TUESDAY 12 MAY 2009
POLE, FASTEST LAP, PODIUM AND BAD LUCK AT SPA DOUBLE HEADER
What a weekend this was to be for Allan Simonsen.

Not only was it the second round of the 2009 Le Mans Series but also the first time the British GT Championship (GT3 and lower) had appeared on the continent.

Add to that mix, the Belgian GT Championship (GT3 and lower), who would join the BGT field but with the locals on Michelins and the English on Avons.

And then he'd have to change to Hankook's for the LMS race. Definitely an event to keep your wits together.

My only advise to Allan in the lead up was not use his GT2 brake markers when he was in the GT3 car. He told me to just do the media and leave the rest to him!

There can't be a single driver who doesn't fall in love with the Belgain Spa circuit.

Nestled in the beautiful Ardennes, it is THE definitive drivers circuit. Only Bathurst, Nürburgring Long and now San Luis, Argentina, can come even close.

The British GT field was first out and it wasn't long before the Dane found himself topping the charts.
"It's really important to put in a good time early, said Allan after first practice.

"The weather can change so fast and you can end up with a wet dry track combination. It's not the first time I have experienced this and in fact it happens at Bathurst a lot with the top of the mountain being wet and the bottom dry.

"You must constantly re-evaluationg the grip levels and be able to set a smooth pace to fit that.

Time to hop out of the red Rosso Verde/UBC Ferrari, change race suits and jump in the Farnbacher Racing Hankook LMS Ferrari.

Pierre Kaffer was Allan's team mate at Spa – the Austrian had a weekend where his Risi Competitzione American Le Mans Series commitments did not clash.

The pair elected to concentrate on tyre testing over longer periods, evaluating the level of drop off and reaction to wet/dry areas. Time well spent.
Swap overalls - it's back to GT3 land for qualifying and Simonsen put in one of his best drives to date snatching pole with plenty of time to spare. So dominant was his pole, by 1.6 seconds, that Allan was already out of his BGT suit and back into Hankook colours for the LMS Q session, which was to begin immediately after.

He'd put the car in 5th, also being the fastest of the Farnbacher prepared cars.

Race 1 of BGT was left to Hector Lestor to start but he would find the going tough, handing back the car to Allan in 2nd last, only 23 minutes in!

Simonsen is never one to give up and went about picking off the field one by one to bring the Ferrari home in an amazing 4th position.
Race 2 was started in damp and foggy conditions and with Allan stuck behind the pace car for 15 minutes (4 laps) it eroded tan advantage that should well have been established.

At the 37 minute mark, Simonsen pitted from the lead. Lester made a quick change and rejoined in the lead but would lose the lead and the win, on the last lap, to a Viper.

In summary, the BGT result of 2nd was good. It also consolidated their joint 2nd place in the Championship.

Back to LMS land. With Allan having done qualifying it was up to Kaffer to start the race. He did a super job and handed it back to Simonsen in 3rd place.

A double stint was planned but since the other leading GT2 cars failed to pit for tyres, the team found themselves falling back slightly, whilst still holding 3rd place.


Then, one of the Pescarolo prototypes suddenly had a big off at Eau Rouge, prompting the safety car and in the process forced the Hankook Ferrari to stay behind the lead Peugeot 908.
Simonsen pitted, the car refueled and shod with fresh tyres and a refreshed PK.

But luck was not on their side and the car refused to fire. Something had failed in the electronics!

Eventually the car did fire up but only after it was rocked back and forwards by the crew. However, since the Le Mans Series rules state that the car must start on it own power without outside assistance, the rules had been comprimised.

It was a difficult moment for the team, who were forced to retire, whilst staring down another podium result.

The Le Mans 24 Hours is next and the team is hoping desperately that all the bad luck has gone!
But that's a way off yet, with Simonsen immediately on a plane to Australia to drive the Maranello/Coopers Ferrari at Phillip Island in the OZ GT Championship, before revisiting BGT at Rockingham – a round that had been rescheduled.

Images from Paul Rickard HTTT are here. A dedicated 2009 LM24 website will be available here. LMS Race start video is here.