Reigning double HiQ MSA British Touring Car Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi has reflected that his latest outing at Oulton Park was 'not bad, but nothing exciting' after taking a trio of top six finishes to keep his title defence firmly on-track – but the Italian is not entirely relishing the forthcoming round at Croft...
Giovanardi is a self-confessed fan of the undulating and demanding Cheshire circuit – describing it prior to the race weekend as one of his favourite tracks in the world – and he duly qualified as the best-placed of the three Vauxhalls in sixth position, two spots ahead of young team-mate Andrew Jordan and four in front of championship leader Matt Neal in the other VX Racing-run Vectra.
From there, he drew upon all of the talent and guile that has earned him no fewer than nine international tin-top crowns over the course of his remarkable career to take the chequered flag a battling fourth in race one, narrowly ahead of the Team RAC BMW of Stephen Jelley.
A storming getaway when the lights went out in race two vaulted 'Gio' past both Jason Plato and Jonny Adam ahead of him, and he would go on to mount a sustained challenge on Colin Turkington in the lead before suspension woes convinced him that discretion would likely be the better part of valour on this occasion. With a sizeable gap behind him to his nearest pursuer, he elected to back off and settle for the runner-up spot, more than seven seconds adrift at the close, but with a similar margin in-hand over Plato in third. A battle-scarred sixth position in race three completed his weekend's work.
“Every driver I think likes Oulton,” the 42-year-old contended, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “It is a real drivers' circuit, with lots of fast corners and slow corners, but just because I like a circuit doesn't mean I will win there every time! Unfortunately on race day we had issues with the temperatures. Our car is quite hard on tyres, so they are on the limit in these kinds of temperatures and we get into trouble quicker than the others – and that meant we struggled in terms of results.
“It depends which circuit we're at, but historically the BMWs have suffered less from this kind of problem, especially when it's really hot. Then in race two I had an issue on the wishbone – it started to move, and when I heard noises coming from the suspension I slowed down, because behind me I had a really big gap, so I just focussed on finishing the race. In any case, I would have had to pass Colin very quickly, not in the middle part of the race or towards the end, no way – the BMW was really strong at the end.
“At the end of the day it wasn't bad, but nothing exciting, but it doesn't mean they (BMW) can beat us so easily – there will be circuits for BMW and there will be circuits for us.”
Having closed the gap between himself and early-season pace-setter Neal to just 19 points now as he sits third in the standings, Giovanardi is anticipating a tough time of things at Croft in just over a week's time – a circuit around which he has triumphed twice in nine previous starts, but one for which he clearly holds far from the same affection as he does Oulton.
Beyond that, he is open about what the future may hold, given Vauxhall's withdrawal from BTCC competition at the end of the current campaign, but he makes clear that he would be happy to remain in the UK – despite the weather...
“On paper Croft will be pretty hard,” contemplated the man from Sassuolo near Modena, “but you never know. Anything could happen – it could rain – so whilst on paper it's a difficult circuit for us, we'll see.
“Next year depends on what's going on. It's no secret that Vauxhall are stopping, but if I can stay with Triple Eight or find a good team elsewhere to be on the pace and fight to win the championship again, then yeah, why not [stay]?”
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