GT2 Report: It was pretty clear beforehand that for Richard Westbrook and Manu Collard the journey down to the technical German circuit at Oschersleben would not be an enjoyable one. “Carrying 90 kilogram of ballast on board of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR meant that the qualifying would be a real nightmare”, Manu Collard commented on Saturday evening. “On top of that we experienced a gearbox problem resulting in not achieving anything better than a tenth place.”
On the other hand it was smiling faces in Edwards/Holzer camp. These young ProSpeed Competition drivers clinched a well deserved third spot on the grid and started the race with great ambitions. Marco Holzer had a difficult start, with all the GT1 cars going off ahead, but slotted into the highly competitive GT2 field well.
“Because I was caught up in traffic we decided to pit early for our second stint. Unfortunately it started raining somewhat too soon and we weren’t able to take full advantage of our strategy. But we kept to a tight pace, and thanks to Sean’s brilliant work in the wet, we climbed up into second place!”, Holzer recounts the race. “We finished second and I have moved up to third in the drivers’ championship and in addition we have helped the team to consolidate their first place in the team championship, especially after the early retirement of Manu and Richard.”
“It was a difficult start to the weekend in GT2 for me, as we had technical problems in FP1, so I didn’t get any running and the few laps I did in FP2 were all in the wet/damp!” Commented Edwards. “The race was great, but unfortunately we made the wrong decision on strategy early on, so we had to do one extra pit stop comparing to the rest and that cost us the win really. We are delighted though with second place and we got good points for the team’s championship which is why I was here. ProSpeed gave us a great car and although there was so much standing water around, we managed to keep the car pointing in the right direction, for the most part anyway! It was a big disappointment for Manu and Richard, but I am sure they will be focusing on the next race already. The infamous Spa 24 hours is next, where I hope we can be one step higher.
Manu Collard was pretty clear about the incident shortly after the start. “What the guy in the Ferrari did was highly unprofessional. He first touched my rear wheel in a place where you can’t overtake, resulting in me losing the car’s balance after which he rammed me fully in the flank. Unbelievable…”
The FIA GT will now be taking a breather for a few weeks up until the 24 Hours of Spa, at the end of July. ProSpeed Competition will not only be defending their leaders positions, the Liege based team are also looking to add their first victory to their record of achievements in Spa, following their second place in this race last season.
ProSpeed Competition defending a double leadership position in FIA GT
GRÂCE-HOLLOGNE, 17/06/2009. Following Prospeed Competition’s victory in the second race of the FIA GT in Adria, the Oschersleben circuit is now the following venue on the FIA GT and FIA GT3 calendar. In Germany ProSpeed Competition will be defending Manu Collard and Richard Westbrook leaders’ position with the drivers and on top of that also that of the team in the battle for the team title. On the GT3 front the team are looking to clinch a first podium place. ProSpeed Competition will be welcoming two new faces in Oschersleben, namely the Brit Sean Edwards in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR teamed up with Marco Holzer (GT2) and the Greek Dimitris Deverikos in the Porsche 911 Cup S, which he shares with Niki Lanik (GT3).
Following his debut at Le Mans last weekend Darryl O’Young will not be amongst them.
“That’s right”, Rudi Penders started off the conversation looking ahead to the German round of the FIA GT-championship. “Darryl is active in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and as from Spa will be back amongst us. In fact he’s being replaced by Sean Edwards here.
Sean is a young 22 year old Brit who won the first FIA GT3 title back in 2006 with Porsche and who competed in the 2007 FIA GT2 championship with a Porsche, with a third place in GT2 during the 24 Hours of Spa as his best result. In fact he will be competing for us in the 24 Hours of Spa and Oschersleben is therefore the perfect way in which to integrate him into the team and get to know some of our run of the mill procedures. In Oscherleben Marco and Sean are going flat out for a podium. It soon became apparent in Adria that our ‘second’ car had normous potential, and can definitely improve on that fourth place clinched in Adria On top of that every point scored in the battle for the team title is welcomed with open arms.”
“Who knows, we might have to give our team mates a boost”, Manu Collard laughed, having just won in Le Mans with Porsche in LMP2. “For Oschersleben we have no less than 90 kilo ballast (40 kilo as success ballast and 50 kilo ‘fixed ballast’ for the entire season as a result of the driver pairing). Tough going, especially as in the first instance these ninety kilo are an enormous handicap in qualifying, resulting in achieving a far less
favourable spot on the starting grid. The outcome is that we’ll be enjoying a catch-up race, which is not ideal in Oschersleben. This German circuit is not designed for overtaking. But last but not least trying to go into the attack with a heavy car is not obvious. A good start, a perfect strategy and a bit of luck will be of vital importance for us.”
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.”
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!