The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Friday, May 22, 2009

5.1 The 20 hours of The Italian Junkyard

No car was driven in this race, no engine screamed its last hps and no tires were changed.
But I ate 4 hamburgers and half a pizza, drank about 3 liters of various drinks and walked for many many miles.
Oh, and about 1.000 shots were taken.

You may remember I was in the position of going to watch the Mille Miglia passing trough Modena, or the second round of the FIA GT Championship in Adria. As previously posted, I took the second option.

I felt like the GT races could offer me a more direct contact with the cars and the racing environment, mainly due to the fact that with the Mille Miglia I would have had just to take a free spot along side the fence, and watch the cars passing by. Not a bad experience, but perhaps too passive and to fresh in my mind after last year's one.
Also, I just love GT cars and competition. The possibility to have a glance inside Maserati's box was enough to get my attention too.

Chronicle of the race ahead, much more pictures and thoughts in future posts.

My personal race started at 6:30 am in Modena. Together with friend working at Maserati Corse we left the motortown at 7 to reach the Adria Raceway, 152 km away or 1:50 hours.
Insert 45.044176,12.15163 in Google Maps for aerial view, sorry for the very low quality images.
We actually arrived at 9:10, took the free tickets (courtesy of Maserati Corse obviously) and entered the track while the first race of the GT4 European Cup was already on, with echoes of screaming tires and roaring engines welcoming us.

That's what I call an entry.

As in 2007, my first time there, the parking lot was already showing some interesting sightings but I didn't pay much attention to them as the cars were already fighting on the track. Just the time to step on the tribune and a red 911 GT3 lost control under heavy braking at the first corner, hitting a Donkevoort G8 and casting the end of its race, while putting at risk the race of at least two other cars. Ironically, the 911 managed to start again and finish the race.

As the previous years, the tribunes still consisted of artificial and stair-shaped small hills, covered by a tick fabric. Smaller steps were added so the make it easier to climb them. Not very appealing or comfortable, but fair enough for the audience.

A short walk in the paddock, just to see the Gallardo SuperTrofeos getting ready for their first race ever. It was pretty obvious those were the very first miles of the cars when, in the first laps, a very strong smell of welding covered the whole track as handcrafted exhausts were reaching working temperatures.
Once the race was on, the Gallardos seemed pretty fast with the only good driver, Sanna, who also happens to be an Audi race driver (Italian Superstars championship with the RS4) and a Lamborghini tester, to perform some decent trajectories.
The race has been pretty uneventful, with drivers pretty busy studying both the car and the track, and probably even pretty worried of damaging the new toys.

Again in the paddock, with a short visit in the Maserati Vitaphone box. It seemed pretty calm and quite, but the guys were getting nervous, the qualifying was scheduled in about an hour and after the mistakes made at Silverstone, they wanted to show that was just a case.
Having an MC12 near you is always a pleasure, but the racing version is completely different beast. Too bad for the silly rear wing smaller than usual so to limit a bit its dominance.
Even the air restrictors for the engine are smaller than usual, 31,8 mm against 33, and so the underbody extractor. It's still incredibly fast and reliable nonetheless.

After that, we walked to a hot spot for watching the action going on on the track, which happens to be on the exact opposite corner of the paddock.
The tribunes right after the start (45.045563, 12.148132) are good to watch the first moment of a race when all cars are close to each other and with the first corner being quite slow after the main straight, but other than that, the view is quite limited.
The right spot is the tribune of the second corner (45.041811, 12.145386) from which you can enjoy the cars exiting the first corner and trough the second straight, second corner, third straight, a glance of the third corner, another straight and then the chicane, after which, they disappear behind advertising walls. As you can see it's a quite long walk, especially when you do it at least three time following the track route as it isn't possible to reach it from the back if not exiting the track itself. During this eternal journey we noticed also a very silly and pointless thing: in front of the actual second tribune (45.044146, 12.145665), along side the second straight, white sheets of plastic were positioned on the high fence so to avoid the audience to watch the track. Don't ask me why, but that means we couldn't see but just hear the cars passing by while moving from the paddock to the second corner.
For the record, it's impossible to see this other section of the track (45.042478, 12.149613) because there are no tribunes or spots on the walls.
It's not really a public-friendly track.

By the time we were there, time was come for the qualifying session of the GT3 European Championship.
The best thing about this category is both the large number of entries (31 in this event) and the variety of cars, from the title winning and awesome looking Ford GT to the nostalgic and incredibly fast Morgan Aero Super Sport.
Also it's the real deal if you are looking for entertaining, overtaking and battles during the whole race.
Considering the number of small and big accidents, it has to be pretty cheap to run too...

