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Giovanardi enjoys maiden run with Airwaves Racing

Two-time BTCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi got his BTCC comeback underway at Brands Hatch today (13 February) as the Italian enjoyed his first test run in the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus. Giovanardi piloted one of the team’s 2013-spec machines and the Wrotham-based squad completed its planned programme of testing without issue.

Giovanardi, who won back-to-back BTCC titles in 2007 and 2008, carried out several installation laps in the damp early morning conditions before producing longer runs as the sun made a welcome return to Kent throughout the afternoon.

Whilst the team were assessing a number of aspects with the car, the day was largely planned around Giovanardi’s introduction to NGTC machinery.

“Today was fine – it was good to be out there,” said Fabrizio. “People have said these cars can be difficult to drive but I didn’t really find that. In my mind it doesn’t matter – a car is a car and I have to understand how it works and see what I can do to improve it. The Indy circuit is a tough circuit and a difficult one to judge progress on a day like today but the car has run well.”

Even at this early stage of the experienced racer’s BTCC return, his excitement at the prospect of challenging for a third title was there for all to see.

“I was really looking for a way to come back,” he continued. “Long-distance racing was not my style and I need to be fighting, which is what you get in the BTCC. Even if I am getting older I am really really excited about this challenge.

“The other champions on the grid may not be the biggest challenge – I have to stay in front of everyone so it doesn’t matter who they are. I come here to fight at the front but we don’t know yet, which is why we need to work. We may not be fighting at the front straight away but the championship is long and we’ll see what we can do.”

The Airwaves Racing squad was out in force to see their new No.1 driver’s debut in the car, headed by Team Principal David Bartrum, who took time out to tell btcc.net about Giovanardi’s introduction, the ongoing development of the Ford Focus and the team’s testing programme ahead.

“Today was all about FG getting comfortable in the car,” commented Bartrum. “He’s getting used to the feel, gear changes, seating position, pedals… everything. We want to be able to provide him with a fast and comfortable car, and then he’ll go out and do the job for us, as his attention to detail is second to none.

“We’ve used the 2013 car today and you’ll notice the new car will look a bit different. We hope to be in the 2014 car next week, which is when the real work will begin, but today is a great start.

“We’ve been able to make some aero changes and looked at every aspect of the car in order to improve it. We have another one-day test at Brands Hatch next week and then we’ll really start to crank it up with a few two-day runs at Snetterton and Oulton Park, before we come back here, and then of course we have the Media Day at Donington Park. We have six or seven test days in total, which is great.”

With Giovanardi the only driver confirmed at the Motorbase-run squad so far, we asked Bartrum when we could expect to see the team’s other Focuses out on track.

“We might have a second car out next week, but we’re in no rush because when you have FG in the car you’re getting the best feedback that’s possible,” he concluded. “We learnt a lot in the second half of the year and again over the winter. We’re putting some of that to use on the ’13 car and will wait to assess Gio’s feedback before taking that forward to the new car, so in some ways it’s quite nice not to complicate matters at the moment with two or three cars.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Gary Hawkins

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