The victory by Matt Halliday and Mike Parisy in the Exim Bank Team Porsche at Zolder is down the the collective efforts of a number of people, not the least of which is Bernhard Mühlner, the man behind Mühlner Motorsport.
Thu 19.07.12, 3:03PM
Series promoter Stephane Ratel brought the components together: Exim Bank China is the sponsor of the ambitious project, Mühlner Motorsport is the team running it, supplying the cars and equipment and responsible for all technical and strategy issues, and the drivers.
The package proved to be quick at the first round in Nogaro, only a drive-through penalty for a jump start and a slow driver change prevented a good result in the main race there. At the second round, at the team’s home race in Zolder, the team was able to build upon what they had learnt at the first meeting. The Free Practice sessions on Friday gave an early indication of the competitiveness of the car, Parisy in the No.9 was second quickest on the day, only 3/100ths slower than the best time.
In Q3 of the Saturday morning qualifying session, Halliday and Parisy ensured secured pole position for the first race on Saturday afternoon, only to get a three grid place penalty down to P4 as Halliday had crossed the white line on exiting the pits.
In Saturday’s race, the results of which determined the grid for Sunday, Parisy / Halliday ran third and ensured a good starting position for the next day. In the sister car, Ren Wei unfortunately had an accident in the first stint of the one hour race and the damage was severe enough to prevent Benjamin Lariche from being able to drive.
The Sunday morning warm-up demonstrated that the overnight work by the Mühlner team mechanics had brought the Wei/Lariche No.8 Porsche back to its previous perfect condition and the third best time for the No.9 car showed that they were in good shape for the race.
With perfect timing, as the cars were already standing on the grid, dark rain clouds drew in. As it had not yet started raining, it was a tough call as to which tyres to fit for the start.
Exim Bank Team China run by Mühlner Motorsport decided to fit rain tyres.
As the field set off, the circuit was still completely dry – it did not start to rain until the second lap. But that made the risky call on the grid a correct one, despite a fully dry start to the race. Those cars which had started on slicks either pitted or fell a long way back.
Before the opening of the pit stop window, the sector times showed that some of the cars which had stayed on slicks and were now at the back, were starting to lap more quickly and Bernhard Mühlner took the second risky decision of the race in deciding to bring Halliday in right at the start of the pit stop window and send Parisy out on slicks, notwithstanding the fact that the circuit was still damp.
The competition waited a few laps for the circuit to dry out more and that was just what the Mühlner team needed in that, after all the stops had been completed, Parisy was in the lead as he had been much quicker early on using slicks whilst the opposition were still on wets. The final 10 laps, Parisy had to defend hard against the heavy attacks of BMW’s Yelmer Buurman competitor but held him off brilliantly to bring home the win.
Lariche and Wei were also able to bring the No.8 Porsche into the results and gained a lot of experience through the race.
“What an unbelievable success,” a delighted Mühlner said. “I’m very proud of the whole team. Six weeks ago this Exim Bank Team China run by Mühlner Motorsport project was just an idea and now one of our Porsches has won a race in an FIA World Championship. The decisions to start on wets when it had not yet started raining, and then to change to slicks whilst it was still damp, worked out perfectly.
“But if it had stayed dry at the start, or started to rain again in the remaining 33 minutes, then I would have been the idiot who messed it all up.”