Spa: Team Modena race report
Pit-Lane to Victory for Team Modena at Spa! This terrific result means that Team Modena is believed to be the only team in the history of the Le Mans Series to win in both GT1 and GT2 categories of the Championship. Team Modena took a superb win ...
Pit-Lane to Victory for Team Modena at Spa!
This terrific result means that Team Modena is believed to be the only team in the history of the Le Mans Series to win in both GT1 and GT2 categories of the Championship.
Team Modena took a superb win in the LM GT2 category of the Spa 1000km race today, round two of the Le Mans Series, driving through the entire GT2 field after starting the race from the pit-lane. In second place at the end of the race, the team only learnt late on Sunday night that the leading car had been excluded for a technical infringement after the race - handing Team Modena the win in only their second race in the category.
It was a superb effort from the team - their car being damaged just ten days before the meeting and after repair work only arriving at the Belgian circuit on Friday morning - and the driver line-up of Antonio Garcia, Leo Mansell and new recruit Jaime Melo ably rewarded the squad for their efforts in preparing the Ferrari for the race.
"We didn't even expect to be here ten days ago," said Team Principal Graham Schultz. "I would have settled for third at any point in that time, but the win is superb. The Ferrari is a good strong car, we have a good team, and it was a good effort all round to get this result."
The team showed the pace of not only their Ferrari 430 GT but also of new recruit Jamie in Saturday's qualifying, setting a time third quickest in the LM GT2 class and quickest of the nine Ferraris in the category. In a 20-minute session punctuated by a red-flag incident, Jamie went third quickest on his first flying lap and improved his time, but not his position on his final quick lap.
"The laps could have been better," said Jaime as he stepped out the car after qualifying, "we missed second practice with a problem, but I am really happy. Third is good, and we still have some improvement and changes to make the car even better for the race. I was second in the queue after the red-flag, we were a little bit lucky but that is how it works in racing sometimes."
Jaime was in the car at the start for Sunday's race under dazzling Spa sunshine, and after being forced to start from the pit-lane put in a storming opening stint, passing four GT2 cars on his first racing lap after the race immediately went into a Safety Car period for a first lap incident. By lap five Jaime had gone from 14th to fifth in class, but then another Safety Car period just as he had been passed by the race leader lost the Team Modena Ferrari vital track position.
Jaime held fifth until his first pit-stop on lap 27, setting the quickest lap in the race so far for a GT2 car as he pushed hard to make up for lost ground. He stayed in the car on the stop, which was for fuel only, and the rapid stop paid off as the team leapt back onto the GT2 lead lap and into fourth in class. Midway through his second stint Jaime was forced to pit with a rear puncture, and he handed the 430 GT over to Leo.
"We started from the pit lane and the strategy was to try to catch up and overtake as many cars as I could," said Jaime after his opening stints. "It was going well, then the Safety Car came out just two corners after the leader had overtaken me, and we lost ground on the rest. The tyres were good, but then I had a puncture on the right rear and had to stop."
A high-speed incident for a prototype saw Leo circulating for much of his stint in the queue of cars bottled up behind the Safety Car, and unable to improve his position. Just after being waved by the Safety Car, the team called Leo in for a fuel and tyres stop and Jaime again took over the driving duties. Two laps after the stop, racing finally resumed, the Team Modena Ferrari sixth in class, immediately gaining a place as the class leader punctured.
Jaime was on scintillating pace once racing resumed, unlapping himself from the class leader and gaining places. On lap 76 he moved into third, and was closing on the car ahead when yet another Safety Car period punctuated the race. The team left Jaime out long enough to get waved by the Safety Car, before calling him in to hand the car over to Antonio on lap 86.
"The car was really good," said Jaime, "more balanced than before, so I could be quick and consistent. I just tried to push the maximum I can and we gained some time in traffic."
Antonio slotted back into third once the field was back racing again, with the top three in LM GT2 lapping quickly and now clear of the rest of the field. When the leader suffered a puncture Antonio was up to second, and pitted from the lead on the team's final stop for fuel. With the tyres on their second stint the pace of the leader was too much, but Antonio brought the Ferrari home and 22nd overall for the team's first LM GT2 category podium (later to be their first win) and a superb result after the dramas of the last ten days.
"It is a brilliant result for the team after the week we have had," said Leo, "the guys have worked so hard and done a great job."
"We had limited running in dry conditions before the race," said Antonio, "but the team gave us a really good car and Jaime did a really good job at the beginning. Everything went well for us and we had good Safety Cars and bad Safety Cars - it is a good result, the competition is really tight."
"We almost drove through the entire GT2 field," said Sporting Director Rik Bryan, "but had to settle for second place on the track. After some of the trials and tribulations we have been through second is a great result, sadly we weren't able to quite challenge the Porsche on the track at the end. Given all the issues we have faced, the team have done an incredible job. It's fantastic to win and be the quickest Ferrari in just our second race with the car."