FANTASTIC FINISH IN GT2
Andrew Kirkaldy and Rob Bell rounded off the 2009 FIA GT Championship season with a podium finish at Zolder in Belgium today.
The two CRS Ferraris started the FIA GT race from sixth and seventh on the grid, with Antonio Garcia in No.55 and Rob Bell in No.56. Bell got the jump on Garcia as the race went green and both drivers then settled into a very good race pace. Garcia was the first to stop, handing over to Tim Mullen after 45 minutes. Bell then pitted in No.56 and Andrew Kirkaldy took to the track.
The race was looking good at half-distance with both Kirkaldy and Mullen on maximum attack. After making light work of passing another Ferrari, Mullen was chasing down a Porsche when he radioed in to say his water temperatures were rapidly rising.
"I had a bit of contact with another car and that loosened my door," said Mullen. "I had to keep trying to close it as I went along the straights, which I managed to do eventually but it knocked me out of my rhythm a bit. I then caught a Porsche but as we went through the first chicane I was unsighted and clobbered the kerb."
Unfortunately the kerb damaged Tim's radiator and all he could do was come back to the pits and retire.
At this point in the race there was an information blackout when the timing screens froze and then went off completely. Kirkaldy in the meantime was pressing on and running very strongly in second place. After the final run of pit-stops Bell was back in the car and running in third place behind Westbrook's Porsche and Ruberti's Ferrari. The positions held until the end of the race so Bell and Kirkaldy took their third podium finish of the season.
"It has been a very hard season for us for many reasons," said Bell in the post-race press conference. "This was actually a very quiet race for us. We started well, passed a few cars and rounded the season off the season on a high so we can't really ask for more than that."
Andrew Kirkaldy continued: "The pit crew did a great job today and our strategy worked very well. Porsche were very clever this weekend with their ‘getting rid of weight' strategy so we were pretty handicapped from that perspective. In spite of all that we were almost in contention for the win. If the race had gone on any longer who knows what might have happened?
The first of the weekend's two GT3 races had to be started under the safety car as the track was still damp from overnight rain. Phil Quaife and Klaas Hummel had good, clean starts in the CRS Ferrari 430 Scuderias but just two laps in Klaas fell foul of the slippery track, spinning and then being hit by a Porsche. He managed to get the car back to the garage for repairs but had to retire just a few laps later. Phil completed his stint and handed over to Danny van Dongen just after the halfway mark. With the track drying rapidly the No.56 Ferrari switched from wet tyres to slicks and Danny immediately set the fast est lap of the race. The Dutch driver drove a great stint but then suffered a puncture after running over debris just a few minutes before the end of the race. The necessary extra pit-stop then pushed him back to 22nd place.
Race two was always going to be tough in the FIA GT3 Championship as it took place late in the day and ran into the darkness. After a steady start, Danny van Dongen had hussled the No.56 Ferrari up to tenth place, subsequently gaining another spot after a battle with a Morgan. Just before the pit window opened it began to rain and Danny was caught out at turn four, going off into the gravel. After being towed out he returned to the pits but with conditions deteriorating the decision was made to retire that car. Over in Ferrari No.55, Chris Goodwin had a good stint, running well during his time in the car. The mid-race rain brought out the safety car as cars began sliding off the track so Goodwin pitted for wets and to hand over to Klaas Hummel. The conditions were tough for an amateur as the rain made the track treacherous just as it went totally dark. Klaas, however, got stuck in and drove incredibly well but was ultimately sidelined with an electrical problem.