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.
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
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!
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)....
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!
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.
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.
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.......
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!