After the superb third place finish at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the Tech 9 motorsport team moved onto the latest, and more regular length, round of the FIA GT Championship, at Adria in Italy, with hopes of picking up another good result – at a circuit it had never been to before.
Despite some drivers having issues with the size of the track at the Italian venue, the event offered another aspect for the fans, teams and drivers, with the race starting on Saturday evening and running into darkness. Certainly something different compared to a regular race weekend.
“It was a fantastic event overall,” said team boss Phil Hindley. “The facilities and the quality of the track were good. The floodlit racing was really good. Obviously it doesn’t compare with the big tracks that the series visits, like Spa, for instance, but it was a nice meeting.” And the track even boasts an indoor paddock.
With no previous set-up to work from for Adria, the team set about getting the car dialed in during the two free practice sessions on Friday, ending the first one with the Porsche 997 in P4 – and a quartet of Ferraris behind it. The second session saw the team finish up eighth on the timing screens, with an almost identical time from the first session. However, the Tech 9 boys were concentrating on their race strategy, in readiness for the fight with more experience driver line-ups ahead of them.
“We went into the weekend blind as we had no data from last year,” said Hindley. “If you look at all the other front running GT2 teams out there now, they’ve all got pro-driver pairings with massive amounts of experience at this level. We decided to go for a strategy to give both our drivers a chance to push throughout every stint.”
The team qualified in seventh place and had decided to set the Porsche up to work best on the softer compound tyres. At the start of the race, Sean Edwards was given a short stint of just eleven laps, before handing over the car to Leo Machitski, with tyres that had plenty of life in them, that he could push on and stay consistent, before handing back over again.
Sean Edwards once again got the drop on the Ferraris ahead of him as the lights went green, moving up to fourth place at the start. He’s somewhere in that gaggle, above, behind the GT1 cars – he’s the one making up ground! His opening stint may have been intended to be slightly longer than it actually turned out to be, but he was held up by one of the Citation Cup Corvettes, so the team called him in to allow Leo to get good track position and good tyres under him for his time behind the wheel.
Although feeling under the weather with a cold, Machitski drive a superb stint, having a fierce battle with one of the Edil Cris Ferraris, which he passed to move up a place. Unfortunately, a couple of laps later, nearing the end of his stint, he had a slight spin and handed the place back.
After handing the car back over to Sean Edwards, with the team changing to medium compound tyres at the pit-stop, Leo was starting to feel the effects of his enthusiastic stint.
“When I got out of the car I’ve never felt so exhausted in my life!” he said. “I’d caught a cold on the Monday before the event and had spent three days trying to get rid of it as much as possible. Even though I did a fairly short stint, I felt so tired. It’s just down to fatigue as I did an hour and a half in the car at Spa for my first stint, and would have been happy to do another one.”
“The battle with the Ferrari was good, but I was disappointed to spin and give him the place back, though.”
In the second half of the race, Sean pushed hard, despite suffering from some mild oversteer on the harder tyres. A great drive allowed him to bring the car home over the line in sixth place, which would eventually be fifth after one of the Scuderia Ecosse cars was excluded.
“Leo did a great stint and handed the car over in good shape, he’s getting faster all the time and drove really well,” said Sean Edwards. “We were always going to be up against it with the pro-driver line-ups in the other teams. It was hard work, but good to get another result like this,” he added.
“I had a fantastic weekend overall,” said Leo Machitski. “I really enjoyed myself. I’m definitely starting to click with the car now and it’s helping me get faster. I was only five tenths off Sean’s times during one of the free practice sessions, which is great.”
“The team did a great job all weekend and to start eighth and finish fifth is a good result, especially against this opposition,” he continued. “I’d like to think we can keep up these sorts of results and maybe get another podium finish before the end of the season.”
“We had a bit of oversteer on the car after Sean took it over again in the second part of the race, but that was because we’d set it up around the softer tyres and he was able to deal with it well to bring the car home for a good finish,” elaborated Phil Hindley.
“We looked at the opposition at the start of the year and said that a sixth place over a weekend is a good result and that’s what we have been getting. This is the top level we’re racing at now and the guys ahead of us are really raising the bar and anything above P6 is a good weekend. I hope we can have more of the same at Brno.”