A strange weekend under typical British climatic conditions; this is probably the best way to describe the season's opening round of the FIA GT championship 2008. Rain, fog, a chilling wind .we experienced it all. Jos Menten and Andrea Piccini...
A strange weekend under typical British climatic conditions; this is probably the best way to describe the season's opening round of the FIA GT championship 2008. Rain, fog, a chilling wind .we experienced it all. Jos Menten and Andrea Piccini took it easy during the free practice sessions seeing neither of these drivers had any previous experience with the Saleen S7-R of RBImmo Racing. The Austrian team, managed by Franz Konrad, were running on Pirelli tyres as also the same make car of PK Carsport.
"We're having trouble getting our tyres up to the right temperature. In addition we also need to substantially rework the set-up", was the message coming from the RBImmo Racing pitbox. "The car is lacking grip and that can be costly. Similar to the other Saleens we're also lacking top speed. On the straight the difference amounts to some 10 km/h, resulting in not really being very competitive", Jos Menten told us. The Dutch-Italian duo finished off the free practice session in fourteenth place.
New for 2008 is the 'pre-qualifying'; a 'free practice' during which both drivers must complete at least three laps. Varying weather conditions and a drying track are the battle scene for this session. By the end of this 80 minutes long session the track was fully dry and the same times as those clocked during the free practice were achieved: "But we still cannot get any real heat into our tyres .", Menten commented.
At 17.00hrs it is time to get down to real work. As per usual the GT2-cars are the first to work off their qualifying session, followed by a five minutes pause, after which the GT1 drivers take to the track. The GT2s are in luck, as they are able to qualify on an almost dry track. Just as the flag dropped on the GT2 power beasts the heavens opened. Tough for the GT1- runners, as they were forced to qualify on a rain soaked track. This resulted in a surprising starting grid: "I got the most out of this package. All GT1-Saleens are far up the field, but I was able to keep the newer PK Carsport version behind me. That really pleases me", the 27 year old Dutchman remarks. The RBImmo Saleen will start from the eleventh row on Sunday at 12.00hrs..
Sunday morning kicks off with the traditional 30 minutes warm-up session. Unfortunately this doesn't go to plan for Menten and Piccini: "The wheel bolt wasn't fully tightened, whereby Andrea lost his left front wheel. We lost fifteen valuable minutes through this. We're now already fully aware that we won't be battling for the prizes but we do want to bring the Saleen through to the finish with a decent result."
The high humidity and the low temperatures won't allow the track to dry out. Almost all teams opt for rain tyres. A catch-up race is on the books. The driver from Haelen finally manages to climb up into tenth place prior to handing over to team-mate Piccini: "It went well, up until the track started to dry out. It was difficult to clock up good times with my rain tyres. When Andrea went out with new tyres the difference became even bigger."
The RBImmo Saleen finally took the flag in thirteenth place: "Not a single Saleen was in a position to fight it out for a decent result. We finished as second best placed Saleen and in addition as the best Pirelli shod Saleen. Hopefully things will turn out better in Monza, even though I'm still worried about the lack of top speed", Menten commented as he looked back on his first race with RBImmo.
-credit: jos menten