Yann Clairay rounds off his world championship season with a double victory!
Yann Clairay ended the South American tour of the FIA GT1 World Championship on a high note. Together with his team-mate Frederic Makowiecki in the no.9 Aston Martin DBR9 entered by HEXIS AMR he won the qualifying race on Sunday morning and then the main race in the afternoon. The Frenchman left Argentina happy that he had contributed to the achievement of the whole team, which filled the runner-up spot in the world championship on its first season at the top level in GT1. This clean sweep gave Clairay a place in the top 10 in the world GT1 ratings, a feat that no other driver having raced for only half the season has achieved.
Despite his second place in the GT1 category in the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours and the GT1 title in the Le Mans Series, Clairay was unable to continue his career in endurance. But he was not put off by this, and devoted the first part of the season to his other passion by taking part in five national rallies and the French round of the WRC in a 250 bhp Clio R3. He was called up by the HEXIS AMR team, which contacted him mid-season as it was trying to stabilize its lead driver squad, and Clairay found himself back in circuit racing again.
The FIA GT1 World Championship gave him the opportunity to combine all the talents that he developed in the early part of his career when he was battling with drivers of the caliber of Grosjean, Kobayashi and Hulkenberg in single-seaters: he proved his speed in the toughest and most hotly- contested races. The results he achieved in sports prototypes and in Grand Touring cars with the major teams in endurance showed that he had assimilated all the aspects of team work in racing.
Clairay-Makowiecki drove together in the FIA GT1 World Championship for the first time at the Nurburgring. At the start of the qualifying race the Frenchman was unlucky enough to get caught up in a huge collision, but they recovered and scored the points that went with seventh place on Sunday. In Portimao, Clairay-Makowiecki moved up to sixth, and then they bagged their first podium finish on the new Navarra circuit in Spain. This second place meant they were hit with a success ballast penalty of 30 kgs, which slowed them at Interlagos.
Then came San Luis - a made-to-measure circuit for Clairay.
The Argentinean round went off like a dream but not without the odd bit of drama. "In free practice, we ran on badly worn tyres due to the ballast in Interlagos," explained Clairay. "Our seventh time in qualifying was a big morale booster. We had to consolidate this performance in qualifying by taking the grip into account as it was evolving constantly on this non-permanent circuit. Usually, we use two new sets of tyres in Q2, but I managed to get into Q3 with just one set by banging in the seventh-fastest time on my last flyer." Makowiecki who had already raced at San Luis in 2008 did a great job in Q3 and put the no.9 Aston Martin on the outside of the front row.
As usual, Clairay took the first stint in the qualifying race. He calculated his get- away to perfection and came into the first corner ahead of pole man Stefan Mucke in his Young Drivers AMR Aston Martin. The latter then hit the Frenchman hard who went off kissing the wall but got it all together and came out of the second corner leading the pack! The extractor was badly damaged in the incident but the car held on and Makowiecki took the chequered flag with thirteen seconds in hand over his nearest pursuer.
On Sunday afternoon, Makowiecki took full advantage of his pole position and opened up a comfortable gap. The HEXIS AMR pit staff did its usual fantastic job during the tyre change and Clairay had a good lead when he rejoined. Half-an- hour later he won the race over thirteen seconds in front of the quickest of the Matech Ford GTs. "We won in style and proved that our podium finish in Navarra wasn't a fluke. The season could hardly have ended on a higher note. Since I joined the team we've only been able to do a single day's testing, and that was on a wet track! We had to give 110% as the overall level of driving is very high in this championship."
Clairay is now going to work on a project for 2011 that will be in keeping with his results and his talent.
-source: yann clairay