Some of the leading drivers in the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship give us their thoughts on the eve of the opening race of the new season.

Maxime Martin – Marc VDS Ford GT
“We are a lot more prepared than last year. The team has one year of experience now. We still worked a lot during the winter to be as good as we can for the first race in Abu Dhabi. I do a lot of sport to be well prepared for the warm conditions we will have there.

“It's an interesting track because there are a lot of slow corners and it's very technical. Not so bad for our Ford GT. It's difficult to say because there are a lot of very very good pairings. I hope to score as much points as possible for the championship. We will see.”

Marc Hennerici – Marc VDS Racing Team Ford GT
“I´m really happy to be again part of this great championship, so I have to thank mo-we-ko motorsport for supporting me for 9 years now. The first test with the team was really exciting, because the atmosphere is really great and the work is extremely professional.

“But I don’t want to predict anything for Abu Dhabi. We saw in the past weeks, how the level of drivers is rising in the second year of the championship. Nevertheless it`s time for racing and I`m happy to be back in the car again and compete against the best GT drivers in the world.”

Antoine Leclerc – Belgian Racing Ford GT
“Unlike most other teams and drivers of the GT1 World Championship who are already familiar with the track and weather conditions, I’ve not had the opportunity to train on the Ford GT and to work with the team. I’ll discover all these parameters. But I’m very confident because the technical staff are very competent, highly-skilled and extremely motivated. We are fully committed to making a good performance.

“It’s the first time for me in Abu Dhabi. I’m not familiar with the track but I’ve been learning it on my simulator. I’m looking forward to taking part to the competition on it. First, to discover the working conditions. Then to adapt to these conditions, and finally to take the best of this opportunity. I’ll do my maximum and work hard with the team to claim a good result.”

Stef Dusseldorp – Hexis Aston Martin DB9
“We are very well prepared for the start of the season. With 8 days of testing we did a lot of mileage before the cars were shipped to Abu Dhabi. We spent a lot of time together and i'm sure it will be even better during the first race weekend. The circuit looks nice on TV, internet and on my Playstation, but I’m very curious how it looks in real life.

“It's hard to say, as I don't have any reference on our standing compared to the rest of the field. Yas Marina Circuit is not so good for Aston Martin, but we'll do our best to end as high as possible.

“I think we're well prepared for the first race. We've done some good testing days in February in France with the 4 drivers so we got to know each other, know the car and the team. Hexis is a young team but very motivated and well organized...the team spirit will be one of our strong point!"

Andrea Piccini – Hexis Aston Martin DB9
“The Yas Marina facilities are great! Honestly I like more old style tracks, but I can't wait to be out there at the wheels of my DB9. We know from last year that it is not the best circuit for Aston, so our target is to start scoring good points from the first race. I think the Key of such a competitive championship will be not making mistakes and always be in the points...if possible with the maximum score!!!”

Christian Hohenadel – Hexis Aston Martin DB9
“I’m looking forward to the first race in Abu Dhabi and I hope to finish the two races in the points. This year will be a big challenge, but I am well prepared with Team Hexis and my new partner Andrea Piccini.”

Tomáš Enge - Young Driver-Aston Martin DB9
“I’m really happy to compete this year again in the GT1 World Championship with Young Driver AMR. We are really well prepared for our second season, the team did a good job with preparing our racecars during the very short off-season. This year I will have a new teammate, Alex Müller and I’m really looking forward to share the car with him. Last year we had a really good season, I hope this year with one year experience under our belt and with Alex, we can do even better. Abu Dhabi is certainly not an Aston Martin-track, but this year we will use a shorter version of the track and not the Grand-Prix-Version, this should suit us a bit better. The competition this year seems to be at least as strong as last season, with some very big names on the entry list. But we will build on our experience and the most important thing for the first race is to score some good points.”

Alex Müller - Young Driver-Aston Martin DB9
“I`m really looking forward to my first race with Young Driver AMR. I know the track already from last season, when I drove with another team. But as I drove another car last season, I quite don’t know yet what to expect with the Aston Martin at Abu Dhabi. The first race will be very interesting; there are some new driver and team/car combinations, which are hard to judge. But we will start relaxed into the new season and don’t set ourselves under too much pressure. The season will be very long, and our main objective for Abu Dhabi is to score some good points.”

Stefan Mücke - Young Driver-Aston Martin DB9
“Finally the season starts, I can’t wait to get back in the car. As last season ended very late and cars had to be shipped very early to Abu Dhabi, there was no off-season testing for us. So everybody likes to be back on track again. After last year we know that Abu Dhabi is a very difficult track for our type of car, but together with my new teammate Darren Turner we will make the best of it. There is a great atmosphere at Abu Dhabi, with the amazing facility and race at night. The track offers many tight corners; you have to drive very precious. From a driver’s perspective, the track is what we call technical. My aim is to finish the Championship Race on the podium. I know that will be a very tough job, but if we have a good Qualifying and Qualifying Race, I’m quite optimistic we can reach this goal.”

Darren Turner - Young Driver-Aston Martin DB9
“Since last year’s season finale in Argentina I have not driven the car, so it’s really time for the season to start again. This season I’m driving with Stefan Mücke for the first time. We are both driving for Aston Martin for a couple of seasons now, haven’t shared a car up to now. Last season, Abu Dhabi wasn’t really successful for us, but I expect that we will perform much better this year and get some points. I’m really looking forward to Abu Dhabi, not only because it’s the start of the season and I really love the facility there, but we will also have some nice weather and really warm temperatures.”

Enrique Bernoldi- Sumo Power Nissan GT-R

How well prepared are you ahead of the first race of the season?
"As we haven’t been able to text the car very much, I can only make sure I am as race-fit as possible and have been going to the gym, running and karting."

What are your thoughts about the Yas Marina Circuit?
"I think Yas Marina is an excellent track with a great facilities and I really enjoy competing there. It has a lot of overtaking places, which makes for a good race."

What are your objectives for the race weekend?
"To work well with the team and try as hard as I can to win the race."

David Brabham - Sumo Power Nissan GT-R

How well prepared are you ahead of the first race of the season?
"With my deal being so late, time in the car has been limited. I would have liked to more time to prepare of course, but that’s just the way it is. But I really liked the car when I drove it at the recent test. I had a smile on my face after the first lap."

What are your thoughts about the Yas Marina Circuit?
"I’ve never been there before, but from what I have seen on TV it looks like an amazing circuit!"

What are your objectives for the race weekend?
"Simple. To win."

Jamie Campbell-Walter - Sumo Power Nissan GT-R

How well prepared are you ahead of the first race of the season?
"Very well prepared actually. Although my deal with the team was only announced last week, I have been training for the London Marathon which keeps you mentally and physically prepared for anything!"

What are your thoughts about the Yas Marina Circuit?
"It's like a second home for me as I’m the official Yas Marina two-seat F1 car driver, so I spend a lot of time at and on the circuit. It is probably the best facility in the world and a great track."

What are your objectives for the race weekend?
"Only one objective and that’s to win both races and come away from the weekend leading the championship! I’m also looking forward to working with my new team mate."

-source: fia-gt1