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LMES – Monza – Friday Second Session Report
Stefan ‘Juhandon’(Johansson) – “It’s A ******* Good Car”

It’s not all about Audis here – although they were 1-3-4 in the very wet afternoon session. The thunder and lightning turned into heavy rain throughout, and a brief red flag period to retrieve the DBA saw the track even wetter in the second ‘half’, only three significant cars improving.

The best moment was as the afternoon 45 minutes started. Stefan Johansson, only announced yesterday in the factory Zytek, had his first go in the car at the start of the session, and was third quickest on his third lap… we thought.

“No, second quickest on my second lap!” pointed out the genial Swede. The third lap must have been the one when he passed the pits with Jamie Davies right behind him, and kept him there under braking into a very wet first chicane.

That elicited the comment (in the heading) about how good the Zytek is, David Brabham pointing out that his time this morning was set in only two flying laps. These guys are different, aren’t they? Andy Wallace arrived at the track late this afternoon, none the worse for his ordeal at Mosport. Jon Field was understandably very interested to know what had happened.

Field Snr. incidentally is driving in place of Duncan Dayton, and with John Hugenholtz in the Cirtek Ferrari (here and Le Mans) and Romain Rusinov in the JMB 360 (here), that’s all the driver changes, as far as we know.

Let’s go back to the Audis though. Allan McNish (Bert, his father, is here - and thoroughly enjoying it) was fastest this afternoon, before the pause, his 1:55.798 over 1.3 seconds quicker than the Advan Dome, which has been going so well on its Yokohamas in each session that one wonders about the absence of other Domes.

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Jamie Davies had a moment in the third fastest 88 Veloqx Audi, which Gabriele Tosi observed from the first chicane. The Audis were spinning their wheels in the first four gears, and Davies got it very sideways in fourth, and spun into the barrier on the right, before the Curva Grande. He glanced the barrier with the front and the back, and the nose came off as he made his way back to the pits.

Jamie Davies: “We were running more downforce at the end than when I set my time, and the car felt better, but then I had my moment. It felt like quite low speed: I was following the Goh Audi, and he had a sideways moment, so I was steering left to avoid him, and hit the water that he’d hit. The damage is only very light.”

Romain Dumas did more damage than that in another significant entry – the Freisinger Porsche…. under braking into the first chicane. He got the RSR sideways under braking, hit the barrier on the left with the rear, spun through more than 360 degrees and hit it with the front, damaging the radiators.

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The Spinnaker Dallara still seemed to be in gearshift trouble, but it was a more reasonable fifteenth fastest, behind the Vitaphone Saleen. The S7-R was nearly three seconds faster than the next best GTS, the 62 Barron Connor Ferrari. Gabriele described these cars as struggling with traction out of the very slow first chicane, especially compared to the Vitaphone Saleen.

The Larbre Ferrari was third in GTS. Pedro Lamy: "This afternoon I couldn't see anything in the rain. The car is not so bad but as soon as we have some cars in front we can't see anything, there was too much water. There was some aquaplaning - it was not very easy.

"I am happy to be with Larbre and with the Ferrari. It's a shame I didn't get the chance to drive the car before this weekend but I hope to drive a bit more tomorrow. It's my first time with Larbre and they seem very nice and easy to work with."

He won’t get much time tomorrow, with just the two 45 minute qualifying sessions to come.

Back with the prototypes, the repaired Jota Zytek ran well, straight ‘out of the box’ to twelfth fastest, set in the even wetter second period, just ahead of the RML Lola, which Mike Newton admitted was being treated as a test car for Le Mans, rather than a race car for Monza.

The RML B160 seemed to create the highest rooster tails down the front straight, Peter Elleray (Bentley designer, now with RML) suggesting that this was because the wing on this car is so low. In contrast, the ’04 spec. cars, the Nasamax and the Belmondo Courage, were creating roosters only half the height of the older cars.

The Creation DBA was fractionally faster than the Zytek, in the end (two thousandths), but Johansson had made his point in those opening couple of laps.

‘Steven Johnson’ also made the point that “I haven’t raced or driven anything since Le Mans last year.” His navigating was fairly crap though: it took him three hours to get from Malpensa to Monza yesterday, partly because he was ‘rabbiting’ on the ‘phone and missed his exit. “The trouble is, I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I end up at the track by taking a different route every time.”

Martin Short was here for the first time, but was enjoying himself, even in the wet. “The Dallara was really nice in the wet. The only problem we had was with the brakes, the fronts heating up too much and causing them to lock – so we need to look at blanking them off at the back, for the wet. But the Dunlops were great and the car felt absolutely ‘planted’ on traction. We could have done a 1:59, but in fairness we’ve never driven the car in full wet conditions.”

Soheil Ayari was in the same position (never driven the Pescarolo in the wet), and was fairly cautious during the first 25 minutes, while Emmanuel Collard was more aggressive later on, but the track was wetter and slower. Henri was happy to see his car seventh fastest.

Pierre Bruneau was happy with eleventh fastest in the PiR Pilbeam: “We have less power than the Courage, but that doesn’t matter so much in the wet. We are using the diffuser for the first time, and Michelins for the first time, and Marc (Rostan) did a very good job. We have different mapping for the wet, and with engineers from Magneti Marelli and Mader (JPX) here, the engine was very good. The car is almost all new – engine, gearbox, diffuser, tyres….”

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With Rob Schirle happy to have Jones and Maassen going well in the RSR – “Wet or dry, they know what they want, these professionals” – while Clint Field reckoned that he normally “likes the wet, but the water just hangs here, I didn’t enjoy that very much,” and finally for now, we find that each driver will have to complete at least an hour of Sunday’s race.

The weather has brightened up at 19.00 Friday. An accurate weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday could be a very useful piece of information. Gabriele reckons it will be more settled than today.

Oh, a Kevin Buckler story to finish: "Patrick (Long) and I arrived about a hour before the afternoon session. We've been at Sears Point this week, with Jim Matthews: Jim ran a string of times that I couldn't believe, while Patrick was substantially - I'm not going to tell you how much - under the pole at last year's Sears Point race. Patrick and I worked on that car for two days. He only did three laps this afternoon, because we feel it's more important to get the other guys up to speed."

We'll tell you the qualifying tyres tale tomorrow.

 

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