Successful start

  10.09.2020 Sports & Leisure

Imola was the first stop of the rebranded championship GT World Challenge Europe for Karim Ojjeh, who spent a demanding but successful weekend on the race track.

The team decided to up its game this year by going Pro-Am, that is two bronze drivers and a pro. BMW has been a super support by sharing their pro line-up, amongst other things. Jens Klingmann was assigned to us, but due to a bike injury, he was replaced by Nicky Yelloly, who not only is a BMW works driver, but also Racing Point’s official sim driver.

We had a first one and half hour practice on Friday morning to get into the groove, testing our new ABS and suspension geometry on the car. It went according to plan. As it rained hard for the rest of the day, we stayed in the garage as the weather forecast was sunny for the next two days.

The race weekend officially started on Saturday morning with free practice, followed by pre-qualifying mid-day and qualifying in the latter part of the afternoon. We did not do a great job qualifying: overall 44 out of 47 and 10th in class! But we were confident for the race.

On Sunday morning, the team started “win the safety car prize” – for team members only. The aim of the game was to set the number of safety cars during the race. It was a success and we intend to do it at every race. Prize money is naturally involved.

The race started at 1.30pm. Gilles, an AM driver, took the start and did a great job. When he handed the car to Nick, our PRO diver, during a safety car after close to an hour into the race, we were 6th in class and 28th overall. Nick did an incredible job, leading our class (Pro-Am) at one point, until we had to serve a drivethrough penalty for exceeding Full Course Yellow (FCY). Drivers have 20 seconds to go down to 80 km/h when the FCY is announced. The general trend is to go full speed with 5 seconds left. Unfortunately, we missed it.

Upon handing the car to me, we were 2nd in class and 19th overall. All was going well until another FCY occurred, followed by a safety car. At the restart I was second in line with all the pros and cars behind me. I was instructed to keep my position, which I did until I was pushed out into a spin at the top of the chicane. I recovered and continued the race. Eventually we finished 6th and 27th overall.

I started the weekend wondering whether we had done the right move: would we be fast enough, did we have the right package? It turned out to be the best move. It is really tough, it shakes up your comfort zone, it is the best GT3 championship on the globe, you are battling with the best. However, the result proves that we belong here!



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