Scuderia Ecosse endured a tough weekend at Mugello during the latest round of the FIA GT Championship, with Andrew Kirkaldy and Nathan Kinch forced to retire on the opening lap.

Having qualified on the GT2 class pole, the reigning British GT champions were aiming to try and help the Scottish team close the gap to AF Corse in the race for the title, only for conditions to work against them when the race got underway.

Although rain had been falling, changing conditions led to the team electing to go for a drying wet tyre - a tyre between intermediates and full wets. However, just before the green flag lap - and with no time to change tyres - conditions took a turn for the worse, meaning the field aquaplaned over the line to start the race.

It was to be a short race for Kirkaldy, as he went off at the first corner, meaning it was race over for the #62 car.

"There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop that happening," he said. "I tried to accelerate off the line but the car wiggled around so I eased off. The Maserati in front of me then slowed so I wasn't actually doing anything, just holding it in a straight line, and I aquaplaned straight off."

With Kirkaldy and Kinch out of the race it was left to Chris Niarchos and Tim Mullen to uphold team honours in the sister car.

Mullen tried to make the best of the conditions early on and with twenty minutes gone he had pitted for full wets and was up to third place, chasing down Rui Aguas in the similar Ferrari of AF Corse. After a small off that fortunately led to no damage to the car, he pitted for drying wets and was soon was the fastest GT2 car on the track - remaining that way until the track had dried sufficiently for intermediate tyres. He then pitted to hand the car over to Niarchos, who rejoined on dry tyres.

"The first lap of that race was the scariest lap I've ever driven; we were aquaplaning over the start/finish line in second gear at 30mph!" Mullen said afterwards. "The first lap was a case of creeping around hoping not to go off or be collected by anyone else going off. I came in for full wets at the end of the lap as it was undriveable and I was then able to get up as high as third and give Aguas a hard time.

"As the track dried the tyres started to go off but I needed to stay out and make the most of things. Towards the end of my first stint I went off at the last corner after I got a neutral and locked my wheels, so I came in for a set of drying wets. Once I had those tyres on I was fastest in class before the track dried enough for inters. By the time my run came to an end there was a dry line so I pitted for slicks and Chris took over the driving."

A dry line had started to appear around the track and Niarchos carefully found his limit, getting faster and faster with each lap. The ever-popular Greek/Canadian was delighted to overtake ex-F1 star Mika Salo, in the closing stages of the race, and came over the line in fifth position as the race drew to a close.

"I've had a podium at Le Mans and now I've overtaken Mika Salo so I think I'll retire!" he joked afterwards. "I was a little dubious about going out on slicks; the first part of the lap was still pretty wet so I tiptoed through there the first few times. After that the track got better and better and I had a fantastic time. Passing Mika was the icing on the cake."

Niarchos and Mullen will now hope to take a step towards the British GT Championship title at Silverstone, in the penultimate round of the GT2 season this coming weekend.

 

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