Leo & Jonny on the podium again!
Qualifying Race 1: Another different Poleman...Jonathan Cocker
Jonathan Cocker, in the nr 44 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9, claimed his first FIA GT3 pole position of the season, with a time of 1.21.683. The young British driver was the seventh different man on pole position since the beginning of the season, with Barwell Motorsport the seventh different team to set the pole position. Four different makes were in the top 6, and once again 16 cars were within just two seconds !
On his first flying lap, Massimiliano Mugelli, in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBR9, went off at the end of the straight but eventually managed to get back on track. In the nr 13 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3, Phil Bastiaans claimed provisional pole position with a time of 1.22.661, but first the nr 29 Pouchelon Racing Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Anthony Reid, and then the nr 10 Racing Logistic Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Jean-Luc Blanchemain, improved on the best time. Then it was time for the Aston Martin DBRS9, as Jonathan Cocker in the nr 44 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9 set the fastest time with a lap of 1.21.683, while Toni Seiler in the nr 24 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBRS9 set the second time.
Five minutes before the end of the session, Jonathan Cocker in the nr 44 Aston Martin was in the lead, in front of Phil Bastiaans (nr 13 Lamborghini), who had improved his time to move up to 2nd position, Toni Seiler (nr 24 Aston Martin), Jean-Luc Blanchemain (nr 10 Dodge Viper), Anthony Reid (nr 29 Dodge Viper) and Stephane Daoudi, who was 6th in the nr 34 JMB Racing Ferrari 430 Challenge GT3. All the cars had set qualifying times that were within one second! During the last minute, the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin of Massimiliano Mugelli went off the track in the "Pouas" corner, damaging the car. The team didn't know if they would be able to start the first race.
Jonathan Cocker nr 44 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9, 1st: "It's my first pole position of the season and my first pole position since last year in the Asia Porsche Carrera cup. It's always nice to be quicker than anybody else. I tried as much as I could to save the tyres for the race. So when I managed to get a clear lap and I did my best time, I went back to the pits and watched the times set by the others. We had good balance, the tyres are still brand new so it's an advantage. If we keep our pole position at the start then we could get a good result."
Saturday 2 September 2006 @Pole, overall podium, 2 fastest laps & Aston Martin Cup win for Jonny & Leo
The Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9 team had another successful weekend in the latest round of the FIA GT3 European Championship at Dijon. The Leo Machitski/Jonny Cocker car took pole position for race one at the head of the incredible 38-car FIA GT3 field and went on to finish second overall after `Rookie' driver Machitski had led the race early on. Jonny and Leo were also the winner of the Aston Martin Cup after a great battle with the BMS Scuderia Italia car of Franco Groppi/Toni Seiler.
Leo and Jonny showed their potential as overall FIA GT3 front-runners after finishing second on the road at Spa last time out in July. Jonny backed this performance up with a scintillating qualifying lap at Dijon which put him on pole position by 6/10ths of a second! Barwell then coolly called him into the pits to sit out the second half of the 20-minute session, thereby saving his tyres for the race. With Leo starting race one on Saturday, he thus had the privilege and pleasure of leading round the huge international GT3 field towards the rolling start for the one-hour encounter.
Leo made no mistake in his first start from pole position and blasted straight into the lead of the race. Although there was pressure from behind from the Lamborghini of Thurnundtaxis, Leo kept his head and covered all of the moves that the German driver made. Approaching the first corner on lap three there were waved yellow flags due to an accident and Leo braked slightly early as the rules request, only to be surprised to see the Lambo overtake him on the inside! This was especially dangerous as there was a recovery vehicle on the circuit removing a stricken car from the scene. Overtaking under yellow flags is strictly forbidden in racing's regulations, and we all waited for a `stop-go' penalty to be awarded to the Lambo... but strangely it never came. This was extremely frustrating as Leo had done the correct thing but had been robbed of the lead of the race.
It also robbed Leo of his `buffer' to the more experienced drivers behind and he soon came under pressure from the championship leading Dodge Viper of Ceccato and the BMS Aston of Seiler. Leo did really well to hold these guys off for as long as he did but by lap seven he had slipped back to fourth place.
Once this manoeuvring had settled down, however, he was able to concentrate on just driving fast and reeled off a series of very impressive lap times to stay right on the tail of the leading trio. The Blanchemain Viper was also on his tail, and Leo then enjoyed a good scrap with this car for a few laps but this cost him time to the leaders, especially after it overtook him and then promptly spun in front of him at the first corner. On lap 17 of 42 he came into the pits to hand over to Jonny after a great stint and there were no problems with the stop but the timing of the car leaving the pit station had a dramatic effect on the overall outcome of the race.
