Round 1 - Italy - Monza
A Maserati one-two at Monza
The 2009 Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge opened at the circuit in Brianza on a weekend that also saw the first Ferrari Racing Day take place.
Alongside the F430s from the Ferrari Challenge and the enjoyable 500s in the Trofeo Arbath, classic cars from the two Emilian marques took each other on in their usual spectacular but fair fashion. Things got underway with free practice on Friday morning, a session that allowed the drivers to get friendly with the track again after the long winter break. In the afternoon, sessions to decide the grid places for the weekend’s races took place.
The best overall time was set by Darius Ahrabian in a Ferrari F40 LM. Next up came the 512 BB LM with Christian Traber on board with Massimo Sordi’s Maserati 200SI clocking the quickest time in his category. Saturday’s race was an open one and full of excitement for the watching crowds. As the cars lined up, the surface was still dry. Making the most of this was the F40 LM that took an immediate lead tracked by the 512 BB LMs driven by Traber and ‘Mister John B’. The weather took a turn for the worse soon after and the rain made the track slippery. The conditions hit the F40 LM hardest and it dropped two places to leave things open for the 512 BB LMs. In the end, the win went to ‘Mister John B’ with Christian Traber and Darius Ahrabian completing the top places.
Crossing the line first in Group A was Massimo Sordi’s Maserati 200SI with victory coming only after a race-long fight with Nicolas Zapata and his Ferrari 625 TR – who placed second. Third went to the Ferrari 250 GT long wheelbase berlinetta with the evergreen Plinio Haas at the wheel. “I started really fast and ended up in the sand after 500 metres”, revealed Sordi once the race was over. “I don’t remember what I did or what gear I was in but I managed to keep the engine running and made it back to the track to chase the others. I moved back into the category lead on lap two by overtaking some tricky but fair drivers like Plinio Haas. On the fifth lap it began to rain and when it is wet Nicolas comes into his own. He tracked me for a bit and then went past. I kept up with him because it seemed like he was pushing too hard; as it turned out he spun at the Variante della Roggia and I pushed on. Nicolas really is a tough nut: on the track he is so focused and you cannot ever lose your concentration. Two laps from the end he closed in on me and moved back into the lead.
I had no choice but to go for it and put him under as much pressure as I could. Incredibly, he got into trouble again at Roggia and I went on to win. It was a fantastic race and winning in my Maserati 200 SI was very satisfying”. Sunday’s event, held in driving rain, saw victory go to Darius Ahrabian’s F40 LM. With its front end tweaked, it easily got the better of the two Ferrari 512 BB LMs driven by Christian Traber, who finished second, and ‘Mister John B’, in third. Over in Group A, the win was again taken by Massimo Sordi’s Maserati 200 SI, followed home by Nicolas Zapata’s Ferrari 625 TR and the 500 MD TR with Giancarlo Galeazzi at the controls. Sordi led practically from start to finish but Zapata was dangerous throughout, even managing to nick the lead from the Maserati man two laps from the end. However, the Milanese driver was quick to react at Lesmo on the penultimate lap when he claimed back top spot.
“Zapata’s Ferrari has a four cylinder engine and more torque than my Maserati”, commented Sordi once the podium celebrations had been wrapped up. “Saying this, the 200SI has a higher top speed and this meant that it was easier to control things”. The next round in the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge will be held on 7 June at the Val de Vienne circuit, close to Le Vigeant, France.
Images courtesy by Michiel Mulder