The 2011 GP2 Asia Series season concludes at Imola in Italy this weekend, with Team AirAsia looking to repeat the form that saw them take a podium finish at their debut at Abu Dhabi last month.
Davide Valsecchi finished third in the first of the two races at the Yas Marina Circuit, before finishing fourth in the second race. Although teammate Luiz Razia crashed out at the beginning of the first race, the pair were both impressively competitive on Team AirAsia's racing debut.
Following the cancellation of the two planned rounds in Bahrain, the season concludes at Imola. Presented with an unexpected home race, Italian Valsecchi is in with a chance of taking a second consecutive Asia title if the weekend goes well.
“When I heard we would be racing in Italy I was very pleased, Imola is a fantastic circuit,” explained Valsecchi. “I have raced here twice before in lower categories and it has a really good feeling about it. The team were strong in Abu Dhabi and I am feeling fit and confident so I hope we can be competitive here. It'll be difficult if it rains during qualifying but I do like to race in the wet although it takes a lot of focus and can be quite risky. Even if the conditions are not perfect, we will try our best to finish in the top five.”
For Brazilian Razia this will be his first time racing at the former venue of the San Marino Grand Prix, but he feels prepared for the challenge.
“This will be the first time I have driven here,” Razia said, “but I spent a whole morning on a simulator focusing on qualifying run performance. Having been on a track walk today the simulator seems quite accurate so that's good. I think the main issue will be the weather. The forecast is changeable but hopefully it will stay dry for the race. If this is the case expectations for the race are high. We have a good car, good drivers and a good team, so I'm really looking forward to it.”
Team Manager Phill Spencer explained that despite the series organisers only announcing the Imola date a couple of weeks ago the team are ready to try and bag another good result.
“We have come to Italy full of optimism having left the Middle East in good shape after our podium finish in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “Back at base we have had time to look over the cars and although it has been a last minute event to organise for we are on top of it all and ready to race. We are all hoping for some more of the same good results this weekend and to go home with another trophy.”
Chief Race Engineer Humphrey Corbett explained the challenge lying ahead of the team this weekend. “Nobody expected to be racing here, but we are all just glad to be back racing after a couple of false starts in Bahrain,” he said. “The track has been modified since I was here last but the first corner is the same. This has always been tricky as it gets very narrow, so qualifying high up is most important, to avoid start line incidents. The curbs here are quite high too, so drivers must be very careful over them. Davide knows the track well and although Luiz has never been here before, he has been busy preparing on the simulator, so once he has been round a few times I think it will be a close battle between them both. I am really looking forward to it all.”