Fourth at Oschersleben
Sunday 21st June 2009
Chris Niarchos took his second Citation Cup victory of 2009 today with a fourth place finish in the FIA GT race at Oschersleben. The No.56 Ferrari of Andrew Kirkaldy and Rob Bell had to settle for sixth place after struggling with visibility problems for much of the race.
Tim Mullen started the two-hour race in the No.55 Ferrari from sixth place on the grid, with Rob Bell ahead in No.56 in fourth. Both CRS Ferraris got away well, with Bell running third and Mullen fourth during the opening laps. The race started in dry, humid conditions, but after just 30 minutes the first drops of rain began to fall and the temperature began to drop. At the 45-minute mark the rain was getting heavier and the track was getting more slippery so, as the pit stops approached, the teams kept a close eye on the skies to see if it was going to be time to switch to wet tyres.
A few minutes later the track was fully wet and Tim Mullen pitted to hand over No.55 to Chris Niarchos. The pit stop went smoothly and Niarchos headed out to join what was becoming a very tricky race. Rob Bell then came in to hand the wheel of No.56 to Kirkaldy, who immediately radioed in to say he couldn’t see a thing!
During the pit stop Kirkaldy’s windscreen steamed up and it wouldn’t clear so all he could see was fog. He was running in second place at this point so it was a tough call for him to come in and have his windscreen cleared. He rejoined the race in sixth place, happy that he could see the track again!
“The windscreen steamed up during the stop,” said Kirkaldy. “I seriously couldn’t see a thing and I went off a few times as I couldn’t see the corners. It got so bad that it was hard to even see the team when I came into the pits. It really is a shame as we were on for second place today but there’s not much you can do if you can’t see where you’re going!”
The windscreen had actually been damaged which had broken the heating membrane so the problem returned.
In the meantime Chris Niarchos was on a charge in second place but as the conditions began to deteriorate further he suffered a spin but recovered quickly and rejoined in fifth, reporting in that the track was like a ‘skating rink”.
With less than half an hour to go Niarchos handed over to Tim Mullen who brought No.55 home in fourth place. By this time Rob Bell was out in No.56 again and suffering with the same visibility problems as Kirkaldy. Rob also had a spin but by this time most of the grid had been off the track as the conditions were so bad. He finished the race in sixth place.
Niarchos was pleased with his Citation Cup win, but disappointed to miss out on a podium finish.
“We were up for second today but my spin put paid to that as I lost a lot of time when I got in the gravel. I have to say that I relish these conditions as it gives me the opportunity to get closer to the times of the professional drivers. I think fourth place today is a great result considering the calibre of the competition we are up against.”