SUGDEN SINGING IN THE RAIN IN ITALY
Tim Sugden took an excellent 3rd place in a rain soaked FIA GT Championship race at Mugello in Italy on Sunday after technical problems in practice and qualifying had kept the JMB GruppeM Ferrari F430 well down the time sheets.
The Mugello circuit is owned by Ferrari and used for much of their testing because its position in the hills near Florence provides some quite steep climbs and descents
Qualifying 5th Sugden started the 3 hour race in torrential rain that saw pole sitter Andrew Kirkaldy lose control as the cars took the green light for the start, severely damaging his Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari. TV pictures from inside many cars showed that they could not go higher than 3rd gear and it was surprising that many more did not have terminal damage in the early stages of the race. Tim said later in a TV interview that he simply drove round during the first lap and allowed anyone who wanted to go faster to do so. He dropped to 7th at first and then began to pick up places as the standing water was dispersed by the wet weather tyres of the 28 cars.
The first 4 laps saw place changes all around and as the race began to settle the factory backed Porsche of Riccitelli had found that the weight distribution inherent in the Porsche design suited the conditions and he led GT2 and was up to 4th place overall amongst the more powerful GT1 cars that found the conditions very difficult. From this point Tim began to move from the distant 4th place that he now held and caught and passed Tim Mullen in the other Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari making his move around the outside of turn 8 to take 3rd place.
By the time Tim got clear of Mullen the Porsche had established a big lead and second place was held by factory driver Jamie Melo in the AF Corse Ferrari on the track where he had done all the development driving of the F430 for Ferrari. Tim closed the gap to a few tenths of a second but could not get past before the pit stops when Melo handed over to Matteo Bobbi and Tim to Iradj Alexander. Iradj was able to settle in and get the car back up to third as the track dried further when the rain stopped and a quick stop for slick tyres by all the front runners was possible by three quarter distance.
So the race finished with a first win for Porsche in 2006 after Collard took over the lead from Riccitelli and Melo returned to the AF Corse car at the tyre change as Alexander was closing in on Bobbi and threatened to take 2nd place (and 1st Ferrari!) from the factory car at its home track.
Tim's next event is this coming weekend at Jarama in Spain for the Le Mans Endurance Series 1000km race in the Virgo Ferrari F430.