One year after Igor Salaquarda Racing (ISR) had its first public outing with an Audi R8 LMS ultra, the team is halfway through its first season in the Blancpain GT Series, learning the ropes of GT racing.
“We started with one car in Spa last year, while still competing in the Renault World Series at the same time,” team owner Igor Salaquarda told Sportscar365.
“This year we added another Audi, trying to learn how to work with the car. At the test at Spa and Paul Ricard we were very competitive and we are quite happy with that.”
Being an Audi and Volkswagen dealer, Salaquarda feels racing with GTs fits his business better than single seaters, while he still possesses the assets of a complete World Series team at home.
“For me, GT racing is the future, he said. “It just works better for us. I can invite customers, add some marketing elements and there’s a lot of potential.”
Another plus is the fact that he can reintegrate his own son, Filip, back into his own operation.
“My son raced with us in WSR,” Salaquarda said. “When he switched to GT racing, he started out with AF Corse and Ferraris, but now he’s back home.”
Filip Salaquarda and Marco Bonanomi team up for the entire Blancpain GT Season, while Belgian Frédéric Vervisch joins them for the endurance races.
“Fred is a really quick driver, people don’t always know that,” Salaquarda said. “We have a have known him a long time and always tried to put a deal together, but unfortunately he never gets a big sponsor, but this is normal, as that’s almost never the case for good drivers.
“They are a really strong trio; their race pace is very similar.”
Switching over from the World Series by Renault (3.5), ISR is edging ever closer to the established top teams in GT3, especially over the longer endurance races.
During the Paul Ricard 1000, the Czech squad ran as the best-placed Audi in ninth overall, beating established and factory supported teams like WRT and Phoenix, who were also running the new R8 LMS.
While it’s still early days, Salaquarda thinks it should be possible to reach the same level of a team like WRT.
“I think everything is possible, even though we don’t have a lot of experience yet,” he said. “We have a small advantage compared to them, because running four cars is not so easy.
“We were a little bit unlucky with the decisions of the stewards this year, because every race we got some penalties, while that’s never the case with them. Politically we cannot beat them.”
ISR entered two Audi R8 LMS ultras for the season, but has recently dropped the second car due to several reasons.
“Our deal with the Fjordbach brothers was that we just did the service, while the car belongs to them,” Salaquarda said.
“They were responsible to find the drivers, but in the beginning of the season it was difficult for them because nobody knew them, so we helped them out by finding Fabio Onidi and Andrea Roda.”
Onidi fractured three vertebrae in a crash at Monza, and is likely to be out for the remainder of the season, while Thomas and Anders Fjordbach have a busy schedule and aren’t satisfied with their results up until now, according to Salaquarda.
“I think they underestimated the level of the series a bit,” he said. “Without experience it’s quite difficult.
“We try to find some drivers to bring the car back, but it’s difficult. All the funds are coming from the Fjorbach family, and they are not really willing to pay for a professional driver.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Fjordbach scored his maiden Audi R8 LMS Cup victory in the first international motorsport event in the history of Taiwan this weekend.
Looking ahead to next year, ISR is committed to upgrade to the new Audi, as it plans to buy two cars, while selling the car it currently runs.