Frustration continues for Solaris in GT Open

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Round five of the International GT Open at Silverstone last weekend was supposed to herald the return of Italian squad Solaris Motorsport into the series following their self imposed sabbatical so that they could under further testing with their Aston Martin Racing V12 Vantage GT3.

Having tested at the circuit for the first time ever in early August, the team arrived at the Northamptonshire track having picked up the #007 from the tender care of the Prodrive factory where it had rested since the test.

The team looked keen and fired up for the task ahead posting a consistent bunch of times throughout the Private test and first two Free Practice sessions. Having to sit out the third Free Practice sessions (for Bronze ranked drivers only) that at least allowed the team to make their final adjustments before lead driver Francesco Sini went out for Qualifying 1 later in the morning.

With an early banker lap under their belts the team waited patiently in the pit lane for the best time to run their second attempt but Sini's body language upon leaving the car at the end of the session spoke volumes - a missed opportunity apparently and P12 on the grid was the best that they could muster!

The fine early Autumnal weather carried on into the afternoon ready for the start of the race 1. With Sini again starting he at least managed to avoid any possibility of contact during the opening laps to hold his start position. Throughout the next 35 minutes Sini drove a wise, calculated race without risk but others had other intentions when a car (unknown) inflicted heavy damage onto the side of the #007, damaging the off side door skin and front wheel arch aero.

Despite that Sini was able to hand the car over to co-driver Mauro Calamia for the final dash to the flag where he held his position to finish P12 on track at the time. Post race time penalties for two other cars ahead of them would then elevate the #007 to P10 overall in race 1 but all was not well within. During the post race debrief, Calamia complained of chronic understeer going in the corners, made worse when he came off the brakes - issues that sounded very similar to those experienced by the #1 TF Sport car in British GT.

For Qualifying and Race 2 it is role reversal with the second driver taking his time for qualifying duties as well as the start of the race. Silver Ranked Calamia stepped up to the plate for this but had his two runs baulked by heavy traffic on track as well as impatient, faster drivers grabbing his attention from behind. As a result of that the #007 would be starting from P22 on the grid.

By the time Race 2 was due to start the rain had began to fall putting the question of slicks or wets firmly into the forefront of everyones mind. Thankfully for the race, the rain did not come to much and Calamia was able to snatch several early places in the opening corners and laps.

At the 25 minute mark Calamia pitted to hand the #007 over to Sini whilst holding P17 overall which Sini would retain once the pit stop cycle had been completed. With the dark clouds still looming overhead the cars were at least able to continue on the slick Michelin control tyre despite rain still actually falling. With 15 minutes to go Sini was up to P14 overall disaster was to revisit the Solaris garage when with just seven minutes to go Sini brought the #007 back into the pits with a terminal technical issue and into retirement.

That was something the team certainly didn't need or deserve - their hard work during Saturday was rewarded with a good solid performance and confidence boosting finish. To then have a difficult qualifying (which is all part of motor racing) and to then have another decent performance on track curtailed with an (as yet undiagnosed issue) is just unfair - especially for such a small family run team that have had all the issues that that they have had already this year.

The team now have just under a month to recompose themselves ready for heir home event of the Championship as the International GT Open Series visits Monza for the penultimate round of the season at the start of October.

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