Bowmanville, Ontario - Marc Basseng qualified the ...
Bowmanville, Ontario - Marc Basseng qualified the #18 VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on the fourth row of the grid at the Mosport International Raceway this afternoon to hand the team its best GT2 starting slot of the year. Marc will share the #18 car in tomorrow's American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Mosport with Nicky and Francesco Pastorelli, and the team was satisfied with the progress made in the hot, dry conditions that prevailed today despite a lack of track time and the trio's unfamiliarity with the classic Canadian circuit.
In fact Nicky, Francesco and Marc had never seen the 2.46-mile, 10-turn course before and all were keen to learn a track that has a reputation of posing a stern test for the driver. The team was fighting against circumstances too, as a number of teams had tested here earlier this week and in fact the #18 missed the promoter-sanctioned test session which took place yesterday, meaning that VICI Racing had just two practice sessions today to prepare for qualifying and work towards a race set-up. While this will be Marc's second race for the team, it will be the fourth consecutive one for Nicky and Francesco, the pair having joined in May, and they are looking forward to building on a consistent sequence that has seen them finish in the points in each of those races (at Utah, Mid-Ohio and Road America).
Pushing ahead with the ambitious tire development program being run this year in conjunction with VICI Racing, Kumho Tires arrived in Canada earlier this week with several new compounds which would be tested during the course of the event. Kumho come off a good result here last year and everybody is looking forward to making another step forward from the tire improvements that were seen at Mid-Ohio and Road America.
The day started early with the crew applying the final touches to the new white, black and red livery that the #18 car is carrying this weekend, and making final preparations to get onto the track. ALMS is on a roll, and the series is hugely popular in Canada: race fans who have come to spend the weekend here were pouring into the track from first light; in fact the camping grounds have been steadily filling up since the gates opened on Thursday morning.
Today was set to kick off with a one hour long practice session (9:35-10:35 AM) followed by a further hour's practice in the early afternoon (1:30-2:30 PM). A brief 10 minute break would lead straight into the 20-minute qualifying session (2:40-3:00 PM).
The sun was shining and the heat steadily increasing as the #18 car took to the Mosport International Raceway for the 1-hour free morning free practice. Nicky was in the cockpit to run initial systems checks and acclimatise himself with the track. The former Jordan and Midland Official F1 Test Driver posted a 1:25.437 after 6 minutes, followed by a 1:23.633, 1:23.531 and a 1:22.783 before he pitted on 12 mins as the course went to red flags. Back out after 17 mins he turned in a 1:20.908 (25 mins) followed by a 1:21.860 (27 mins) and 1:20.942 (29 mins) before returning to the pits and handing the Hughes Telematics, Hughes Network Systems, LuxuryMotors.com and Wempe-supported car over to Marc.
The German headed onto the famous track, a former home to the Canadian F1 Grand Prix, which remains virtually unchanged since it opening in 1961. However he only managed an out lap before an Acura prototype lost a wheel and brought out the red flag. The session went green again after 54 mins, but with just 6 mins on the clock remaining Marc ran a 1:24.035 and a 1:22.925 before the session ended. During this session the two drivers completed 18 laps with the quickest time being posted by Nicky, a 1:20.908 (109.413 mph, lap 18).
The build up to the qualifying session saw a post-lunchtime hour's practice and Marc was strapped into the cockpit as the session went green. He posted a string of consistent 1:20-bracket laps, starting with a 1:20.679 after 8 mins, following this up with a 1:20.698, 1:20.992 and a 1:20.676 before coming in after 16 mins to hand over to Nicky who returned to the track after 19 mins. However just a minute later a waving of the red flags stopped proceedings momentarily, but he was soon into his stride, turning in a 1:22.042 after 27 mins, followed up by a 1:21.652, 1:22.178, 1:21.342 and a 1:21.423 before he pitted after 38 mins to allow his younger brother to get his first taste of this demanding track.
Francesco took the #18 car back out after 40 mins but was only able to complete a single lap (1:27.230) before the reds were waved again after 43 mins. That red soon became the end of the session as it was stopped early due to the track surface breaking up between Corner 4 and 5, a problem that has affected the event's smooth running so far. The trio of drivers completed a combined total of 22 laps during the second session with the fastest lap being a set by Marc in 1:20.676 (109.73 mph, lap 5).
