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The white-knuckle circuit that is Spa: Top-notch performance from Giorgio Maggi on legendary Ardennes roller-coaster

Giorgio Maggi and Spa-Francorchamps are a perfect match. The Swiss driver impressed once again in the fifth and penultimate round of the 2016 European Le Mans series. The 18-year-old not only really enjoys driving at the Ardennes roller-coaster of a track but is also always amazingly quick there. His outfit, Race Performance, entrusted the job of qualifying to Maggi at his favourite circuit. He repaid their confidence with a strong performance and just barely missed the Top Ten in the LMP3 class. All set for the race then, but gremlins struck on Sunday. A technical problem with the car ended the Spa adventure for the Swiss team at an early stage. Maggi was unable to post a single lap in the 420-bhp racing car weighing just 900 kilos.

Giorgio, your performance in qualifying was impressive. What did driving the car feel like?
We found a really good set-up for qualifying, but the start was a bit tricky. My steering wheel display flashed up an error message just as I was getting under way, showing that the rear tyres didn’t have enough pressure. That obviously affected the way the car drove. The car was swaying from side to side even when driving in a straight line which was, of course, not ideal in view of the high speeds that we reach at Spa.

Nevertheless, you improved with every lap. Did you solve the problem yourself?
Things actually got better during qualifying. The car’s balance was perfect from the beginning. I could take the kerbs really well and the car was stable through the corners. A lot more would have been possible but for the tyre pressure problem which cost us around eight tenths on the first sector alone. You see, you lose all your momentum when you find yourself unable to take white-knuckle turns like Eau Rouge at full speed.

You then had to retire early in the race, unfortunately.
Obviously, I was all fired up for Sunday’s race after a great quali. I should have taken the third stint, but we were a bit behind after the start, which was a shame. My team-mate, Bert Longin, was at the wheel and told us over the radio that the car’s balance wasn’t quite right and that it was oversteering badly. Another technical problem then subsequently cropped up which ultimately forced us to retire early.

Spa simply suits you. What was it like, tearing around the track in your Le Mans prototype?
Just fantastic! I had a lot of fun there last year in the ADAC Formula 4, but everything is much faster now, and you can feel the forces that act on your body in the pit of your stomach. That’s exactly how racing should be. I was obviously proud that my team, Race Performance, picked me for qualifying.

The final round of the season will take place in less than a month’s time in Estoril. How are you preparing for it?
Estoril is completely new to me. I’ve not had much time so far to get to grips with the circuit but have already seen some on-board footage and intend to intensify my knowledge of the track over the coming weeks. The team have already raced there on numerous occasions and will provide me with all the footage and data I need. I will also spend time, working with the simulator so that I can put the final polish on preparations and ensure that I repeat my strong qualifying performance from Spa in Estoril. And then hopefully, we can round off the last race of the season with a decent result.

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