As Jonny accelerated away he almost got past the Lambo that had illegally taken the lead from Leo, but it was already in the `fast lane' and thus Jonny had no option but to back off and slot in behind it. During the next five laps the Lambo driver then defended his place sternly and had the speed on the 1km long main straight to keep Jonny at bay.
Jonny eventually got through after a great move at the high speed final corner but the Lambo had been going so slowly that he had lost a huge amount of time to the leading trio of cars which included the two Vipers and the BMS Aston.
Once in clear air, Cocker began a mesmerising drive that produced lap times far quicker than the leaders. To start with he faced a 12-second deficit to the third-placed Aston of Groppi/Seiler, but it took a few laps before he could `clean up' his tyres, which had picked up a lot of dirt and grease during his attempts to pass the Lambo.
Ten laps later, however, and amazingly Jonny was right on the tail of the rival Italian Aston and itching to get by. As the two of them approached the uphill double-right corner nose-to-tail, they encountered a Maserati backmarker in the braking zone. Groppi lunged down the inside of the Maserati as Jonny went to the outside, but as they exited the corner Jonny carried more momentum and switched back to the inside to draw alongside his rival. He then had the inside line for the next right section and was through into third overall, as well as the lead of the Aston Martin Cup.
Jonny then had only four laps to try and catch the second-placed Viper, but despite cutting his advantage down from nine seconds to five he simply ran out of time.
The Viper that won the race on the road, however, was later excluded for a technical infringement thus handing second place overall to Jonny and Leo.
In the second qualifying session Leo posted a strong qualifying lap and had taken a big chunk off his best lap time from the practice session to qualify 17th overall out of the 38 entries a personal best.
With pole position man James Ruffier's Corvette not making it out of the pit lane in time for the race start, Leo was promoted to 16th overall.
With the poleman starting from the pit lane this left a gap at the head of the field for the rolling start which undoubtedly led to the confusion that caused the disastrous start-line incident. The car in front of our second Aston, Jurgen Von Gartzen's Corvette Z06, then had nobody in front of him to follow and this seemed to throw him into a state of confusion.
Whilst the outside front-row car accelerated out of the last corner towards the start-line, Von Gartzen stayed at a walking pace and thus held back the rest of the pack of cars as overtaking is forbidden until the start- line lights switch to green. This boxed our second Aston right in behind the Corvette, but worse still when the lights did go to green Von Gartzen seemed to be asleep and didn't react.
Michael and everyone else hit the throttle but with Von Gartzen sitting there as a mobile chicane all the cars had to swerve around him. Sadly a Viper collected the Corvette and took both of them into the side of the Aston which forced him into the pit wall causing heavy damage to the front left corner and bodywork.
Michael and Martin's race was over before it had started, championship officials should give Von Gartzen a hefty penalty for his extraordinary actions.
This left Leo and Jonny as our sole representative, but the start-line shunt compromised their race as well, as it meant that Jonny had to sit behind the safety car for nearly 20 minutes, as the mess was cleared up, and Jonny was unable to make his usual quick headway up through the order.
When the race eventually did get going he got the hammer down, and immediately picked up a couple of places to run in 13th spot after the first flying lap. This soon became 11th but then Jonny got stuck behind the Balandras Porsche 997, and the French driver was using his circuit knowledge and the car's straight-line speed to keep the Aston behind.
Jonny pitted before he lost any more time and handed over to Leo in a perfect pit stop which was right on the minimum time. Leo got straight into the groove and by the time all of the pit stops had shaken out he had moved up to eighth place which then immediately became seventh on lap 21 of 36 as he breezed past the tardily driven Berberich/Schell Corvette.
Leo once again was driving with incredible maturity and determination, and soon he was on the tail of the Corvette of Ruffier/Terny. With these two also rapidly catching the `Vette of Campbell/Charriol we instructed Leo not to hassle the Terny car too much, so they would both reel in Charriol. This worked perfectly and after a few laps Leo disposed of Terny for sixth and then hunted down Charriol.
On lap 31 Leo took his third Corvette scalp in a row and claimed an excellent fifth place overall and second Aston. This could still become fourth overall as the third-placed Blanchemain/Bornhauser Viper was racing under appeal, and could lose its result.