podium lost. “I just drove consistently and had some fun with the car, trying different lines and getting the brake balance right, basically I just used it as a test session as we were not going to gain any places, unless someone dropped out.” said Edwards. Which in fact one of the Edil Chris Ferrari’s did and promoted them to seventh at the end of the race.
“Sean did a mega job in his opening stint, he really showed his talent once again out front, while being able to keep everyone behind him as well.” said team boss Phil Hindley.
So, another few points for Tech9, but after it looking so good in the opening stint once again, you have got to wonder, they must be starting to get frustrated with their bad luck so far this season. Maybe Spa will be the turning point for them and they might finally get the result they deserve.
Onboard video highlights from the race.