PODIUM FOR SUGDEN IN SOUTH OF FRANCE The 5th round of the FIA GT Championship on Sunday was held at the Paul Ricard circuit near Nice in the South of France and yielded Tim Sugden an excellent 3rd place in a race where tyre choice played a vital...
PODIUM FOR SUGDEN IN SOUTH OF FRANCE
The 5th round of the FIA GT Championship on Sunday was held at the Paul Ricard circuit near Nice in the South of France and yielded Tim Sugden an excellent 3rd place in a race where tyre choice played a vital part even though the event was run in sunny conditions.
Tim was partnered as usual by Swiss driver Iradj Alexander in the JMB- GruppeM Ferrari F430 GT2 and the car finished the best of the Pirelli shod runners beating the works backed AF Corse F430 cars of ex Grand Prix drivers Mika Salo and Jamie Melo who were partnered respectively by Rui Aguas and former GT world champion Matteo Bobbi. The first two places were taken by the Michelin shod Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari F430 cars of Kirkaldy/Kinch and Mullen/Franchitti.
In the first hour of the race Tim had an enthralling battle with Jamie Melo during which third position changing 5 times in the first 17 laps before Tim was able pull out a lead over the official Ferrari development driver.
Slick pit work by the JMB crew enabled Alexander to gain time and his pace in the middle stint enabled him to hand the car back to Sugden in a secure third place just 9 seconds down on the Scuderia Ecosse cars. Pit work again played a part then as the two lead cars were able to avoid changing tyres at their final pit stop and so gained 30 seconds track time, securing a 1 - 2 finish
This is the first time that the FIA championship has visited the Paul Ricard circuit and practice had shown that tyre wear would be a problem on the abrasive surface of the former GP circuit. Sugden had qualified fourth and knew that a tyre change would be required at each stop whereas the Michelin runners were able double stint their tyres and so make just one tyre change in the race against two for the others, gaining them the time at the last stop. In the warm up Sugden posted the quickest time and so felt they had developed a good race set up.
The result lifts Sugden and Alexander to joint 5th in the championship table making up some of the ground lost when they failed to finish the last event in the FIA series at Spa Francorchamps. They share the place with Collard and Riccitelli who finished 8th on Sunday in the works backed Porsche 996.
The next event is the 1000km Le Mans Endurance Series race on Sunday the 27th August at Donington Park in Derbyshire where Sugden will drive the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari F430, currently 3rd in that championship.