Monza: Charlie Kimball race report

Points for Kimball on World Series by Renault Debut Charlie Kimball opened his 2007 World Series by Renault racing season this past weekend April 13-15, 2007 at the ultra-fast Autodromo di Monza in Italy. Kimball was 7th in Friday's free...

Points for Kimball on World Series by Renault Debut

Charlie Kimball opened his 2007 World Series by Renault racing season this past weekend April 13-15, 2007 at the ultra-fast Autodromo di Monza in Italy. Kimball was 7th in Friday's free practice session and qualified 14th for Race one on Saturday. Unfortunately, the American retired from 10th place after contact from another car resulted in a flat tire and suspension damage. Due to new rules in the World Series for 2007, Kimball started Sunday's second race based on his result from Saturday, meaning a starting position of 24th. After nearly stalling at the start and dropping back to last, Kimball took advantage of all 24 laps in the race to scythe his way through the field to finish in 8th place and score 3 championship points.

Due to the unique circuit characteristics of Monza, the 22-year old American used Thursday's open testing sessions to acclimate himself to a low-downforce set up on the 425 horsepower single-seater racing car. Reaching speeds of up to 180 mph (290 kph), the ability to maximize the carbon brakes is critical to a fast lap time. Kimball and the Victory Engineering team used this valuable testing time to tweak the car set-up and adjust the brake balance, resulting in Kimball posting the 7th fastest time in the final testing session. However, one of Kimball's new tire runs was cut short when, at 165 mph (265kph) his left rear Michelin blew out. The failure could have been catastrophic but because he was on the main straight with plenty of run-off area, the car sustained only minor bodywork damage.

Every single session in the World Series by Renault is competitive and qualifying was no different -- the entire 30 car field was covered by less than 2 seconds. In an attempt to minimize traffic, the 30 cars were split into two groups with a 20-minute session per group. The faster of the two groups would start on the odd numbered starting positions while the slower group would start down the even lane. Kimball had made small changes to the Renault powered Dallara for Saturday morning's qualifying session however these changes did not allow him to optimize his speed on the straights. As a result he could only manage a lap time good enough for 7th in his group (the slower of the two groups) and would start in 14th place. His lap time was only .5 from the quickest and a mere .1 of a second from the fourth place time.

Kimball spoke after qualifying, "It's too bad I couldn't get that one-tenth more. I am pleased that I more competitive than I have been in winter testing, but I know that being in the top 10 was definitely possible. However it will be a long race and now I can go racing, what I love!"

At the start of Race one, Kimball made an impressive start and moved up from 14th to 10th in the first few laps, passing both veteran and rookie drivers. On the restart after a safety car period, as Clivio Piccone went cart wheeling through the first chicane, Julien Jousse missed his braking point and collided with Kimball, the impact bent the suspension and punctured the American's right rear tire. Kimball was able to limp back to the pits however the suspension was irreparable and he was unable to rejoin the race.

"It's a shame that I was unable to take advantage of all the laps on offer in this race today. Julien Jousse, hit my right rear suspension heavily enough to bend it and propel me into Alvaro Barba, eliminating both of us from the race. The ironic thing is that Jousse continued with just a damaged nose," rued Kimball. "At least you can pass here at Monza, and I plan on doing a lot of that in Race 2."

Kimball was able to do just that in Race 2 as he overcame a near stall on the start to storm through to an impressive 8th place finish. The slow start meant Kimball entered the first chicane in 30th position however he quickly made up ground, passing cars at a rate of up to four cars a lap! 5 laps from the end of the race, the young Californian had moved into the points. His next target was previous World Series race winner Ben Hanley and although the pass began at the Ascari chicane, Kimball completed the move four corners after the initial set-up. Although Kimball finished 9th on the track, he was later promoted to 8th after teammate Giedo van der Garde was penalized for cutting a chicane. Kimball's finishing position earns him 3 Championship points and currently places him 11th in the driver's championship.

"The race was incredibly fun!" Kimball said. "I made a small mistake on the start with the hand clutch and dropped to last, but pretty soon I was passing people like it was going out of style. When I finally got into clear track for the last few laps, my lap times were very competitive, a good sign for the next race."

Kimball and his Victory Engineering squad will now head to the French circuit of Magny-Cours for two days of testing. The next race meeting will be at the Nurburgring in the Eiffel Mountains of Germany, May 5-6.

-credit: www.CharlieKimball.com.

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About this article
Series Formula V8 3.5
Drivers Charlie Kimball , Giedo van der Garde , Julien Jousse , Ben Hanley