Race-2: Salo sparkles then fades
Mika Salo suffered more bad luck after his podium bid was snatched away when the safety car came on in Race 1. This time out he had to retire with a technical hitch when in second and looking menacing. The other Swiss Team driver, Mauro Cesari, could do no better than tenth with his problems with the set up.
Race 2 got off to an orderly start with the drivers lining up in the order they finished Race 1 but with the top eight positions inverted. Salo quickly slid into second, 2"7 off leader Liuzzi’s Mercedes AMG C63, from Caal Racing, who had sped into top spot courtesy of a great start. The Finnish driver then began eating into Liuzzi’s advantage, reducing the gap to 2"1 on lap three and 0"9 on lap eight. An attack in the next five laps looked on the cards. Then, on lap nine, the rear suspension arm on his car gave way. This was the same part that brought team mate Mauro Cesari’s Race 1 to an end. This time Cesari managed to finish the race but his tenth place was the result of problems with the set up that dogged him in testing.
There is no doubt that the same rear suspension arm twice giving way is down to the raised kerbs. Both Salo and Cesari had to drive aggressively to deal with AMG C63’s greater acceleration, higher top speed, and bigger and more powerful engine. Swiss Team plans to swap the aluminium suspension arms with steel ones.
Still, there is no doubting the Quattroporte Evo’s competitive edge. After clocking the fourth best time in Race 1, Salo was second quickest on the track with a time of 1'56"665. This lap time was posted despite the Evo being penalised for winning the 2011 Drivers’ crown: the engine air scoops are now smaller, with the loss of 20 bhp, and the regulation minimum weight increased by 10kg. The two handicaps will result in a second being added to each lap, according to the simulator at Monza.
Race-1: The safety car robs Salo’s Quattroporte Evo of a podium place
The Maserati, driven by Mika Salo and made race-ready by the private Swiss Team, posted the fourth fastest time in qualifying. The display earned him a slot on row 2 for the first race, tucked in behind the Jaguar XF/R5.0 S/C driven by Max Pigoli, in pole, Andrea Larini’s Mercedes AMG C63 and the BMW M3 E92 looked after by Thomas Biagi.
In the first two races, the ex-F1 driver went on the attack from the off, pressuring Biagi. Up front were Pigoli and Larini. Salo slowly increased his advantage over his closest pursuer, Max Mugelli and his Caal Racing Mercedes AMG C63.
Things were looking up with the Finn in Biagi’s slipstream but, on lap five and with Salo holding a 6"9 lead over Mugelli, Riccardo Bossi careered off the track. This changed everything. After ramming into the crash barriers, the Scuderia Giudici driver, in the BMW M3 E92, was determined to make it back onto the track. He did so but then lost a wheel right in the middle of the track and the safety car was not long in coming on.
With the action on the track frozen, the pack bunched up. Mugelli, and his team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi, closed in on the Finn; Liuzzi had made a great comeback from the back of the field. When things got going again, the Maserati Quattroporte Evo could not contain the Mercedes AMG C63 with its quicker acceleration, higher top speed and engine that had 85 more bhp than the Evo; where the Maserati has the edge is its agility.
When Liuzzi overtook him on the main straight, Salo tried to make the most of his Quattroporte Evo’s greater stability and pace in the mixed stretch. At the first chicane he tried to stay in touch with the Mercedes but the AMG C63’s more cumbersome handling saw Liuzzi brake early, forcing Salo to swerve to avoid slamming into the back of him. Salo ended the race sixth, only 3"969 off the winning time.
The other Swiss Team driver, Mauro Cesari, also had a tough time. Cesari had moved up into tenth but had to throw in the towel when his rear suspension gave out, probably a result of riding the kerbs that, this year, are slightly higher than last season.
Salo claimed the race’s fourth quickest lap time (1'56"963) to prove that the Quattroporte Evo is as competitive as ever, this despite being penalised for taking the Drivers’ title in 2011. For this season, the engine air scoops have been reduced, meaning the power output has dropped by 20bhp, and the car’s regulation minimum weight has been increased by 10kg. These handicaps, according to the Monza simulator, will cost the Evo a second a lap.