It was not just the expected sun that greeted Ben and new team, CHAD Racing, to the Spanish circuit of Albacete on Tuesday, but rather strong and gusty winds too. However, with the confidence the new car gave him Ben was quick to make his mark on the 2008 season by blowing away the circuit GT3 lap record by over a second. 


Having collected the rebuilt F430 from Kessel the week before, CHAD took the trip down to Spain in search of more consistent conditions than they would normally expect during pre season testing back home in the UK. With news of the Spanish heat welcoming the team to Albacete at the weekend Ben was looking forward to getting testing underway for the 2008 season when he flew down to join them with team mate, Guy Harrington, on Tuesday. Unfortunately this was not to be and although the sun was still strong, the gusting winds were even stronger keeping the circuit temperature cool and the track dusty from the surrounding plains.

Bens other team mates for 2008, Peter Bamford & Matt Griffin, had a day’s head start on the former Aston Martin duo and Griffin had already set a benchmark time of 1:35.1, over a second quicker than the current lap record for a GT3 car on this circuit, when Ben & Guy finally got themselves behind the wheel of the Ferrari 430.

Having not driven the car before Ben & Guy set about learning both the circuit and the handling characteristics of the Ferrari, and very quickly both were lapping consistently and within a few tenths of each other. With the team working hard to find the ideal set up much work was done to assess where the car would be best balanced and by the middle of day two both drivers were comfortable with the V8 of the prancing horse beneath them.

Guy was the first to experience the car with a new set of Avon’s and immediately showed his intentions to the team by completing 3 laps in the low 1:36's, equalling the lap record. "The car is awesome anyway, but with new rubber the superlight steering becomes effortless," said Guy afterwards.

With the team and drivers all happy with what they had achieved it was agreed that they would run a simulated race weekend with a qualifying session followed by a 1hour race distance. As Guy has already experienced the new rubber Ben took his chance to show what pace he had by completing the simulated qualifying run. With the tyres taking about a lap and half to come to temperature the laps that count are usually the next three before the optimum grip starts to drop off again. Ben took no risk of missing this window and posted a 1:35.3 and then a 1:35.5 to put himself within a couple of tenths of the teams pro driver, Matt Griffin, who has been driving Ferrari's for 6 years now. "I am more than pleased with those lap times. The conditions today were pretty hard with the gusting winds blowing dust onto the track , but to be close to Matt's time with all his experience is very satisfying. The car was so easy to drive and to be honest when I saw the lap times come up I was quite surprised as I did not feel that I had to make the car work hard to achieve it."

The 1 hour race simulation which followed was trouble free despite both drivers commenting on the difficult conditions the wind was providing. Ben & Guy stepped from the car looking as if they had been out for a Sunday drive and agreed that in comparison to the physical demands of the Aston Martin the race distance felt effortless to complete.

With less than 3 weeks to the first race Ben is feeling comfortable with the new car already, "I can't wait to be out in the car again and in particular get stuck into the racing. I know there are going to be some good driver combinations in the Championship this season and it is not going to be as easy to win races this season, but the car is jut what we need to give us the best opportunity to fight for the Championship."

Ben is next out at Oulton Park in Cheshire next friday before travelling up to Knockhill the following Monday to complete his pre-season testing ahead of the season opener at Oulton Park at Easter.




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