THE 2005 FIA GT1 DRIVER'S CHAMPION : GABRIELE GARDEL
How does it feel to have won the 2005 FIA GT1 Drivers Championship?
I am really happy, and have to thank Jack Leconte, Pedro Lamy and all the crew who worked really hard for this success. Michelin did a really good job, and Care Racing gave us a car that could compete for the title. On my side, this result is really good. I've been racing for a number of years, but this is the first important thing that I have won, which is important for me, for my family, for my sponsors. It's also important for my career.
It was a tight Championship, close until past the end, with the court of appeal. It was a bit of a dream come true for everybody. Of course, everybody who competes hopes to win, but nobody in our team was really thinking about the title at the start of the year. The idea was to stay there, to trouble the Maserati cars, to try for the top three and to push until the end. And we did it!
I need to thank all the guys who drove with me at Spa, Christophe Bouchut, Vincent Vosse and Kurt Mollekens, and the 2004 Champion Fabrizio Gollin, who shared the nr 11 in Silverstone. On paper, the title might be mine, but in reality it belongs to many people. It's not just Gabriele Gardel who won the 2005 GT1 Drivers Championship, it's Gardel with around ten or fifteen people. For me, it's important to say this, as it makes me happier. I want to share this moment with Care Racing, Leconte, all the drivers who fought for this with me. It was a real team effort. We did a good job with a good team. Jack has competed for a full season in the FIA GT four times, and has won four titles.
We had one car, compared to two for the Maserati teams, but that does not mean anything: Jack did a great job, and had excellent strategy throughout. For this reason, it is important to give the title to everyone. It's so hard to fight for the title in the final race, especially as by then we all had so much ballast. I'm really positive, and hope to have a good contract for next year, and to be able to fight to defend my title again.
What about next year?
I don't have any fixed plans for 2006 yet - it's too early at this stage. I hope to have some news by February. But I want to stay in the FIA GT Championship. I grew up in the FIA GT, and I would like to be there again, to fight again. This year, none of the Champions defended their titles, but I want to be back. I would like to thank Stephane Ratel as he gave me the chance to grow up in a really good category, which is changing a lot and growing steadily more competitive and more professional. This makes me proud to be part of this group of drivers.
You moved from single-seaters to FIA GT in 2003. How did this decision come about?
I had two good years in Formula 3000, and then I moved to a team where things did not go so well. I began to lose a bit of support, from my sponsors, and began to lose the chance to go for my dream. My dream was not so much Formula One, but to be a professional driver. So I decided to go where some professional drivers were competing. And the FIA GT looked the best solution. I went to Freisinger, and they taught me a lot about GT rules and the style of driving. I had some really good team-mates in Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb, and I learnt a lot from them. And then I decided to make the jump and go up to GT1.
I've had the luck to share a car with some of the best drivers we have in FIA GT: Matteo Bobbi, Fabrizio Gollin, Christophe Bouchut, Pedro Lamy. This is a dream for many drivers who have not been as lucky as me. I would like to go on like this. I've learnt the most from Pedro Lamy. He's not just a team-mate, he's a friend. He really taught me a lot this year, helped me to be competitive, to be quicker, faster and not to make mistakes. He really put me in a condition where I could be at ease and give my best. I really have to thank Pedro.
As for next year, it's difficult to say what will happen, but I'd like to drive with a top driver, and if I can choose, it would be nice to stay with Pedro.
What about your best moments of the season?
For me, Brno was one of my best races, in the wet. Dubai, which was a really fantastic race. And then Monza, because nobody expected us to win. We had three wins, but so many races we did a good job. I enjoyed the whole season. We had trouble in some races, like most teams, but nothing special. I'm pretty happy about the whole season. The worst part was waiting for the court of appeal; that was the heaviest moment for me as it was no longer in my hands, it depended on the lawyers.
I'm really happy, and have to thank all those who worked so hard for this result. Now it's my turn to work hard to make sure I'm back next year to defend my title!