11 April, 2010
The “8 Heures du Castellet” has reached the halfway mark and the racing is fast and furious at Paul Ricard. The pace being set in the GT2 class is turning this into an eight-hour sprint race.
Andrew Kirkaldy and Pierre Kaffer both had good starts; Kirkaldy moving up from third to second and Kaffer up to fifth from his seventh place on the grid. There was much shuffling of the pack during the opening laps. Kirkaldy found himself being passed by his old CRS team-mate Rob Bell at one point but he soon re-took the position. As the race settled down the top of the GT2 class was very tight and it was Kirkaldy and Kaffer who were scrapping over third place.
Just after the one-hour mark both drivers came in to hand over to Tim Mullen and Phil Quaife and immediately had an animated discussion about their on-track battle!
“The racing here is absolutely brilliant!” said Kirkaldy. “We were going three abreast into some of the corners and it doesn’t get much tighter than that. We have a slight problem with the gear change as the return spring has broken on the gear lever so you have to be incredibly precise when you select gears. I was hit twice by prototypes but other than that the car is great and it is a lot of fun out there.”
“The car feels perfect,” agreed Kaffer. “I had a really good start; the car was consistent and I could catch the guys at the front quite easily. The championship is very close and it was exciting to drive. Andrew and I had a great battle, passing each other three or four times. This is exactly as it should be, putting on a great show for the spectators.”
As the race approached the two-hour mark Tim Mullen was locked into a battle with! the Ferrari of Toni Vilander for third place and Phil Quaife was running in sixth in the No.90 CRS Ferrari.
“It took me a while to get into my groove,” said Quaife once he had pitted to hand over to Pierre Ehret. “I was getting used to running with prototypes and maybe I was over-thinking it. It’s good to get the first stint out of the way and I think the next one will be much better. The car is running well; we have a bit of understeer but we have had that all weekend.”
Kirkaldy’s second stint provided the team with a great deal of entertainment as he soon found himself fighting ex-F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella for third place. The pair swopped places five or six times and it was the Scot who came out on top.
“Fisichella definitely had me on straight line speed but I think I had the upper hand through the corners,” he said. “This meant we were just switching! places all the time. He made a mistake in the end though so I made a break for it!”
Four hours down, four hours to go and the first Le Mans Series race of the year shows no signs of slowing down. And Phil Quaife was quite right: his second stint is much better!