180 long days have passed since Vincent Abril and Max Buhk wrapped up the Blancpain Sprint Series title at Zandvoort and teams, drivers and media alike are positively itching to get the new season underway. However, the first race of the season at Misano is no ordinary affair and will take place under the cover of darkness, posing a unique challenge for those new to GT racing who weren’t already feeling daunted by the prospect of facing up against 38 other cars.
20-year-old Nici Pohler is one such driver, having made the switch from Formula Three Dallara to Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan over the winter, but fortunately for the youngster, he has the experienced Mirko Bortolotti alongside to learn from. We asked the Italian, who finished second in the qualifying night race last year, to talk us through his preparations and how they differ to a more regular weekend.
“It’s a night race sure, but we have quite a strong lighting system on the track, so you still have a lot of visibility,” he said. “First of all from a driving point of view, it’s very important to get your references for every corner while you still have light to understand the braking points and where apexes are, but we did a test here last month so he knows the track, which is a good thing.
“For a new driver it’s very important to get all of this information during free practice. We also have a night practice which is the most important thing because every lap you can do before the race is crucial, so we will try to use the time as well as possible and so we can be well-prepared for the race.
“Of course it’s a sprint race so everybody is going for it and trying to be as aggressive as possible, so we will do the same. Another thing we have to bear in mind is the temperature – we will have to work in free practice to understand how to make the tyre work in the best possible way.
“Racing-wise I would say there is not a big difference compared to what we are used to, it’s a night race but we raced here last year and it was a great experience, so we’re looking forward to it. I really like the environment here, it’s a nice racetrack, very fast and it’s the kind of circuit you can push close to the limit. It’s a bit tricky because it’s a motorcycle track, so you have to be careful with the cutting that you don’t violate the track limits, but it’s the same issue for everyone.
“39 cars is obviously quite a lot, I’m really happy that the series is growing and the championship is getting bigger every year. The goal will to be to try and stay out of trouble and finish both races, it’s important to have the perspective of the season and not just think about this single race – we will take the risks we have to take, but not go over. I think we have the potential to do well and if can work on Nicolas to get him up to speed and give him the time to learn, then we can challenge for some really top positions, but we have to do things step by step.”