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GT Academy

GT Academy 2012 Race Camp - Day 7

Friday, 24 August, 2012: The six Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy 2012 European territory champions headed out onto Silverstone’s 5.9km Grand Prix circuit today for the first time in Nissan 370Z race cars. The 20 minute qualifying session decides the grid for tomorrow’s GT Academy race, scheduled to take place around 2pm (BST) as part of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) timetable.

Some light rain started falling a couple of laps into the session, probably not enough to affect track conditions, but certainly enough to put doubt into the minds of the drivers. By the end of the session the rain was slightly heavier and caused a couple of slides as the competitors pushed right to the end.

The results of the qualifying session were:

Wolfgang REIP (BEL)2’38.202 -
Hugo GONÇALVES (POR)2’38.289+0.087
Sébastien BERTRAND (FRA)2’39.373+1.171
Rolf UELTSCHI (SUI)2’39.780+1.578
Des FOLEY (IRE)2’40.044+1.842
Andrea COSARO (ITA)2’41.111+2.909
Benelux mentor, Tim Coronel, headed home from Race Camp after the session, but said: “He has to do the race himself, so I can’t help him anymore, really. He is a good guy and has a strong mind. And he really knows what he is doing in the car. I sat with him yesterday in a 370Z around National and didn’t feel worried at all. He is safe and he’s quick and I think he can win tomorrow. I hope so!

“Race Camp has been an incredible experience. What an operation! It’s very impressive and it is a really nice feeling to work with these guys. A programme like this is good for motor sport and I have met some great people.”

Following their qualifying session, the competitors were given a ‘psychological’ assessment to get a feeling for their desire and commitment in their pursuit of a racing career. They also enjoyed a trip to the WEC paddock to visit Jordan Tresson and look around the Signatech Nissan garage. Their final activity was a cycle ride around the Silverstone circuit, with Rob Barff imparting his expert knowledge.

Tomorrow will see some more driving and physical challenges at Stowe before they prepare to line up for their first-ever ‘real’ races. The race will be run in front of the world’s endurance racing media and a good-sized crowd expected at Silverstone.

The race will play a big part in the decision of the judges, but the winner of GT Academy will be decided on overall performance throughout the week, as well as progress and an assessment of the potential of each competitor. The final result is expected to be announced several hours after the race.


Competitors’ comments:

Wolfgang Reip (BEL)
"It was very difficult in the wet, very slippery. When we entered the corners, you could feel the back end stepping out. Quite a few of the guys had moments as the rain started to fall just when we go into the car. I think the difference is that I immediately pushed when the other drives relaxed. I am really confident. I still have loads of adjustment to do and I start from pole."

Hugo Gonçalves (POR)
"It was surreal to think I am here driving on the Grand Prix track at Silverstone. It’s mad. From playing Gran Turismo to being here is an incredible journey and I am loving every moment of it. The session was tricky as, when I pulled onto the track, I had rain drops on my windshield. I knew I had to be quick as the circuit was going to get more slippery. There were a few times when I was on the edge, the car was really sliding and at one point I had a spin. It’s one more step that I’ve taken to become a racing driver. I feel tomorrow will be great. I was second fastest without giving it 100 per cent, so I can go into tomorrow’s race with confidence."

Sébastien Bertrand (FRA)
"I was third in the qualifying this morning, one second behind the top two, so not a great time, but third is OK. Those guys can make a mistake so I need to be consistent and do my best and be ready to take my chance. This afternoon we did a mental test to check our attitude and desire. It was interesting. We also had the chance to visit the WEC paddock and see Jordan Tresson."

Rolf Ueltschi (SUI)
"I never managed to get one clear, nice lap. I made one or two mistakes on my fastest lap, but the good thing is I know where I need to improve.
I am looking forward to tomorrow. It will be good. I am very excited as it's my first race and it will be in front of the crowds and cameras at the WEC."

Des Foley (IRE)
"As we left the apron we drove straight into a small rain shower. It didn't affect the track so much, but was more what you would call 'psychological rain'. When I saw rain on my windscreen my pace fell off. I started well, was in the top two for the first couple of laps, but the other guys got better as the session went on. I was only about 200th of a second off fourth position, but lots to work on for tomorrow. Starting from fifth position, the only way is up. I need to get a good night’s sleep and I will be OK. Not a great result, but I'm not last."

Andrea Cosaro (ITA)
"I felt I had a problem with the brakes in the qualifying. I couldn’t brake how I wanted so I came in on the first lap to explain to the mechanics. They had a look, but there was nothing to do. I put it behind me, and lap by lap got better and better, but then it was raining and so I couldn’t improve my position."