Portimao: Matech Competition qualifying report

Returning to the sunshine, Matech Competition is at the circuit of Portimão, for Round 7 of the FIA GT1 World Championship. After an encouraging free practice with p-4 for Matech Ford GT1 n°6 and P-6 for Matech Ford GT1 n°5, the...

Returning to the sunshine, Matech Competition is at the circuit of Portimão, for Round 7 of the FIA GT1 World Championship.

After an encouraging free practice with p-4 for Matech Ford GT1 n°6 and P-6 for Matech Ford GT1 n°5, the pre-qualifying session was even more successful thanks to the pole position of car n°5 driven by Richard Westbrook. Car n°6 finished in p13.

Since pre-qualifying was so good Thomas Mutsch was expecting better than a 22nd position during the qualifying on Saturday morning, but a problem with an anti-roll meant that 22nd was the best that was possible. Nicolas Prost finished Q1 in p-17, mainly due to a locking wheel problem whenever the brakes were used.

Marc VDS Racing, in Ford n°40, took the 2nd position during the qualifying but was subsequently relegated to the last position on the grid after a scrutineering check. So, Matech Ford GT1 n°5 and n°6 took the start from 21nd and 16th place for the qualifying race.

Driving n°5, Richard Westbrook started a meteoric rise from 21st on the grid, reaching 13th on lap 9! Neel Jani with car n°6 was 20th after 6 laps but then started to overtake many cars at this time. By lap 10, he was up to 15th.

On lap 13, four cars were abreast along the starting line, two of them were the Matech Ford GT1 n°5 and 6 ! Richard Westbrook overtook so many cars that when he pitted for the driver change, he was up to 9th.

For a few minutes, car n°5 and 6 were temporary first and second: the strategy was to do a late driver change and make sure it was the quickest.

Thomas Mutsch, with car n°5, came out of the pit just a few seconds before the pit window closed, and continued to overtake and race with very good lap times. Nicolas Prost was not so lucky as came out with cold tires in p-12 and 4 cars overtook him during a battle. Then, when the tires were up to temperature, he had to come back to the pit just a few minutes later because of an engine problem. Ten minutes before the race finished, he came out of the box but had to return one lap later. He finished the race in p20. Thomas Mutsch crossed the finish line in p5, a huge achievement coming from p-21 !

For the Championship Race, Matech Ford GT1 n°5 will start from the 5th position, and Matech Ford GT1 n°6 from the 20th.

The race is scheduled at 15:30 (local time GMT) on Sunday September 19th.

Ford GT1 Matech n°5

Thomas Mutsch : "This morning the front anti roll bar had a problem and that's why we were only p22 after qualifying. First you always think it's your fault because the car was somehow okay but not too bad and we were 22nd instead of the top 10. At the start of the race Richard made an amazing job and gave me the car in p9, and I could continue to overtake other cars. The car was absolutely perfect and especially for the distance. At the end, the other cars were wearing their tires more than us so it was really good. I'm very happy to come from p22 and getting 5th without any safety car. It shows our very good performance and I'm really looking forward for tomorrow."

Richard Westbrook : "It's a fantastic result to come 5th starting from 21st. We shouldn't have started in 21st position because the car is working very well and we proved that in the race. We fight very hard, we were very motivated and it was a lot of fun in the race and I overtook a lot of cars. I gave the car to Thomas and his stint was super, he was able to overstake some cars and the result is just what the team deserve."

Ford GT1 Matech n°6

Neel Jani : "It was the biggest fighting race I had in my life I think! I overtook so many cars I can't even count anymore! Richard and I were just together to overtake and at the end we were 1 and 2 coming from nearly last so it was really fun and the car was going very well. Unfortunately after the driver change, we lost power in the car, some problem with the engine and we could not finish which is a real shame because our team mates finished 5th and we came into the pit we were just 2 seconds behind them and both car could have been in Top 6 or 7. We had a very bad qualifying and during the race the car was going well so we hope something good for tomorrow."

Nicolas Prost : "We realise that we are not good in qualifying but thanks to the race performance, we see that the car doesn't damage its tyres so much. So we don't have to worry because of our bad performance of this morning because we don't damage tyres and keep the good performance for the race. This is a pity because without the engine problem, we could be in Top 7 or 8".

-source: matech-competition

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Neel Jani , Richard Westbrook , Nicolas Prost , Thomas Mutsch
Teams Marc VDS Racing