When the GT2s entered the track for their qualifying run, I could just think how few they were. 11 cars, among which 4 997 GT3 RS and the rest being F430 GT2. I don't think saying it was boring to watch would be correct, but it wasn't enough to keep my mate completely awake...
Then the GT1s came, with something more to add to the mix, with Corvette C6.Rs, MC12s, Saleen S7s and even an S7 Twin Turbo, according to the FIA official website, which also lists the Corvettes as Z06s though.
Interestingly, two Ford GTs were entered under 2010 regulations, both developed by 2007 GT3 Championship winning Matech Engineering.
Nissan on the other hand wasn't present after the unhappy debut of the GT-R in Silverstone.

Right after this part, silence fell on the track all of a sudden. The track is positioned somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Venetian countryside, so you can imagine there isn't really something going on at noon on Saturday.
And here is when my mate fell asleep too. The Gallardo LP560s performing some demonstrative laps for potential owners weren't enough for him, but it should be said they provided the first power-oversteerings of the day.
This was also the only moment when something wasn't happening, which allowed for a come back in the paddock without missing some action on the track.
Right in time to spot a group of modern Lamborghinis which came to celebrate the start of the SuperTrofeo season and left right after lunch. Among them, an old and still attractive Diablo, unfortunately ruined by a Strosek body kit.

With the light of the day finally coming out from behind the clouds, cars started looking better, and so the pics. The Reventòn was really suffering from the cloudy weather, the color was really unexpressing, but also cleaning the after the rain of the night would have helped. It took them the whole morning to notice it.

I missed the second GT4 and SuperTrofeo races because we were chatting with one of the main Maserati tester, let's calling him Mr “O”, and later a Maserati Corse chief, Mr “M”.
I will talk about this in the dedicated posts I'm planning.

It was time for the first GT3 race though, so we all moved to the tribunes.
It has been very interesting and eventful, with an accident at the chicane knocking out three or four cars because of the oil/water leaked on the track and messing up the situation quite a bit.
The Ford GTs developed by Matech are definitely the quicker cars and the more stable too. The easiness with which the drivers were leading the race was incredible. They took the first two steps of the podium, promisingly looking at the second race.

The third and last race of the SuperTrofeo seemed to be, as the first, pretty uneventful, plus we had to go to the entrance of the track to met a couple of friends arriving for the main race during the evening. Incidentally, we missed the only serious competition or major error resulting in a Gallardo with the rear suspensions heavily damaged and that we later spotted in the paddock.

Waiting for those friends, the time separating us from the GT1 and GT2 race was expiring, so we had to run like mad to reach the infamously distant second corner. Once I climbed the tribune the MC12s were arriving leading the group after the #14 Sharp-Wendlinger Saleen's qualifying times were canceled due to an engine failure resulting also in the car not taking part into the race.
I was barely breathing, but the sounds of those screaming V12s and roaring V8s was worth the longest run I had since some years...

I also had to ask for a spare memory card for the photo camera to Mr M because mine was running out of free space during the first laps, and there still was the full evening ahead.

Unfortunately I didn't have my tripod with me, so taking pictures with the light of the day fading away was more and more difficult. I was very hypnotized by the shining red brake discs and did my best to capture them, it was so Le Mans I remembered myself that's another must-go-to event.

Right after the race the Maserati box was at first overcrowded with people trying to feel like a part of a winning team and trying to get some fame, while 30 minutes or so after it was completely empty, with the guys waiting for the cars to be scrutinized by the marshals. Their job wasn't finished yet.

Even better was the GT3 race, with the night surrounding the usual close fighting to the last corner for the perfect atmosphere. The Fords were again planning a dominated race, but some bad luck and a embarrassing race direction knocked them out.
Basically an Audi R8 LMS lost the front bonnet which fell on the track. The marshals were just yellow flagging, but after a couple or more laps, a group of 4 or 5 cars arrived on the main straight, one hit the bonnet which flew right against the Gts radiator.
Game Over, don't know why they say on the website that the car lost control due to some oil on the track.

It was almost midnight and after 15 hours on the track I was dead-tired. I had a lazy look at the parking lot checking if something pretty rare was there to be appreciated, as in 2007 while exiting, a Bentley Arnage appeared in front of our little Fiat Punto. Nothing was apparently there, and so we left the track as if we were heading directly to pour beds. But it wasn't over yet.

Driving home was the toughest part of the day. After 40 minutes my mate (who also owns the car) was too tired to keep driving, and therefore it was my turn. I was tired too, but I use to stand it better than him while driving, and so I though it was pretty safe.
At a certain point I was so tired I was going to stop at a gas station and sleep, when I saw the sign “Modena Sud” on the motorway, which meant we were 15 minutes away from home. I woke up my mate so to be sure I could stay awake. If I had to drive for an additional 5 minutes I would have ended up pretty badly probably.
2 am, time to sleep, for real this time.

When you are tired, don't drive. Seriously.
And when you have the occasion, go to a GT race, it's awesome!

All images Copyright: Damiano Garro

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