Hard Fought Third For Gabbiani and GNM Saleen
After 6 long hours of hard fought racing, the Graham Nash Motorsport (GNM) Saleen of Gian Maria Gabbiani crossed the line taking a deserved 3rd in class in the opening round of the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES), at Monza, Italy today.
Joined by fellow Italian Ettore Bonaldi and Frenchman Michel Orts, the trio were especially relieved to see the chequered flag more than most, since their car suffered a number of dramas that could well have ended their day earlier.
"We qualified mid-field of the 40 starters, which was fine" Gabbiani commented. "The 3 of us were all new to the car and team, but we were optimistic that a sensible race pace and efficient pit stops would be the key to a finish".
The 25 year old Milanese driver added "We had relatively few problems until I took over the car for my 2nd stint, just over half way through the race. On my 'out' lap I noticed an intermittent oil pressure problem, and then something wrong with the clutch. We had to keep stopping to top up the oil until the end of the race, and we had a stop-and-go penalty for the clutch problem. Ettore went in after me and finished the race".
Somehow, the car held together and the GNM Team Saleen S7R crossed the finish line, behind class winners Larbre Competition (Ferrari 550LM) and Barron-Connor Racing (Ferrari 575LM).
Gabbiani was full of praise for his team after the event. "I want to say thanks to the guys, and to Graham (Nash) and Gordon (Davies) for their hard work and for giving me this opportunity. The car was nice to drive and I really don't know how we finished, but we did! For me the race was a landmark. It was my first Monza 1000kms and every Italian driver wants to do well here. My racing season will continue in NASCAR which is very important to me, but I hope again to race the Saleen before the season is out".
The race was won overall by Jamie Davies and Johnny Herbert in the Veloqx Audi R8 Prototype.