Marc was handed qualifying duties for the 20 minute session, which was delayed by a quarter of an hour due to nessecary minor track repairs. He left the VICI Racing pit just after 3:00 PM (local time) as the conditions went green and the German's quick sequence of laps comprised of a 1:23.278, 1:20.166, 1:20.142, 1:19.692 and a 1:19.828. His penultimate flying lap (lap 4 of 7) in 1:19.692 (111.08 mph) was good for 7th position in GT2, and was also the first time that the #18 car had gone sub-1:20 today. After 12 mins the team called him in, with Technical Director Roland wall satisfied with the times and keen to conserve the tires (which have to be used to start the race).
All the drivers arrived at Mosport this week after unusual weeks. Nicky never has a quiet schedule; however last weekend the 25-year-old swapped the steering wheel for the microphone for the first time as he commentated for a TV network during the traditional annual motor sports extravaganza in his native Holland where Formula 1 cars take to the streets of Rotterdam, demonstrating their power front of huge and enthusiastic crowds.
Marc meanwhile arrived fresh from his first weekend off this year, after having no racing commitments. However the 29-year-old German squeezed in a day last week that most people can only dream of: offered the opportunity to test five supercars back-to-back by an owner who wanted the expert opinion of a professional race driver, Marc took to the Nurburgring, lapping the legendary circuit in a Maserati MC12, Koenigsegg CCX, Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT and Pagani Zonda C12 S. His endeavours were also recorded for a future television program.
Race day tomorrow (Sunday 24th Aug) will get underway with a 25 minute warm- up session (10:05-10:30 AM) before the Grand Prix of Mosport, round 8 of the 2008 American Le Mans Series gets underway at 3.05 PM (ET). The 2 hr 45 min duration race is scheduled to finish at 5:50 PM (ET).
Roland Wall, Technical Director, VICI Racing: "I'm satisfied with how today has gone. We seem to have a good setup for this track and the drivers are proving competent on their first visit here. Most importantly Kumho look to have made a further step forward for this race. We all seem to be in the right area on the tire construction which is good for us as we become more settled on setting up the car as a result; now Kumho can really turn attention closely to developing compounds. Everything is in good shape for the race so I think we can turn in a decent race. It's going to be interesting tomorrow, there have been a few incidents already and the track has shown signs of degradation so a good strategy will be called for."
Jason Myers, Motorsports Development Director, Kumho Tires: "We had a fair day today. We haven't been able to put as much time onto the tires as we would have liked this week, however I think we will have a good tire for the race. The new generation tire has shown to be an improvement and we expect good results. We have narrowed in on a construction that works with the Porsche, now the task will be to fine tune the compounds. All the drivers have been helpful with feedback and continue to find speed in the tires."
Nicky Pastorelli (Holland): "I have been looking forward to Mosport; it's a fast circuit that is great for the driver. Fast and bumpy, it's just the way I like it. Road America is the only track on the schedule this year that I have driven on before so it's back to learning another track this week, but all the ALMS tracks seem interesting so it's a great experience. We made another step forward at Road America, especially with the improved distance in the tires, and although we struggled with them a bit in the practice sessions, it all came together for the race for sure and we were able to run quick, consistent lap times. We had new compounds today to try and they seem to be in the right direction so I hope this bodes well for the race. The lack of track time is disappointing, but we need to take this in our stride and focus on being ready for tomorrow."
Marc Basseng (Germany): "I was pleased to be entrusted with qualifying the car this afternoon, though I don't think I got the best out of it; however I think the setup is in the right direction and we are ready for the race despite not turning in many laps. It was good to hook up with VICI Racing at Road America; I had been keen to work with the team all year, and now I'm on my second race with the team. It did take me a while to get used to driving on the Kumhos as I have never experienced the RSR on these tires before. However I think I put in a good race pace [at Road America] and I was pleased with the lap times I set during my stint. I hope I can make an active contribution to the tire development program. I'm pleased also to be working with Roland [Wall], he's one of the best engineers around, and the team has great mechanics who work very hard to get the car prepared. I think we can race well tomorrow.
Francesco Pastorelli (Holland): "There isn't much to say really, I barely got a lap in during second practice before the session ended early. I hope I can learn the track quickly tomorrow and be up to speed and help the team to grab a good result."