With the 4h in Nogaro (France), Natalia Balbo made her debut in the Mitjet category by completing a convincing weekend.
It was almost a last-second call for the Italian driver as she embarks on her last race weekend of 2022 and winks at 2023. The opportunity created by Natalia and her manager Alberto Tonti of Fly Racing Consulting allowed the Vicenza-based driver to face a not easy but very productive weekend with one of the reference teams in the category, the French team VPS Racing.
The context of the 4h of Nogaro, on the Paul Armagnac circuit (south-western France), closed the Mitjet international season with many guests, a full entry-list, and organisation worthy of major events. This was an excellent showcase for Natalia, not only to put herself in the limelight but also to make contact with the paddock of the category she will be aiming for in 2023 among the various projects in the pipeline.
After the first free practice sessions and her full debut in the VPS team car, Natalia gradually improved her performance and feeling, despite the difficult conditions of the circuit, which was wet for much of the time and not entirely ideal for a first time out, data that did not frighten Natalia totally at ease. Saturday’s endurance race then saw the Italian enter even better into the workings of the GT world with the driver changes and stints she had already tried last year. Among the teammates, the presence of former Formula 1 driver Olivier Panis is worth mentioning.
Experience and an opportunity taken full advantage of as a first approach and “apprenticeship” that have enriched the sporting baggage of Natalia Balbo, who is ready for a leading role in 2023.
N.Balbo: “It was a very interesting weekend, I got to know a new reality and a new car, easy to drive, fun and with great potential thinking ahead. Unfortunately the weather was not in my favour and I practically only lapped in the wet, which was not easy but thanks to the work together with the team I coped with it in the best possible way. During my race stint, the team decided to make a tyre change because of the increasing rain. Perfect move and extra experience. I ended my stint in fourth position, recovering two positions from the start, so I can only be very satisfied. I had fun getting to grips with this car and pulled off some good overtaking moves, karting has taught me a lot in this, I have to be honest.
The second stint of the race was also really challenging in the pouring rain, holding the car in those conditions was not easy but we always stayed in the mix of the best positions. Every time I got into the car I had the chance to improve and learn something new, this is thanks to the great work of the VPS team and my teammates especially Olivier Panis who really gave me a lot of valuable advice. My goal for 2023 will be to race here, together with Alberto Tonti we will work on this path. Mitjet is a really solid and interesting category, in Italy it is growing year after year and in the rest of Europe it is already established, it could be a good start for a career in cars.
Obviously, as I said, I want to thank my manager Alberto Tonti and Fly Racing for giving me this chance, the whole VPS team for the work done, my teammates and obviously my family who has always supported me and my sponsor Icor Rottami”.
Photo: Laurent Gayral