The Bridgestone-supported GP2 Series heads to the hills of the Ardennes for its ninth round which takes place at Spa Francorchamps as part of the Belgium Grand Prix race weekend.
Spa is the longest race track on the calendar and the 26 drivers who are angling to be the F1 stars of tomorrow face a thrilling 7km of varying corners and gradient change, including the world renowned delights of Eau Rouge, Raidillon and Blanchimont. With such a long lap and so many different types of corner, the teams will have their work cut out to find the right set-up, whilst the Ardennes forests, where the track is located, are well known for presenting the additional challenge of rain.
Bridgestone is bringing the medium compound Potenza GP2 tyre to Spa. The track is hard on tyres, with a long lap and high speeds combined with high levels of downforce meaning that the loadings going through the rubber are considerable. Last season in Spa the GP2 Series served up the delights of race wins for Nicolas Lapierre (DAMS) and Karun Chandhok (Durango). Chandhok will be on the grid this year, racing for iSport International.
Heading to Belgium, Giorgio Pantano (Racing Engineering) leads the championship by an increased margin with 71 points from Bruno Senna (iSport) on 58. Lucas di Grassi (Campos) is in third place on 51 points. The teams’ championship is led by iSport with 89 points, from Campos, who move into second place with 82 points. Racing Engineering are in third position with 79 points.
Quote from Hirohide Hamashima – Bridgestone, Director of Motorsport Tyre Development
“Spa Francorchamps is a very challenging circuit. After the first corner there is a high speed section downhill and then it’s very fast through Eau Rouge. In the downhill section at turn eleven, drivers need to manage their tyres well as the front right tyres will be worked hard due to the combination of the speeds and the additional loading from running downhill. It is also a very difficult circuit in terms of the weather because it is in a mountainous region. It is a very long track and, according to our experience, it can rain on some sections of the circuit but at the same time not on others. In addition, it dries out very slowly because of the locality and conditions. Once it starts raining, pit stop strategies become very important as teams have to carefully time when they change from dry to wet or wet to dry tyres.”
Stats & Facts
Number & Spec of tyres for Spa Francorchamps: 760 (medium dry & wets)
Pole position time 2007: 1m 56.885secs – N Lapierre (DAMS)
Fastest race lap 2007: 1m 58.572secs – T Glock (iSport) (R1)
Top three 2007 race 1: N Lapierre (DAMS), L Filippi (Super Nova), L di Grassi (ART)
Top three 2007 race 2: K Chandhok (Durango), A Soucek (DPR), L di Grassi (ART)
Bridgestone GP2 Series: Q&A with Karun Chandhok
The Bridgestone-supported GP2 Series heads to the hills of Belgium’s superb Spa Francorchamps race circuit, located in the Ardennes forests for the ninth round of the GP2 Series. iSport International driver Karun Chandhok scored his first-ever GP2 Series race win there last season when driving for Durango, and this season he’s hoping to be back on the podium. Here Karun gives his thoughts on his season and what it takes for success at Spa.
Q. How are you finding driving for iSport International, reigning GP2 Series champions?
A. At the end of last season I targeted a few teams but iSport is the one I really wanted. We worked really hard over the winter and we managed to get a deal together. It’s been a fantastic year in terms of working relationships with the team and I have had a great time, they are such a great team of people – engineers, mechanics, everybody. Also, as a working relationship between two teammates I don’t think there is a better combination in the pit lane than myself and Bruno.
Q. How well do you work with your teammate to develop the set-up of the car?
A. We do well with sharing information and we have been quite open with each other. I think we are both mature enough to understand that if we work together both of us can benefit from it. More than anything, we are good friends too.
Q. At Spa in 2007 you claimed your first ever GP2 win, what can you tell us about the track?
A. It’s a mega circuit. I think it’s in every driver’s top five circuits. It’s a great track because you can overtake and pass people which you can’t do at some of the other circuits, such as the Hungaroring. The atmosphere is brilliant, the crowd is fantastic and it’s just a nice place to go to.
Q. What are the fastest parts and best features of the circuit at Spa?
A. I think everyone goes for Eau Rouge, but Eau Rouge is now easy flat in a GP2 car and you don’t even think about it. I think the middle sector is really exciting. Eau Rouge is still exciting for the first few laps of the race with heavy fuel for sure, but Pouhon is probably the most challenging part of the circuit.
Q. Are there any particular parts of the track where you need to conserve your tyres?
A. Spa is actually quite hard on tyres because in the middle sector there are a lot of long corners where you are leaning on the rear tyres a lot for a long period of time with a high g-load, so you need to conserve your tyres a little bit in the early part of the races. Also, Spa is one of those places where it can rain any minute so you have to factor in that you might end up running wet tyres more than slicks that weekend.