INTERVIEW WITH A CHAMPION: JAIME MELO
Jaime Melo first raced in the FIA GT Championship in 2004, at the age of 24, when he claimed wins in both the GT1 and GT2 categories. In 2005, he raced for GPC, in the Ferrari 575 M Maranello, giving the team its best result with second at Brno. This year, in the AF Corse Ferrari 430 GT2 car, he won two races, at Silverstone and Dijon, and proved to be remarkably consistent, scoring points at every race with his teammates Matteo Bobbi (rounds 1 - 9) and Toni Vilander (round 10). We spoke to Jaime in Monaco, before he picked up his trophy.
"I'm very happy to be the GT2 Champion. First of all, because it was my target to win the Championship. For me, for the sponsors, and for Ferrari. In my case, I developed the car; it worked very well, won the races and allowed me to win the Championship with the car I developed, so for me it is the best feeling I have had until now. Now, I think we need to concentrate on continuing the results, to show we can keep on top. I need to show next year that I can be consistent, with more good results, to confirm what I can do.
The Ferrari 430 GT2 was very good and reliable from the start; the car was developed from a good basis, the Ferrari 360 Modena, and they tried to keep the basics and just improve it. We did have some problems early in the season, in Sebring for example, which were fixed, and after that everything was OK. In our case, we had no mechanical problems all season. The good thing is that we are still working, and we have some evolutions for next year. The new Porsche car should be there, so we need to keep something in our pockets to continue the victories.
GT2 has been really good this season, very competitive, very hard, with a lot of good rivals such as Scuderia Ecosse. But in the end, experience paid off. In my opinion, Mika Salo and Andrew Kirkaldy were the two outstanding drivers, who could also have taken the Championship. The level is pretty good, very close to the GT1 cars. We have more professional drivers taking part, and on track, the level of the racing has been really high. In Dubai, I was a little bit behind at the start, and so I decided to just stay back and watch, because Mika Salo and Tim Mullen were really fighting hard. But it was a clean fight, really clean. For me, it has been a great season. We've all had very similar cars, apart from the tyres. And that kept the Championship very close.
One of the highlights of the season was Spa -- for me it could have been better, but for the team and the sponsors it was fantastic. You can't do better than first and second - of course, we were second, but you can't both finish in first place. I am very happy for the team. When I met them for the first time, they were trying to put everything together to start in as good shape as possible. The team improved throughout the season; the pit stops improved, everything improved. It's very good when you start something, and that when you finish, you can actually see the improvement. We worked together very well. As drivers, we tried to pass on our experience in order to get the best results possible.
We had a very good group of drivers this year. Mika Salo is a nice guy, and I enjoyed racing both with him and against him. We have a very good relationship. We learned a lot from him and his Formula One experience. When he's on the track, it doesn't matter whether he's in GT2 or F1 -- he's there to work in a serious way. He often showed us the right way to do things, and it was very good for us to have him there. I also need to take this opportunity to say thank you to Matteo Bobbi. For me, I didn't like the way we finished, but it was not my problem or my decision.
For the future, I am nearly sure to continue with Ferrari, to develop the car, to do all the tests, and they should decide in which team I will race."