Interview with Speed Factory Racing team head Dalius Steponavičius about the season in the new GT2 European series
It was the debut season of the GT2 European Series. How do you evaluate the work of SRO? Is everything was right, or something was lacking?
The amount of cars racing went almost double in course of the season. I think it tells the story and I believe it will continue to grow in 2022. SRO is a huge structure that manages the world’s major GT championships, so their work should not be judged otherwise than really well. They have a lot of experience and have made the most of it, even in such a difficult time of the pandemic, without any issues organizing all the race weekends.
You finished third in the Pro-Am standings. Were these your expectations before the season?
We didn’t make many demands on ourselves before the season. Feeling that we could be among the prize-winners during the season, we started to make more goals for ourselves. In the end, we put pressure on ourselves, but it was ok – we became the third and this is a historic achievement for Lithuania because we did not have a Lithuanian team and a Lithuanian pilot on the podium in the GT classification so far.
At the end of the season, another Porsche 911 GT2 RS appeared. Have you partnered with LP Racing to help them understand the Porsche?
Yes, I had contact with an LP team engineer. I gave him some information, but we are all professionals and we do not ask or share very “sensitive” information with each other.
Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo and Brabham BT62 GT2 joined the field in the second half of the season. What is so special about these cars?
Ferrari was not a competitive car in this series, drove at the invitation of SRO, as apparently, the manufacturer has an intention to have a GT2-compliant car in the future. Well, Brabham is fast and really was built for sports. This car is serviced by a mechanic who also works in another (Side by Side buggy) program where I have been hired as a development engineer for half a year. so I know a lot about Brabham 🙂 It is likely to be a winning car for good drivers, but it will be under-produced due to high running costs.
The three main things the team learned this year in the GT2 Europen series
If we talk about the team, we hardly had anything to learn, because compared to the European Le Mans series, not all processes in this category are so complicated. But on the engineering side, yes. It’s a new experience I’ve enjoyed over the course of the season. And the key point is that you never have to let your hands, even in desperate situations. Only that helped to stay among the winners at a critical moment.
How much progress has been made in improving the Porsche 911 GT2 RS and finding its weaknesses? Did communication with Porsche continue to improve the car’s electronics?
We were closely observed by Porsche engineers. They were left satisfied with the teamwork and the feedback we gave them. Very much looking forward to seeing us next season. We know what is needed to change to make the car faster. Correspondence is ongoing, but whether this will be done depends on the factory and changes to the SRO homologation.
What was the atmosphere like on the race weekends? Do participants interact a lot with each other? Do you feel competition and tension?
That’s what pilots should be asked. The team doesn’t have time for that communication over the weekend, but I have no doubt that the atmosphere is very friendly and the communication between the pilots is intense.
Tell us, how did you manage to recover the car after the incident in the first race on the Paul Ricard track?
The motivation to repair the car was immense. Either we make it and try to keep third place in the championship or go home with our heads down. We really wanted to give this achievement to Lithuanian motorsport, so we did more than was possible. The engineers of the Porsche factory had never seen such solutions that we made 🙂 We created some of the missing details. All this miracle was created by the team mechanics – in fact, the third-place cup is undoubtedly their merit.
There were different conditions throughout the season. Heat, rain, night, two races a day. Under what conditions did the team feel best and strongest?
The Porsche 911 GT2 RS is a rain car. It is possible to win all races in which it rains.
What were the most memorable moments this season?
The first podium in the first race of the season in Monza and the restoration and release of the car in the last race of the season on the Paul Ricard track.
Do you have any plans to return to GT2 European Series next year?
We have plans, but for now, I would not like to talk about them in public.
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Photos – GT2 European Series, Michael Vergers