The International Superstars Series gets underway this weekend at Monza. This season will again see the Maserati Quattroporte Evo, fielded by the private Swiss Team, taking part.
The Swiss outfit’s sporting director is Guido Bonfiglio, with engineer Giuseppe Angiulli looking after the technical side of things. In this FG Group-promoted series, the team will be back on the track with two Maseratis after 2011 saw Andrea Bertolini claim the Drivers' crown in a fantastic effort.
The decision to continue in this championship was only taken at the last minute: the late call came after a rival team lodged an appeal, at the end of last season, over whether the Quattroporte Evo met series regulations. Swiss Team opted not to confirm its entry until a judgement had been made with the verdict coming on the eve of the new championship. The Evo was given the all-clear.
Maserati will again be up against top class opposition. The ten teams enrolled include cars from six manufacturers, with some official squads among them. In total, seven marques will be lining up on the grid: Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati and Mercedes. Porsche could be another tough competitor that opts to line up on the grid.
The Swiss Team drivers have bags of experience. Three ex-Formula 1 drivers will be in the No.1 car: Mika Salo, Christian Fittipaldi and Johnny Herbert. After retiring from F1, all three have continued to compete in top drawer races including the World GT, Indycar, the Nascar Sprint Cup and the Le Mans 24 Hour. The trio have proved that their fighting spirit remains intact.
First in the car will be Mika Salo on a track where he took third spot for Ferrari in 1999.
Swiss Team's No.2 car will be driven by Mauro Cesari. Cesari can be considered a Superstars veteran after being crowned the 2009 Italian champion and claiming third in the category reserved to cars that are over four years old.
The driver line-up may have changed but not the Quattroporte Evo: no modifications have been made to the car. The Evo was developed in the run-up to last season in a collaboration between Swiss Team and Maserati Corse, headed by Maurizio Leschiutta. The late decision to compete in the series meant that no further work on the car could be carried out over winter.
The Quattroporte Evo will start the season with two handicaps: the 2011 title win has resulted in the car's engine air scoops being reduced. This has brought the power down by 20bhp to 473bhp. Another change is that the minimum weight has been increased by 10kg to 1360kg. The technicians have calculated that these changes will mean the cars lapping 1" second slower.
Swiss Team hopes to challenge for the lead positions but is not aiming for the overall title. The decision to alternate three ex-F1 drivers in the No.1 car means the aim this year is to thrill the crowds.
Two events will be held for each round of the International Superstars Series, both on the Sunday. All the races will be beamed live by Rai Sport 2, the first at 11.15 and the second at 16.15.