Alessandro Zanardi finished 14th in his BMW Z4 GT3 entered by ROAL Motorsport.
Nogaro (FR), - BMW works driver Alessandro Zanardi (IT) had an eventful first race in his comeback season. At the curtain raiser for the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series at Nogaro (FR), the qualifying race was held today. After an hour of intense racing, Zanardi finished 14th in his BMW Z4 GT3 entered by ROAL Motorsport. Therefore, the 47-year-old will start 14th on the grid in tomorrow’s main race.
At the start of the qualifying race it was raining. This was a new experience for Zanardi, as he had not driven the BMW Z4 GT3 in wet conditions before. So, starting from 14th on the grid, Zanardi’s first mission was to get used to racing this car in the rain. On lap one he ran wide onto the grass and dropped to the back of the field in 19th position. In addition, he made a mistake at the pit stop. But over the course of the race conditions got better and Zanardi found his rhythm. He worked his way back through the field and, despite the fact overtaking is very difficult at the Nogaro circuit, he made up positions, crossing the line in 15th. As a competitor was taken out of the ranking, he was classified 14th in the end.
“I can’t say I am super pleased with my debut, but you know how things are – you have to start somewhere”, Zanardi summed up. “I was not expecting it to be easy and, on top of that, the rain came so it was my first experience with the BMW Z4 GT3 in the wet. Therefore, as well as keeping up with the others, I had to learn how to drive in wet conditions with a lot of power under my bonnet, which, in spite of having traction control, is not easy. Then what really ruined my race was the mistake I made at the pit stop, when I forgot to switch one button in the sequence for the autostart, so when they dropped my car nothing happened.
That is where I lost a considerable amount of time, which probably would have been good enough to, at the least, improve my position from yesterday’s qualifying. However, towards the end of the race I picked up pace and it was easier for me to choose different lines in order to find performance. Certainly we learnt a lot in this first lesson, which will help us tomorrow. In the main race points are available for the top ten, so that is definitely our target.”
Roberto Ravaglia, Team Principal of ROAL Motorsport, added: “Today’s result does not really reflect our potential, but this was the first time the team had used the Pirelli rain tyre, and also Alex had no experience of driving a GT car in the wet. In the end we can say in a way it was good because we gained some experience. In the first stint we had the wrong tyre pressures, while for the second stint we changed that and immediately the car started working very well. Alex was consistent and was able to go faster and faster. Tomorrow I hope it will be dry, so we will be able to test the car over a race distance in dry conditions.”
Today’s qualifying race was won by the driver pairing of César Ramos (BR)/Laurens Vanthoor (BE), who will start tomorrow’s 60-minute main race from pole-position. The best BMW pairing was Sergio Jimenez/Caca Bueno (both BR) in the BMW Z4 GT3 of BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil, who finished third. Usually two drivers share each car, but the regulations allow handicapped drivers like Zanardi, who had both his legs amputated, or category Bronze drivers over the age of 30 to compete by themselves.