Spa 24: Scuderia Playteam race report

Scuderia Playteam SaraFree 5th and 18th at Spa Scuderia Playteam SaraFree finished in 5th (Bertolini/Piccini/Pier Guidi/De Simone) and 18th (Giannoccaro/Busnelli/Mueller/Lambert) at Spa for their first 24hours endurance race after a number ...

Scuderia Playteam SaraFree 5th and 18th at Spa

Scuderia Playteam SaraFree finished in 5th (Bertolini/Piccini/Pier Guidi/De Simone) and 18th (Giannoccaro/Busnelli/Mueller/Lambert) at Spa for their first 24hours endurance race after a number of unpredictable race incidents. It was a long and positive weekend of racing for Scuderia Playteam SaraFree's two Maserati MC12s at Spa in Belgium.

The weekend began with two practice sessions. Car 11 finished fastest in the first session while car 12 was seventh. In the second session, the cars had a difficult time fine tuning the brakes and negotiating a lot of traffic. Car 11 finished an encouraging fifth fastest while car 12 did not complete as many laps as intended, instead spending time in the garage fine tuning ahead of qualifying.

Cars 11 and 12 qualified fourth and ninth respectively despite heavy traffic. As everyone expected, the track was slower at night and the team could not improve its times.

Finally, the team decided to use the  third and final morning
qualifiying session as  a warm-up and finalized preparations.

The team had a good start with Andrea Bertolini maintaining fourth place in car 11 while Max Busnelli was 12th after the first nine laps. That's where his luck ran out and car 12 was hit from behind in turn 7. Busnelli recovered to the pits where the team repaired the damage and 16 laps later resumed with Giambattista Giannoccaro at the wheel. Just before the night fell, around 21.15, the Maserati MC12 nr 11 with Fabrizio de Simone at the wheel was leading the race.

After the driver change Andrea Bertolini was at the wheel of car 11 and running a strong second place after six hours of racing. Bertolini took the lead after the pole-sitting Aston Martin DBR9 encountered a problem and stop. Further down the field Busnelli had recovered to 19th overall in car 12.

Car 11 stopped at 23.24 and Alessandro Pier Guidi took over the wheel as the team relinquished the lead. Pier Guidi resumed in a strong second place.

Bertolini commented at the time: "Everything is going well and we are running very competitively while avoiding unnecessary risks."

But suddenly things got complicated and then at 04h34am it was the turning point in the race for car 11: the rear lights went when Piccini was at the wheel and the team was forced to pit to fix the electrical problem. The team had to change the whole system which cost time and positions. Car 11 resumed the race in fifth behind the safety car, which had been deployed because of the dangerous conditions created by persistently heavy rain. Meanwhile, the Maserati MC12, nr 12 had recovered from its earlier drama to 17th.

Unfortunately Giambattista Giannoccaro could not bring the car to the finish of the race as the car was hit from behind by the Corvette number 3 (Gregory Franchi). His car went off straight in the wall of tires at the top of the Raidillon at turn 3 in the last minutes of the race.

"Luckily, I was not hurt in the accident. But a shame that I could not see the chequered flag for my first 24 Hours endurance race and that this Corvette hit me from behind on the left rear angle. Nothing I could do to keep the car on the track."

"Nevertheless, the Shell lubricated engine ran smoothly and faultlessly throughout the weekend and the Pirelli tyres proved perfect for all conditions. Car 11 put in a spectacular race and the 40-man crew did an amazing job. It's unfortunate that we lost so much time with the electrical problem," commented team owner Giambattista Giannocaro.

He continued: "As for car 12, we probably suffered from our inexperience and committed a few driving errors in the persistent rain. I did not think that our first long distance endurance race could be so wet! In any case, it was a good learning experience and well done to everyone in the team for a superb effort all weekend."

In any case, I am pleased for the team that we score important points for the championship. A great thank to our fans and sponsors for following us during 24 hours despite the wet conditions. Congratulations to the team members for working under these very difficult working conditions and compliments to the drivers for being so competitive."

-credit: sps

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Series Endurance , Blancpain Sprint