Clutch Problem Could Affect Start

A mysterious clutch problem mentioned by both drivers on the front row of the grid, Scott Speed and Gianmaria Bruni, could affect the start of tomorrow's race, which is due to be a standing start for the first time after two rolling starts in Imola

Clutch Problem Could Affect Start

Both drivers complained of problems with the paddle clutch system after taking the top two positions in qualifying, suggesting that they would prefer to use a rolling start until the malady can be rectified.

Speed, who painted a less than flattering picture of his car despite his dominant performance, told Autosport-Atlas: "Hopefully we can all get off the line tomorrow. I've been having problems with my clutch - we all have - and I just want to make sure I can start."

Bruni acknowledged that he too may have a less than ideal car for the start: "My clutch is still a problem because the left paddle is not working in some temperatures, and so I have to have both hands on the right side to start. I think it's an electrical problem.

"For sure I would rather make a rolling start, just for safety, but we have to do what they say and hopefully it will be okay."

The problem does not seem to be widespread - after speaking to the majority of the grid the only other driver to acknowledge any sort of problem with the clutch system was Super Nova's Giorgio Pantano. None of the three driver's teammates had noted a problem with their clutch.

The system works by holding down the lower left paddle until the driver needs to move, with the lower right paddle used to move up the gears. Bruni advised that in the free practice session he had to change to using the lower right for the clutch and the upper right to run through the gears with his left hand, which could be considered dangerous off the grid.

When questioned about the matter GP2's Head of Engineering Bernard Dudot, who yesterday acknowledged some fine tuning had been carried out on the unit during last week's test at Paul Ricard, expressed complete surprise about the supposed problem.

He noted: "I haven't heard about this, but for sure it [the clutch system] is a difficult thing to learn for the drivers, and it can certainly be a little tricky to use. I will ask them about it in the briefing later and see if there is a problem."

Bruni's team boss Paolo Coloni was also surprised about the problem, and immediately asked his engineers what had happened - he was advised that Bruni was afflicted every time he left the pits in the free practice session, but that the qualifying session was less problematic although still an issue.

After the technical briefing with his staff Dudot was even more puzzled, advising: "It's strange because I've just had the briefing and I heard absolutely nothing about this problem at all from anyone there."

Although a rolling start has been ruled out at this stage, Dudot advised that he would discuss the matter personally with the afflicted teams tomorrow morning, ahead of race one.

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