Fer­raris to the fore as Bri­tish ace Bird and Rigon strike first in GT Pro fight

Motor Sport News - - Fia Wec: Silverstone - Photos: Jakob Ebrey/ LAT

Such was the dom­i­nance of AF Corse and the Fer­rari F488 Italia in GTE that it was al­ways go­ing to boil down to a bat­tle be­tween its two cars in the Pro class. Un­for­tu­nately, that fight was de­cided in favour of the #71 car driven by Sam Bird and Da­vide Rigon the mo­ment a warn­ing alarm sounded in the sis­ter #51 ma­chine with Gian­maria Bruni at the wheel dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing.

Not only did that con­demn the Fer­rari to the back of the grid be­cause Bruni was un­able to com­plete the re­quired lap to go with the rapid one James Cal­ado had al­ready posted, but it also sig­nalled an en­gine prob­lem that forced an overnight change and, as a con­se­quence, a three-minute stop/ go penalty to be served early in the race.

So while Bird as­sumed the lead early from pole, build­ing up a com­fort­able ad­van­tage over the Dempsey-pro­ton Porsche of Richard Li­etz, Bruni was al­ready play­ing catch-up fol­low­ing the en­forced and lengthy stop. Bird built up his lead dur­ing his dou­ble stint and when Li­etz slowed with bro­ken fron­tright sus­pen­sion shortly be­fore the sec­ond round of stops it was ef­fec­tively all over. The win­ning Fer­rari ended up lead­ing ev­ery sin­gle lap of the race.

“Yes and no,” said Bird of whether the race sit­u­a­tion made the vic­tory eas­ier. “We weren’t hang­ing around and were still do­ing the best job we could pos­si­bly do. It’s my first race back with Fer­rari and every­body ex­e­cuted every­thing bril­liantly.

“We were a bit for­tu­nate that the Porsche DNF’D oth­er­wise they would have been more of a threat. They were within half-a-minute early in the race and if you are within that you are in the game.”

Team-mate Rigon closed out the race with a marathon stint to take the fin­ish over a lap clear of the car Bruni shared with Cal­ado. The #51 Fer­rari took un­til the fi­nal hour to climb to sec­ond ahead of the As­ton Martin of Dar­ren Turner, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen and the two Ford GTS.

To un­der­line the team’s dom­i­nance, Em­manuel Col­lard, Fran­cois Per­rodo and Rui Aguas claimed GTE Am vic­tory for AF Corse. That wasn’t the only thing that echoed the Pro class, for its near­est chal­lenger was also a Pro­ton-run Porsche that suf­fered a sus­pen­sion prob­lem, although it wasn’t un­til the fi­nal hour that Wolf Henzler slowed with the fail­ure.

Bri­ton Bird helped Fer­rari to GT vic­tory

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.