From: Wener Lupberger
After the euphoria of Donington just six days before, the Mondello race was a big disappointment. We had gone to the track near Dublin absolutely buoyant after that win and we all thought that a follow up victory could be on the cards. But fate intervened and the whole weekend was pretty miserable on and off the track.
However that is not to say that Team Ascari and myself have given up, because if you do that then you might as well not bother. We will be charging just as hard at Nurburgring and at Kyalami in the last two rounds of the FIA Sportscar Championship as we have done all season. In a way I have three home races during the year: Donington, because I have lived in Britain for 6 years, Kyalami for obvious reasons and Nurburgring, because my Dad is German. Is that a bit greedy? You never know, after all the bad luck we have had this year, there may be some nice surprises ahead in the last few months of the season when I race in my other two 'home' events.
We are also looking forward to Petit Le Mans in October. That will be mega as a lot of works teams will be there and after our race performance at Le Mans we know we can give them all a hard time. It could be interesting to race against the Audi's as I hear that some privateer cars could be racing in the FIA Championship next year. That can only be good, as it will raise the competitive levels even higher than they currently are. After PLM we go to Daytona for a few days testing. That will also be mega, Le Mans and Daytona in one season. Great.
Anyway, back to Ireland and really the weekend started very badly as I pulled a ligament in my neck during free practice. I don't know what exactly happened but it could have been a bump that I hit or kerb I ran over. Whatever happened it hurt like hell and I had to come in instantly. That meant Ben qualified and started the race as Theresa (my wife) flew over and acted as team physio to try and relieve the pain in my neck! To compound things she fell ill on raceday and I had to take her to hospital in Dublin and she had to be detained until Wednesday with some kind of Kidney infection. Thankfully she is getting much better now.
The track was challenging to drive but really was not a sportscar track. These cars need to stretch their legs and we were not able to do that at any part of the track. The run off was pretty minimal and the actual track too narrow, but it was a driver's track and there was some good satisfaction in getting a lap absolutely right. And the people over their love their racing, we got a great welcome from them on race day and there seemed to be a lot of people milling around the grid and I got chatting to a few of them which was nice. A lot of them ask me what it is like to drive the A410 and I always say that it is really similar to an F3000 car, although obviously it is heavier. But the braking and driveability of the engine is so similar.
The race started badly as the team and Ben decided to start on Intermediate tyres whereas everyone else opted for slicks. In hindsight it was the wrong choice but with the information that we had from Goodyear on the grip of those particular Inters it seemed a reasonable decision. We also knew that it would be a race of attrition and the nature of the track was such, that we had to be so careful with the car, primarily with the Driveshaft, as we had already had one break in practice.
But Ben instantly lost places in the first few laps and came on the radio saying that the car was all over the place. The subsequent pit stop to change to slicks cost us a lap and from there we were playing catch up. Ben did a great job and made up some places during the rest of his stint. When I got in the car I think we were 5th and then after the two safety cars we got up to 3rd. That would have been a great result but still the Zadra Ferrari was in 2nd and for the championship things were looking a bit bleak.
They looked even bleaker when I started to lose gears after about 2 hours. At first I lost 4th and 5th and I came in immediately. I still had 1st, 2nd and 3rd which is not too bad around a circuit as tight as Mondello, but soon the whole lot started to go and when I came in to the pits for the second time near the end of the race it was decided that I should just sit in the pits and wait until the race finished and trickle over the line to get at least a few points.
It was a bit strange just sat there waiting and even stranger to see the SR2 Lola come in for its last stop on the penultimate lap and Thed Bjork nearly collect me as he accelerated away. I'm told they were about a coat of paint away from clipping me as it went out but all I remember is seeing the facial expressions of my mechanics as it sliced by. It was really close but they got their job done and went on to win the class and get third overall, which of course was where we should have been. I have followed Bjork around tracks a few times this year while lapping him and I must say he is very quick, definitely one for the future and it would be pretty interesting to see him in an SR1.
At the end I duly toured over the line in 1st gear, the only one I had left. It took so long for me to get back around to the pits that all the marshals were packing away and the fire extinguishers were on the track. I could see all these Irish marshals thinking what the hell is he doing having a private test session or something! It was very frustrating but at least we got something out of it, but with a 29-point deficit to the Ferrari and just 40 to play for, it is looking mighty tough. But Scuderia Italia must be due some bad luck of their own as they have only retired once this year at Monza.
The great thing about driving for Team Ascari though is that we always look forward and now we concentrate on preparing for the Nurburgring, a circuit I know well from F3000 and last year when we were having a great race until electric problems intervened. We will test at Snetterton on Monday and then Ben and Klaas are shaking down the turbo car again next Thursday before flying to Germany. I don't actually know a great deal yet about the 4-litre BMW engine, except that the team is thinking about debuting it at Road Atlanta. We will only have one car there and that could be it, but I guess the team will be making a decision after the tests.
The team never stops and at the moment a lot of them are helping with the move in to our new factory in Banbury. Make no bones about it, Klaas really has some big plans for the Ascari brand and the premises are huge, about 22,000 square feet! Everything will be housed in there from the race and road cars to the F1 collection. It is also nice for me because I live in Silverstone village and can visit the factory every day on the way back from the gym!