Sunday, May 2, 2010

Maserati Monthly: Track - Maserati aims for further domination of FIA GT Championship

A look back at two years of victories for MC12

For the past two years the Maserati MC12 supercar has been competing – and winning – in the FIA GT Championship. The 2007 season of the series gets under way in March, with a trip to the Zhuhai circuit in China, which makes this the perfect time to look back at the history and technology of the superlative car.

The Maserati company was originally created to do one thing: build race cars. The company didn’t commence building road cars for another twenty years, when the A6 Gran Turismo was unveiled in 1946. While the company had spectacular success in grand prix racing with the legendary 250F, with Juan Manuel Fangio taking the World Championship in 1957, Maserati has a long and illustrious history in GT racing. So when considering the type of car to create for the 21st Century, it was only natural that it should be a Grand Tourer.

Capitalising on the company’s technical partnership with Ferrari, the MC12 utilises the carbon-fiber monocoque used for the Enzo Ferrari, along with a modified version of the 6-liter V12 engine from the Enzo. Very little else was carried over; the bodywork, for example, bears no relationship to the Ferrari. Based on a design concept by Giugiaro, was then refined by renowned designer Frank Stephenson, making extensive use of the wind-tunnel.

Despite having the diameter of the air intakes restricted, the 48-valve, quad-cam engine develops over 600bhp, fed through a six-speed paddle-shift gearbox that would be familiar to anyone who has driven a roadgoing Maserati equipped with a DuoSelect or Cambiocorsa gearbox. As everything possible has been done to make the car as light as possible, performance is stunning – the roadgoing version goes from zero to sixty in under four seconds, and the top speed is over 200mph.

Oschersleben in Germany

The MC12 made its debut in the eighth round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship at Imola, as a ‘guest’ entry; the potential of the car was immediately apparent, with the two cars finishing second and third. At the next race, at Oschersleben in Germany, Andrea Bertolini and Mika Salo went one better and claimed the first win for the Maserati. A second place in Dubai was followed by the final race of the season, in China – and the two MC12s came home first and second.

For 2005 there were no fewer than four Maseratis competing in the championship – two each for the Vitaphone Racing and JMB Racing teams. The opening round at Monza saw the four cars finish 2-3-4-5, with the cars in second and third both within 2s of the race winner. The next race, at Magny-Cours in France, saw an historic 1-2-3 for Maserati; a further four victories came over the remainder of the season, including a remarkable 1-2 finish in the grueling Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours race.

By the end of the season Vitaphone Racing had claimed the Teams’ Championship ahead of JMB Racing, with Maserati dominating the Manufacturers’ Cup with a points total almost double that of their nearest competitor. Timo Scheider and Michael Bartels just missed out on the Drivers’ title, beaten by a single point.

Vitaphone Racing raced on in 2006 with their two cars, and this time the pairing of Bartels and Andrea Bertolini were not to be denied. The season began in fine style with a win in the opening round at Silverstone; on the podium, Bartels and Bertolini were presented with the historic Tourist Trophy by racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. A 1-2 finish came at Oschersleben, followed by a back-to-back win in the 24 Hours at Spa.

Team-mates Jamie Davies and Thomas Biagi found their stride in the second half of the season, claiming victories at Dijon and Adria, while Bartels and Bertolini showed amazing consistency, scoring points in every round and clinching the coveted Drivers’ Championship with a race to spare; Vitaphone again won the Teams’ title with a winning margin over 50 points.

In 2006 the Maserati MC12 also raced in the Italian GT Championship; the Box Racing and Playteam SaraFree teams each entered two cars. The Maserati was almost unbeatable, winning fourteen of the sixteen races; the Playteam SaraFree squad has stepped up to the FIA GT Championship for 2007. With JMB Racing also opting to campaign their MC12 in the series, the FIA GT Championship could see as many as six Maseratis on the grid during the season.

Maserati Monthly: Track - Maserati aims for further domination of FIA GT Championship

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