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October 28, 2018

Monza Mistakes and Mentoring

It’s always nice to race at a track after a Formula 1 event: shiny garages, freshly painted curbs and, in some cases, fresh tarmac. At Monza, David’s pit garage still had Haas F1 logos on the floor… Cool!

After a 2nd place at Silverstone and a 1st at Nurburgring, David was ready and focused on another podium finish in Monza with Rinaldi Racing and co-driver Rinat Salikov. David’s comment on practice:

Great! Really enjoyed driving around the track – I have no idea why drivers say it’s boring. Sure, there are only a few corners, but if you miss your braking point by just a couple of meters, you are slow. Few other tracks require such precision to be fast. Throw in the fact that I was racing in a Ferrari at the Cathedral of Speed… I absolutely love it!

A positive practice then, but qualifying and Race 1 didn’t go quite so well. The team struggled with gearbox issues in qualifying, resulting in a start from 18th. Salikov was fighting his way up the field, but the race ended for him and the team at Ascari, the final chicane on the track. Not the Russian’s fault – another driver decided the #333 was invisible, turned in, and took him out. Frustrating for the team and for David, who was looking forward to jumping in the car for the second stint to go after a top 3 finish in Pro-Am.

A better qualifying for Sunday, where David managed 7th on the grid, missing out on a top 3 start by just over 1/10th of a second. Says David:

I honestly can’t think of where I could have gone quicker on the lap, but you always want more and I was a bit irritated to not at least be in the top 5- especially since 5th place was only 0.04s ahead!

David’s opening stint was a strong one, with epic battles, a ton of overtaking, grass cutting and door banging. He handed the car over to Rinat while running first in class with a comfortable lead – all that was needed was to bring the car home. That simple task was rendered pretty much impossible after the team was handed a 10s penalty for a jump start. David puts his hand up tho that mistake, saying: “I was so shocked at the penalty because I lost places at the start – I couldn’t understand how I jumped anything!”. David’s protests to the stewards were to no avail, the decision was final.

Despite crossing the line in 1st, David and the team were classified 8th in class – that penalty cost a win and a top 5 finish.

Coaching a Champion

For David, there was still a Blancpain race to focus on next – this time as a coach, not a driver. His responsibility was to help his 2017 team mate, Stephen Earle, win the 2018 GT Sports Club Championship. Mid-season, he was a massive 25 points behind the leader, but through some brilliant driving had managed to close the gap to just 7 points going into the series’ final round.

In order for him to win the Championship, Stephen had to win both races, and he managed to do that in style with a pole position, two fastest laps and two race wins. David is happy to admit that there were moments during the weekend when he was more tense than his driver, but knew that Stephen is a pro who took the pressure in his stride. Making the achievement that much more impressive is the fact that Stephen is 67 years old!

The Final Race of the Season

David now heads to Barcelona for the final round of the GT Open Championship. The circuit is where David won the Blancpain Endurance Championship in 2017, so it’s a track he enjoys; but this year, he’s up against a tougher field in the GT Open Championship. Despite having lead a lot of GT Open races, he only has one podium to his name – something he desperately wants to change before the year is out. He’ll again be partnering Rinat, with the team undertaking a lot of testing to prepare.