The Matech Racing Ford GTs are already showing their power!
It was this last weekend at Silverstone, during the prestigious RAC Tourist Trophy that the Ford GTs built and developed by Matech Racing had their major racing debut. The start of the FIA-GT3 European Championship was comprised out of two sprints of 60 minutes, the ideal opportunity for Thomas Mutsch and Martin Bartek on the one hand and Romain Bera and Stefan Vancampenhoudt on the other, to leave their seal on the meeting.
Having set-up this Ford GT project in a record time the Swiss Matech Racing team were quite logically expecting one or two teething problems for these two superb cars sporting the racing numbers #43 and #44. And yet as from the free practice sessions the Fords appeared to be running smoothly. Not only was the top 10 reached very swiftly, but on top of that the Frenchman Romain Bera gave the GT, in GT3 configuration, a premiere.namely pole position for the first race in its history! This was brilliantly confirmed during the second qualifying session, with this time the German Thomas Mutsch clinching a magnificent 2nd time. It goes without saying that Matech Racing was already the talk of the town, and the 2007 championship was only just about to kick off ..
The first race, on Saturday afternoon, allowed Bera to stay up in the leaders group before an electronic problem arose, enough to cause engine management problems which started misfiring. Outcome: a retirement, even though the performance was quite clearly available. Having started in 23rd spot, Martin Bartek had a perfect first relay at the wheel of car #43, handing over to Thomas Mutsch in a very satisfying 16th place. The strategy set-up by Christian Schumacher and his team was perfect, and after a neutralisation, the Ford GT was up in 6th place. "A podium place was on the books ", the team manager explained, "but this time bad luck played a part. Thomas nudged a Porsche and the shock triggered off the cut-off switch. The car came to a standstill and the driver was unable to restart the car. A double retirement in fact, but can one honestly be disappointed? The programme with the Fords was set-up in a record time, and it is quite normal for such young cars to experience a few minor problems. However nothing fundamental. Having said that, and starting from the front row for the second time in as many races; our chances remain intact for Sunday ."
And this time around it is the "professional" drivers who were taking on the first relay, prior to handing over to the "gentlemen drivers". But the cars had to get to the starting grid for this morning's round. "In fact something pretty incredible happened ", Christian Schumacher continued."We tried to get on to the pre-grid in the same way as the day before, but there were so many spectators' cars that the access was blocked. They then showed us an alternative route, which led directly on to the track. Shortly after the start of the race, just as Thomas Mutsch had slotted the Ford GT #44 into the top of the rankings, we were penalised with a double Drive Through for having gone on to the track via an unauthorised entrance! I tried to complain to the Clerk of the Course, but no joy! Thomas went off and immediately sat out his penalty prior to regaining the track in 6th place, whereas Stefan Vancampenhoudt fully ignored the marshals' orders. Outcome: he was black flagged and disqualified. Martin Bartek took over from Thomas, but in the second lap of his relay he spun. So we end up in 16th place, even though a top 5 could have been feasible. "
In fact it is with a great feeling of frustration that these superb Matech Racing Ford GTs close off this first racing weekend. "We have to remain very positive", Christian concludes, "especially since the competitiveness amongst the cars is perfect. The times we registered during both the practice sessions as also the race puts the Ford up amongst the leaders, which makes it highly promising for the rest of the season. "A campaign which will have its next round at Bucharest in two weeks time already. A first podium in sight?