His previous outings at Suzuka and Silverstone have been a mix of fortunes, so David was hoping for a bit less drama heading into the final Blancpain Sprint Series event, held at the infamous Nurburgring. There would at least be some stability – David was once again driving the Rinaldi Racing #333 Ferrari along with Rinat Salikov, the same team and co-driver as at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
But smooth sailing, it wasn’t. The trouble started with lost luggage – not a good omen. Things seemed to be on the up after a good practice, but qualifying was, as David puts it, “a disaster”. An electronics issue with the #333 caused a gear change fault, and to add salt to the wounds, the team was dropped to the back of the grid because an engineer was working on the car during the qualifying session, which is not allowed in the Blancpain GT Series.
Heading into Race 1 squarely on the back foot, Salikov took the first stint, but had an incident with the leader of the the Pro-Am class, taking the #333 out of the race.
Sunday began with no less drama, although this time it had nothing to do with David or the team: a championship challenging Lamborghini was disqualified from the entire event for a series of infractions by one of their drivers, which added to the day’s tension as the teams waited for the late afternoon start.
Starting last is never easy, but always one to be as prepared as possible, David had practiced this scenario on the simulator. It gave him a good idea of where he needed to going into turn one, and the sequence of lines needed to maximise the first sector. All he needed was a bit of luck – something that was seemingly in short supply.
As the lights went out, a small gap opened up going into turn one – David dived in and triggered the sequence he’d worked out in the simulator: inside T1, outside T2, outside T3, inside T4. It paid off massively, with David making up 9 positions by the start of lap two, and with the Pro-Am leaders in sight.
David credits Rinat’s brilliance in the driver change sequence for helping the team jump the leaders, with the #333 grabbing the lead out of the pits; they held on until the chequered flag, finishing 1st in class and 10th overall – David’s first win as a Pro-Am driver in the Blancpain Sprint Series.
Thanks again to everyone who supported us over the weekend, and to Rinaldi Racing for a brilliant car that was good enough for a top 10 finish. Now I turn my focus to Monza, where we will be taking part in the second last round of the GT Open Championship.
– David Perel