The cars, resplendent in corporate blue and performing in front of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, ran faultlessly throughout the race, despite a new team and two new drivers in the shape of Johnny Herbert and Fabrizio de Simone who only had their first drive in the car the week preceding the event.
It was the first time that a Maserati had been seen in the FIA GT Championship and the MC12 is the culmination of more than nine months of work with test driver Andrea Bertolini who, with Mika Salo, proudly stood on the podium after Sunday’s hard race in very hot conditions. The cars qualified in eighth and 12th positions overall after what the drivers described as a ‘conservative’ tyre decision with supplier Pirelli. With one eye firmly on the race the drivers concentrated more on making the car comfortable to drive in the very hot conditions for the three hour event than chasing pole position. It was a sound decision, borne out by their performances during the race.
Though both drivers lost time in the opening hour in the heavy traffic, they were able to steadily make their way through the field to hold on to second and third positions just short of the two-hour mark. Mid-race pace was excellent, with Mika Salo closing more than 40 seconds on the leader in the middle hour, but eventually the Saleen, with years of development behind it and well driven by Uwe Alzen and Michael Bartels, proved to be faster than the Maserati over the final hour. The Maseratis will race again at Oschersleben, near Magdeburg in the former Eastern block of Germany.
The circuit is tight, twisty and completely opposite to Imola. The AF Corse team has promised a more aggressive approach to the series in Germany, and the team is also looking well for the final race in Dubai. There, temperatures are expected to again be high, suiting the Pirelli tyre and the drivers who enjoyed the luxury of a well ventilated cockpit.