Ferrari squad says Simonsen was ‘watching over us’
Maranello Motorsport boss Mark Coffey felt the late Allan Simonsen was watching over his team as they claimed an emotional pole position for the Bathurst 12 Hour.
The Melbourne-based team proved the class of the field in the Top 10 Shootout as Toni Vilander guided the Ferrari 488 GT3 to pole and the Allan Simonsen Trophy at Mount Panorama.
The trophy was introduced in 2014 to pay tribute to the much loved Dane, who died while racing at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Coffey had formed a strong friendship after meeting Simonsen for the first time in 2002 when he arrived in Australia looking to expand his career.
It was the start of an impressive partnership that saw the Dane race successfully in the Australian Nations Cup, Australian GT and the Bathurst 12 Hour before his tragic death.
Coffey said winning the eponymous trophy was a poignant moment for his squad.
“I think it is more important to have the Simonsen award than it is to have pole,” Coffey explained the significance of the award to Speedcafe.com.
“It is good to be up the front and in clear air but personally the Simonsen Trophy is the real win.
“I’m sure he (Allan) was watching us (during the qualifying run).
“I have had phone calls from the (Simonsen) family already today, it is really important.
“It is a really special day for our team and a good way to pump everyone’s tyres up.”
Vilander, who is sharing the car with Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, admitted the sight of the trophy stirred emotions having raced alongside the Dane since the mid 1990s.
“I must admit, quite strong emotions went through when I saw the trophy,” said Vilander.
“I saw Allan for the first time in ’94, when I raced in Denmark, so and even the race where he had the issue, the big accident, I walked with him on the grid, so it’s not an easy moment.”
After a tricky event build up that saw the team encounter a gearbox glitch in testing, Maranello Motorsport have emerged as firm favourites for tomorrow’s race.
While confident with the 488 GT3 package, Coffey is aware his team will face several threats from the highly credentialed grid.
“We do have a really good shot but there are a lot of people who have a great shot too,” added Coffey.
“It is a very serious grid and tomorrow is going to be a long day.”