The JMB Giesse team has a hard job ahead of it in the FIA GT championship. Instead of trying to run a Porsche 911 GT3-R like everyone else in the N-GT class, they have chosen to take on the Ferrari Modena 360 Challenge car, and try and develop it into a race winning car.
Jean-Michel Bouresche, the boss of the team, explained the teams reasoning over lunch on Saturday, with Phillipe Alliot- their new driver - as the guest of honour.
The car looks the part, if a little quiet compared to the raucous nature of the other cars in the series. "Our goal this year is to develop the car for next year" explain Jean-Michel, as the car languished in the last two spots on the grid this morning. "We work really hard. That's why we have a team with two cars. We have a car with drivers who know the car, and a driver pair that we know can develop the car". Alongside Phillipe is Peter Kutemann, whilst the sister car is driven by Marco Lambertini and Batti Pregliasco, who gave the car its race debut at Monza in April.
Jean-Michel is confident that the car can be developed - and developed quickly. "Within 2 months we will be ready with a car with a lot of development... New wings, brakes, wheels to make it a front challenging car." The team is serious, and their driver signings further reflect that aim, explained Jean-Michel "That's why Phillipe Alliot has joined the team, to bring us his huge experience, and speed up development."
Jean-Michel further explained that the car may lack ultimate pace this year, as it is running to the FIA GT rules, and hopefully those as will be run next season "We plan to run to GT. We are to follow GT regulations. If we decide to race Le Mans, we will modify the car, but we are to run in the FIA series." Since Monza the car has already had an impressive pace of development "We have developed a new air jack, and a new exhaust pipe that has brought us 12 horse power. One of the reasons we chose Phillipe was to develop the car, and he will work a lot outside the race meeting".
Clearly the team has a lot of faith in the Frenchman who has driven for RAM, Ligier, Larrousse and McLaren during his 10 years in the sport, contesting 110 Grands Prix. He has also taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours 9 times, and still holds the all-time lap record when driving the Peugeot 905 to third in 1992. Since leaving top-flight motorsport, Alliot has simply done the things that he enjoys - racing in the Dakar, ice racing in the Andros trophy, and playing on jet skis and helicopters.
"When you stop, you have to restart" said Alliot over the pasta, "I'm not like Johansson and Alboreto. I don't want now to drive just anything" explaining his what appears to be an eclectic choice of racing since his F1 days. He is, however, the first to admit the team will have it's work cut out "At the moment the car is standard. We are starting at the bottom, and it can be a very good car. It's a really good car. It's a very nice concept. I think we can do a very good racing car".
He does, though, admit that the car as it stands is not so good, and "It is a little overweight" he said with an evil grin. "I'm sure we will have a lot of progress, though". Through the lunch, Alliot was charming, and spoke at length of his love of his helicopter, his ice racing, and his jet skiing.
He also explained that it was precisely because developing the Ferrari was going to be hard work that he chose to drive for the team "The testing is why I have joined the team. GT is like a holiday, no pressure and good food. It's a nice weekend" he said with a playful smile. "To give your experience to a progress a team is good. It is like a soup with no salt. It takes care to add it. That's why I came back... The team isn't bad" he said with another cheeky grin "The food is good, and the wine's not bad" he said, as he examined the label of his red, and tucked into the hearty meal. A real difference from the days in F1.
Stephen M Baines http://www.motorsport.org.uk