CRS Racing were just one for some 40 teams in attendance at the official test day for the Le Mans Series at the Paul Ricard circuit in southern France.
It gave the team and their six strong driver line-up their first opportunity to test a 2010-spec Ferrari 430 – Andrew Kirkaldy, Tim Mullen and Nicola Larini sharing the no.91 car while the other trio of Phil Quaife and Pierres Ehret and Kaffer were relegated to a test car, the no.90 430 they will run for the season not being ready yet.
“The 2010 car has bigger tyres, an engine upgrade and a higher weight limit,” Kirkaldy says explaining the differences of the new year's car. “It definitely feels good and now we just need to do some more work on the set-up. Overall this has been a useful test for us. We have quite a few new team members and it has been good to see them all working together well from day one.”
It was successful weekend, though the whole weekend saw bitterly cold temperatures, the no.91 team peaking in the final, Monday afternoon session of test recording the fastest GT2 class time (1:59.272) while the other car ran its fastest lap, nearly two second slower, twenty-four hours earlier.
Alongside Kirkaldy and Mullen was the first of CRS's new recruits for this season with Nicola Larini returning to the team after a strong showing in Sportscar Winter Series.
“I'm here to learn about the Ferrari 430,” said the Italian, who left the Chevrolet World Touring Car team after 2009. “I am spending time gathering as much information as I can so I can get the most out of the car. I am learning so much and making sure I am no trouble for the team. The really new thing for me is having to drive with one eye on the race track and one eye on my mirror as I am not used to sharing the track with cars that are more than 10 seconds a lap quicker.”
There were similar concerns for Briton Phil Quaife, who despite having a racing CV that includes GT racing in Porsches, Ferraris and an Ascari, is relatively inexperienced in multi-class racing.
“I'm happy to be running in the Le Mans Series this year, especially when I look at the GT2 entry list and see the people I am up against. I certainly didn't expect to be racing against people like Jean Alesi and Giancarlo Fisichella this year!” he exclaims, though admits that his own class is not his only consideration on-track, adding. “The added element of running with prototypes keeps it interesting too, although I am already in the habit of using my mirrors so they haven't caught me out.“
“I am finding CRS to be a very professional and friendly team that is very focussed, which I like,” says experienced Ferrari driver Pierre Kaffer, who joined the team as third driver for the longer races.” Unfortunately we don't have our race car yet so we have had to use the test car here but we have made good progress today. The relationship between Pierre Ehret, Phil Quaife and myself is gelling well and I think it is a very good combination.”
“It's good to see that all the Ferrari teams have the same passion.”