So How Was Your Season, Paolo Ruberti?

I began my season with Franz Konrad's team after his call to me, and I signed for a full season of ALMS, starting at Sebring. This was my first race in the USA. We didn't test before the race and we arrived on track one day later than everyone else, because of a problem in the customs concerning something in the documents of the team. I was to drive with Fabio Babini and Jamie Davies in the Saleen S7R (very good line up) but from the beginning we had problems in the engine and in particular the mapping. We lost a lot of time in the box and we did very few laps in the car before the race. Babini started the race behind the factory cars (Corvette, Aston) and he did his job, after that I jumped into the car for the second stint and I did a good stint matching the times of my team mate, although this was my first time at Sebring, with few laps in practice.

Later Jamie jumped in the car but we had a problem in the gearbox and the team decided to retire the car. I was not happy because the race and fans are fantastic.....however I was pleased with my performance as I was the quickest driver in our car.

I came back to Europe for the first race of the Italian GT championship with the brand new Edil-Cris team, who also asked me to do the International Open GT with the Ferrari 360 GTC (team mate Matteo Cressoni) in GT2 and later with the new Ferrari F430GT. The first race of Italian GTs was just for practice, for the team. With out testing I did the best lap in the free practice, quicker than three new F430GTs and I lost the pole position (I was second) by less than one tenth. In the race we had a problem with the accelerator and we finished the race three laps behind.

One week later we began with the new Open GT championship and immediately there were nearly 30 cars entered. I did the second best lap in qualifying and in race 1, in the wet, fifth was our result, but it went better in race 2 where we were first until a strange 'stop and go' because my team mate (Cressoni) had a collision with a car that was two laps down!

I then returned to the USA for the second race of ALMS in Houston....My team mate was Tom Weickardt, joined by Franz Konrad...also in this race there were problems with the engine but I did a good qualifying session, only one second off the factory cars (which wasn't bad for an old Saleen!) and in the race I was ran very close to the others in our class, until a low oil pressure light forced me to retire....This was my last race in the ALMS, because Konrad was forced to finish the programme owing to lack of finance. Franz and I have a good relationship. He tried hard with the Saleen on only a small budget. We are keeping in touch for next year.

Still, disappointed for this ALMS race, I had to focus all my forces on the Edil-Cris Racing team to give them their first pole position and the first race win. They did not have to wait long! At Magny-Cours myself and Cressoni, my team mate for the second race of the International Open GT, were still with the old F360. I set the pole, 1.5 seconds better than Bartyan (F430) and two seconds faster than Mowlem (996GT3), respectively second and third on the grid. In race 1 we finished third (unfortunately my team mate lost our lead), and in race 2 we had the first victory of the season for me, and in the short history of the team. It was great to win, especially in the old car over the new ones. I proved it could still be done!

The third race of the Open GT was at Estoril, with the debut for us with our new Edil-Cris F430 GT2. My team mate for this event was my friend Matteo Bobbi. I set the pole, 0.5 better than Pierguidi with his F430GT2. In the first race we led until three laps from the end when Bobbi came into the box, reporting a problem with the tyres and we lost a sure win....(we finished P7)....

In race 2 Matteo started, and I did the second stint. We won the race without problem but I was not really happy with the race ....Again though, on reflection it was great to win, and for Edil-Cris they were so pleased with their new investment!

The fourth race was in Istanbul after the summer, where we finished second twice (with new team mate Raffaele Giammaria) behind the Mosler that was running with a big air restrictor - after a change of rules from the organizer of the championship!!!....but in race 1 we had a penalty because one of our mechanics worked on the car to remove a piece of the Mosler from my rear end...We lost the lead because of this.

Before the last two races I was behind the first two in the classification by only a few points, and sure to do my best but in Valencia we had no luck at all. I qualified the car third but with 45 seconds of penalty (with the series rules) we finished fifth in race 1, and we retired in race 2 with a problem with the driveshaft. This problem caused a big loss of points.

After this race the team decided to go to Adria for the FIA GT, their home race. We raced with the Michelin tyres (in Euro GT we use Dunlop) which gave us a big help for the performance....I qualified P3, less than one tenth from the second position of Jaime Melo. At the start I was immediatley P2 behind Ecosse driver Andrew Kirkaldy...he was pushing too much and after 30 minutes he crashed just ahead of me, the car went heavily into the tyres. Then my team made a mistake because of their inexperience: they didn't call me to the box to do a splash during the safety car, and this cost a splash at the end that cost us a sure victory. It's a shame because Raffaele and I led the race for lots of laps.......

The last race for us was Barcelona for the Open GT with 63 cars on track. I started again from the Pole position to try to win the championship, with less possibility than the other drivers who were close, because the difference of the points was too much. Unfortunately the team did a big mistake (sorry!) to ask me to come into the box to do a splash just after 3 laps - with the red lights at the end of the pit lane I had to wait. This cost me many places - I was back in 60th position and nearly one lap from the leader!!!!!!!! We finished just P8 and I lost also the third position in the Championship....

Despite the mistakes I want to thank my team for their efforts. They are new and have some way to go, but they know that and I think they will be a leading team in the future of GT racing. For myself I am in talks with manufacturers for next year. I have no preferences in particular, only to join a team that I can have the chance to prove myself with, and do my best for them. I enjoyed racing a lot in ALMS. It's a fantastic series and I would return there in GT or Prototype if a deal was good enough. Likewise Euro Open GT, FIA GT and LMS are all very interesting for me. Last year I tested with Creation and I thoroughly enjoyed just a few laps in the Sports car, so I am keeping my options wide open!

 

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