NIARCHOS AND MULLEN STEP UP AGAIN!
Dijon, France -- 3 September 2006: Chris Niarchos and Tim Mullen took the second consecutive second-placed finish for the no.63 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari at Dijon today in round six of the FIA GT Championship. Like Paul Ricard, this was another fast-paced race that ran to the 500km distance rather than the three hour time limit, showing that this isn't endurance racing any more but a series of very long sprints!
Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy's Championship hopes took a knock after the Scottish pair had to settle for sixth position after an incident at the start of the race. Kirkaldy continued the team's unbroken run of FIA GT pole positions on Saturday but lost out today when he was hit by Mika Salo in the no. 59 AF Corse Ferrari. Both cars pitted immediately but, although Salo was able to rejoin straight away, Kirkaldy lost time whilst repairs were made to his left rear wheel. The gap was ultimately too big to overcome but he and Kinch still attacked for the remainder of the race, setting some scorching times.
Chris Niarchos: "It's fantastic to get my best ever finish in an FIA GT race, especially as my stint was very tricky. As I drove out of the pitlane I pulled down on my right shoulder strap to tighten it. Unfortunately it was hooked onto my HANS device so it just pulled my head round to the left. Once that happened I couldn't see out the right hand side of my car and I couldn't get the pace that I really wanted to. I couldn't see anything other than in front of me, so I knew every time something was coming down my inside, if I turned right, what a nightmare I would crash into. Once the straps are tight it's hard to readjust them without undoing your belts completely so I had to leave it alone. It's my first year in FIA, my experience is getting better every race and it's all about trying to improve. Tim, as usual, did an amazingly professional job. For the team this is a great result to come away with and Michelin has been a great tyre for us and worked really well. For me, all I want to do is get faster and faster as the year goes by!"
Tim Mullen: "Second is a great result for me and Chris today and we're very pleased with that. The start of the race wasn't very good for me, we're running quite a hard tyre this weekend and they seemed to be a bit cold during the first lap, and there was a bit of mayhem that went along at the start. I lost a place to Emmanuel Collard and the Porsche is slow in the corners, but fast in the straight, so it was very difficult for me to get past for a long time. Chris did a good job, but had a little problem with his HANS device. When I got back in for the last stint, I was able to put in some good fast laps to get us back into second place, and basically kept the pace up, and gradually pulled away from Mika (Salo) and more or less cruised to the end to keep second."
Nathan Kinch: "The weekend was going great for us until Salo took Andrew off! It's disappointing but in a way I wasn't surprised it happened. It was a desperate move and I have to say you'd expect better from an ex-F1 driver. Anyway, my stint was all ok and I was able to put in some good times and try to bring the gap down. Our championship chances are slim now but never say never. Let's hope things go our way at Mugello!"
Andrew Kirkaldy: "I got boxed in a bit at the start by some GT1 cars then found myself having a bit of a tussle with Melo who got through into the lead. Then a few corners later Salo fired me off which lost me almost two laps. I got back out and managed to un-lap myself with Salo and we were on for fourth place but the damage to the wheel meant we had another long pit-stop which put us back too much."
Stewart Roden, Scuderia Ecosse Team Principal: "I'm delighted for Chris and Tim who both drove their socks off today and thoroughly deserve the podium finish. The incident with Salo at the start lost a lot of time for Andrew and Nathan; when Salo hit Andrew's rear wheel it damaged it which meant we had some long pit-stops for that car. It's a shame as Nathan was matching times with the AF Corse cars so we should have been on for another top result. It's going to be a bit of a struggle for the championship now for Nathan and Andrew but it's not over yet!"