Palttala’s American Adventure
Markus Palttala plays a key role with PSI and the running of its
two Corvettes – plus driving one of them – but the Finn
earned himself a first drive in the ALMS at Road Atlanta recently,
although that meeting didn’t turn out quite as anyone would
have liked at Risi Competizione, with the #62 car at least.
Palttala is at Le Mans this weekend, for the FFSA
GT meeting, and with the DTM cars on the Bugatti Circuit, that was
a chance to catch up with everything that has been happening in
his world recently.
“We’ve got the two cars here, and I’m
driving the C6.R with Pertti Kuismanen, while the C5-R is being
driven by Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Sebastien Dumez. Blanchemain
won here in the Viper last year, and Dumez won GT2 in a Porsche,
so they’ll be a strong pair. They’re investigating the
possibility of the C5 for next year: at the moment we don’t
know if they’ll be driving the C5 again next week, at Magny-Cours
– it might be the regular drivers, Alliot and Hallyday.”
PSI has had
considerable success in the FFSA GT Championship this year, notably
at Albi in early September, when the two Finns won both races.
the Corvettes, we wanted to ask Markus about his drive in the Risi
Ferrari. How did that come about?
“The contact started with Heikki Kovalainen,
who met Mika Salo at the FIA GT race at Silverstone in May. Heikki
is a good friend of mine, and he mentioned my name to Mika, who
knew all the time that he couldn’t race in all the ALMS and
FIA races: I think there were four clashes.
“Anyway, my name was ‘on the table’
as a possible replacement, although the Ferrari people didn’t
know me well enough. But Mika and his manager convinced them that
I was a good guy, and that opened the door – so the Risi Competizione
team and Ferrari agreed that I should do Petit Le Mans.
“But they wanted me to do the test at Road
Atlanta on the Saturday, a week before the race…. which was
qualifying day at Jarama. I did the first 10 minutes of the first
session in Spain, but that session started while I was supposed
to be at the airport in Madrid – so I rushed off and caught
the plane to America, and arrived at the track on Saturday morning.
“I left there a little early in the afternoon,
and arrived at Jraama just as the race was starting – but
that was OK, because Jos Menten qualified the Corvette, and started
the race. In the end, we changed the strategy and I only did one
stint of that race.
“The Ferrari is a really well built, sophisticated
car – but handling wise it’s very different from the
Porsches I’ve driven in the past, and the Corvettes. I needed
some time to get used to it, and to learn the track – but
it’s a cool car to drive. The team was very good: they didn’t
put any pressure on me to go quickly, but I was two-tenths slower
than Ralf that day, so I was happy, and they were happy too. Stephane
(Ortelli) didn’t need to be at the test, because he’d
won the race at Mosport.
“When Stephane and I flew back for testing
on Wednesday, the team was happy for me to not take a major role
– because basically I was the new guy. I was happy to fit
in with whatever they wanted. I drove less than the other two, but
that was OK.
of preparing for the race, maybe we made the car as quick as possible,
but overlooked race consistency….” The car was very
quick in night practice though (below), as well as in qualifying.
Markus Palttala is too much of a gentleman to go
into details, but he had considerable sympathy for Ralf Kelleners
and the accident that eliminated the Ferrari from the race –
which meant that he and Ortelli didn’t get to drive the 430
in the ninth Petit Le Mans. That was disappointing, obviously, but
the two drivers set off to enjoy the event anyway.
and I took two scooters out, and we watched the race from every
corner – and we met a lot of fans too. We stood on top of
someone’s motorhome at one corner, which was great fun. The
American fans all seem to be supporting a driver or a team –
the ALMS already seems to have built up a tradition.
“Petit Le Mans is a great event, and everything
is done for the public, everything is open to them. They can meet
the drivers, get close to the cars, they’re wearing team gear,
they know the drivers faces and names – it was fantastic.
“Le Mans is a big thing, obviously, but I’m
not sure that the atmosphere is the same at Jarama, for example.
“In Europe, it’s always a problem when
the races don’t go to the tracks at the same time each year.
But in Belcar, they do have the races at the same circuits, at the
same time of year – trying to build a tradition. But at Istanbul,
I would say there were less spectators there than there were team
personnel. You have to have continuity and marketing, because there
are so many other types of racing to attract fans, such as F1, DTM,
the WTCC etc.
“I’m hoping to do some more races in
the ALMS. Now I can understand why European drivers enjoy it so
much in America, in the ALMS. It’s really professional –
all the teams and drivers. The atmosphere at the track was great
– what was it, 90,000 fans over three days? And the Risi team
is a great mix of Italians and Americans, and some Englishmen.”
Back to this weekend, and French GTs, and the amiable
Finn finished up by explaining where the PSI Experience team has
got to, at the end of 2006.
“For 2007, everything is open at the moment:
if we are to buy a second C6.R, we need to sell the C5-R –
but really that would only be because it is tricky running the two
models, which need different components, so that means we need to
take two trucks to the races. It’s more an image thing than
anything: the C5 is a very good car.
“We’re working on a project to become
a manufacturer in GT3, so maybe we would only run one C6 –
so you can see that everything is open. I’m working on that
project, but also working on my own things. Besides driving, my
role is to organise suppliers and components, and look after the
drivers, look after the data, that sort of thing.”
So there we are, we’re up to date with Markus
Palttala – for now anyway.