SEASON'S BEST FOR IN-FORM QUAIFE AT THE ALGARVE CIRCUIT
Phil Quaife scored his best result of the season as the FIA GT3 European Championship re-emerged from its summer break at the Algarve Circuit in Portugal, although the Kent-based driver and his CRS Racing team were denied a podium finish in both races despite their Ferrari 430 Scuderia being bang on the ultimate pace all weekend.
An electrical issue in race 1 and an unceremonious barge from behind in race 2 robbed Quaife and new team-mate Danny van Dongen a taste of the podium champagne, but a charging drive through the field ensured Quaife's first points of the season in the second event.
In qualifying for race 1, Quaife made a decision to pit late to change his tyre pressures and, with just seconds of the session remaining, produced a superb last-gasp effort to grab a place on the outside of the second row, just two tenths of a second off pole. His pace showed that the CRS-run Ferrari is now more than a match for the front runners in the multi-marque series. He carried that speed into the race, holding fourth off the line and then fighting up to second, and was right on the tail of the race leader at the compulsory pit stops.
Van Dongen took over and, on debut for the team, was holding his own in third place when an electrical issue forced him to return to the pits. The team reset the car to cure the problem, but the Dutch driver was now well down the order, recovering to 16th at the chequered flag.
In race 2 van Dongen started from his qualifying position of 19th and was up to 9th when he was spun around after being hit hard from behind by a BMW Alpina. After rejoining near the back he recovered a handful of places before stopping to hand to Quaife.
With rear-end bodywork damage and the Ferrari's tracking askew, Quaife produced a superb stint. He pushed the car to its maximum and, despite the damage, was one of the fastest men on track in the last ten minutes, somehow fighting back to finish in eighth place, grabbing the final championship point in the process.
Regardless of his fine drive, the ambitious Quaife was still frustrated to see the chance of a double-podium and possibly a race win taken away, although hugely encouraged by his and the CRS Racing Ferrari 430 Scuderia's performance throughout the weekend.
"We're right on the pace now, right up there with the championship leaders," said Quaife. "It would have been fantastic to have collected some silverware this weekend and, without the problems we had, I think we had the speed to do it in both races.
"So from that perspective, yes, I am a little bit frustrated, but this is our best result of the season and the team has done a fantastic job again. Danny also did really well on his debut and I can't wait for the next round at Paul Ricard where I feel sure we'll be up there again."