Fifth and one before last meeting of the 2019 season, the Michelin Le Mans Cup Spa Round was a drama full race, with an accident to begin with, several cars out of order in the first laps, which luckily did not hinder AT Racing to finish 9th overall, and 5th of the nine Ligier JSP3 on track.
Alexander Talkanitsa Junior started the race from 4th row, 8th on the grid and first of the Ligier field. He managed to not get involved in the crash of the start and pushed #90 Ligier JSP3 up and up, challenging severely #39 Graff Racing. After 14 laps, Alex Talkanitsa Junior took the car to third position and managed to increase an interesting gap before a Safety Car was deployed after 46mn of racing. Alexander Senior took over at mid-race, a problem in the box made him restart in 10th position. He took the car to the chequered flag in 12th position. AT Racing #90 Ligier JSP3 gets the points of 9th place finish when the three first Norma’s were disqualified because of “crashbox fixation screws not in compliance with homologation form (article 1.2 2019 of Technical Regulation)”, after scrutineering (#39 Graff Racing, #2 Nielsen Racing and #3 DKR Engineering).
How did you manage the start of the weekend?
Alexander Talkanitsa Senior: At each race we have the opportunity to enter a private test session on the track of the race. And this a good opportunity to get back into the car, to get prepared for the race weekend and to start working on the car’s set-up. 18 teams were running. First of all we changed the total setup of the car compared to our 2018 set-up. Last year we had based our set-up on the aerodynamics of the car, this year we worked on a softer car which is much easier to drive. Thanks to this, I improved my lap times to about 2 seconds. I was driving in around 2’19.9 and this year 2’17.5. My personal objective was to go under 2’17 in the Bronze test.
During the long break since Barcelona, I did not race anywhere but I did two very interesting tests. One with a Formula Ford and last week I tested with a GT3, working towards our Motorsport Game participation at the beginning of November where we will race for Belorussia, with an AF Corse prepared Ferrari GT3.
Alexander Talkanitsa Junior: I drove all of the first practice session. My father had been able to drive during the Wednesday collective test, so it was my turn to get back in the car and into racing spirit, because I did not have a chance to seat behind the wheel of a racecar since Barcelona, two month ago. We had a very low tire pressure problem during FP1, when I came back to the pit we only had 0,6 while we should have 1.8 or 2 bar… we don’t know what happened, but it’s the second time as we had the same problem during the Wednesday session. Of course, we had understeer and the car was not behaving right.
During the second Free Practice session Talkanitsa Father and Son found a better feeling in the car, as the set-up and the tire pressure problems had been taken care off.
Junior : we finished the session 9th and our tire pressure problem was almost over, actually, we were a little too high in FP2, but the car was ok and we worked to gain one additional second in order to get closer to Michelle Rugolo (Ligier JSP3 #55 Spirit of Race). We had a little oversteer with the higher pressure this afternoon, but overall everything was ok.
How do you like the track? It’s a track we know very well as we have been racing here for last ten years. We won in LMP3 last year as we were running in ELMS, so we feel good in Spa. In the race we should be competitive, but we need to do a good qualifying, in order to be in the first four rows and be able to avoid the traffic and push hard.
After the Bronze test session, Alexander Talkanitsa Senior was not very happy, but he made up for it in qualifying.
I did not do as well as I wanted in the bronze test and it was too far away from my expectations and from my own capability. My best time was 2’19.6 and our car was doing fine, but I hoped for a time closer to the top 6. In qualifying, we have a target since the beginning of the season, which is to be the first Ligier, of course, we can’t compete with the Norma who are just too quick. I lost two laps during qualifying, my mistake, and therefore had only two clear laps to set a time. In the end, we reached our goal to the first Ligier and we set the overall 8th laptime in 2’17.6. The car felt very good and I was confident for the race. In Spa it’s not easy, the race is only 23 or 24 laps, and you need to be constant… on the Spa race track, it is challenging.
A challenging and drama packed race in Spa-Francorchamps
Alexander Junior: I lost one position at the start because of the accident of the first four cars, but quickly, I was able to move up to P3. Then the safety car came out and of course this destroyed our strategy once again. To my perception, that safety car was not needed, they could have easily worked it out with a Full Course Yellow. Anyway I lost all the advantage I had gained when I came back to the pit to hand the wheel to my father. The problem is that all the cars came together in the pit lane and when my father was ready to leave the pit, our car was trapped between both our neighbor cars… we had to lift it, put it on the wheel board in order to turn it perpendicular to the pit lane and then only he could go. So it added over 30 seconds to our pit stop. That, added to the Safety Car period, ruined our race that had well started.
Alexander Senior: I was driving as expected, did not do any mistake and I had a good bronze driver pace. 70% of my lap times were between 2’19.8 and 2’20.3 which is constant and ok. I did not have a chance to fight anymore, so I drove the car home the best possible way.
Next stop will be in Portugal on October 25th and 26th on the nice and usually sunny Autodromo International do Algarve (Portimao).
About the FIA Motorsport Games and Alexander Talkanitsa entry
Team Belarus will compete in three categories at this year’s FIA Motorsport Games, expanding on their participation in last year’s FIA GT Nations Cup. As was the case in Bahrain, the Belarusian entry will be driven by father-son duo Alexander Talkanitsa Snr and Alexander Talkanitsa Jnr. They will share a Ferrari 488 GT3 run by their own AT Racing squad, with further technical assistance from AF Corse.
The Talkanitsas are the most active father-son duo currently competing at an international level. The 2019 season has seen them focus on LMP3 racing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, while their past experience together includes the European Le Mans Series and International GT Open. Last year, the Team Belarus Ferrari was eliminated at the very first corner of the deciding race. That will act as further motivation as they spearhead their nation’s challenge at the Motorsport Games.