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Ferrari Happenings

Ferrari Maserati North America Celebrates Ten Years of Ferrari Challenge
report & pics by Christopher McNeil

18.8.03

The latest round of the Ferrari North America 360 Challenge Trofeo Pirelli and Shell Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge marked the 10th anniversary of the series, and Ferrari Maserati North America threw a hell of a party at Lime Rock Park, the oh-so scenic and historic circuit that hosted the inauguration of the 348 Ferrari Challenge in 1993. For the thousands of spectators that turned out to enjoy this Ferrari Racing Days weekend, the action on track and the chance to touch Ferrari history in the paddocks epitomized the sole purpose of the Ferrari Challenge.

FOUR-WAY BATTLE FOR FIRST IN 360 CHALLENGE

Going into Lime Rock, the top three drivers in the 360 Challenge Trofeo Pirelli were separated by a scant 24 points and the season finale in October at Mugello was coming on quick.

Breaking a one-minute lap of Lime Rock's short, but twisty 1.54-mile circuit, was the benchmark of supremacy in the 360 Challenge. During qualifying, each of the top four drivers including Shelton Sports Cars' Doug Peterson, Ferrari of Quebec's Emmanuel Anassis, Ferrari of Washington's Jim Kenton, and Ferrari of Houston's Steve Earle had each barely limboed their way beneath the minute mark, setting the grid respectively for race one.

The start of the first of two 360 Challenge races was ripe with fury, with the top four cars shoehorning their way into Lime Rock's tricky, decreasing radius first turn, then running away from the pack while dicing among themselves. Half way into the race, Kenton began slowing dramatically and was forced to hold off Earle who was all but pushing Kenton around the circuit. "My car suddenly started to miss." explained Kenton. Capitalizing on Kenton's ailing car, Earle passed Kenton in the chicane to take over third position. Within four laps, Earle, a former Challenge North America Champion, was making a hard charge for second place when his car came out from under him, "I watched him spin" said Kenton, "He collected it immediately and I knew he wanted to shoot out into the track in front of me; I could see him, but he waited", said Kenton, alluding to the underlying "gentlemen racing" ethic of the Ferrari Challenge.

Earle was quick to gather himself and soon caught up Kenton once again at the chicane, this time Kenton's car bogged so heavily that Earle was forced to lift, or morph his car into and through Kenton's car. "I'm really amazed he didn't hit me, but he lifted, which subsequently caused the spin", said Kenton, again acknowledging that he knew that Earle's move was a self-eliminating "gentleman's" alternative to wailing into the rear of him.

While Kenton valiantly groped his way to third place, Peterson and Anassis were engaged in a bumper-to-bumper slugfest for first place. In the closing laps of the race, Anassis finally put the screws to Peterson's brilliant driving, in a full-on drag race down Lime Rock's front straight. Squeezing Peterson to the outside of turn one, Anassis snatched the lead and held on for his first Ferrari Challenge win, by an invisible six one-hundredth of a second over Peterson.

The grid for the second 360 Challenge race was set by the finishing order of the first race. For the first time in the 2003 season, Anassis would lead from the pole, left on his own to deal with the unholy pressure of Peterson and Kenton, now with a proper car, looking to steamroll with their own agendas their way to turn one .

Peterson read the green flag perfectly and was even with Anassis as the two entered turn one. Hugging Anassis' driver side door, Peterson exited turn one on the racing line and just ahead of Anassis, then proceeded to haul ass, intent on regaining his one-time lead of the championship points standing. Never looking back, Peterson dominated the 45-minute race two by 14 seconds over the second place Anassis.

While Peterson was running away with the win, Kenton was doing all he could to stay ahead of a fierce attack from Brad Egna, a mistake by Egna while attempting to pass Kenton, however, proved to be the end of Egna's podium assault, handing third place overall to Kenton. Although bumped from the top of the leaders' board, Kenton's much-needed third place finish was enough to keep in within four points of the now points-leading Doug Peterson and 12 points ahead of third place Emmanuel Anassis.

DUDLEY, NOON SECURE 2003 DRUM BRAKE AND DISC BRAKE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Ferrari Maserati North America and David Seibert did a stellar job in gathering two examples of each competition Historic Ferrari and Maserati in attendance at Lime Rock. A Maranelloan "Noah's Ark" of the Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge, the quality of cars and drivers on hand and intensity of racing action within both classes, Disc and Drum Brake, represented 50 years of some of the most significant Ferraris ever manufactured and raced. Ranging from the earliest, a pair of 1930s Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Monzas, to the latest, a pair of 1981 512BB/LMs, this was more an orgy, than an anniversary of Ferrari racing history.

Although only two Maseratis were on hand, they were exquisite examples of the marque's prestigious racing history. Tom Price's 1957 200Si, (s/n 2416) originally a Factory-campaigned car and Tony Wang's 1957 300S (s/n 3076), also raced briefly by the factory, then turned over to an American contingent, was piloted by Carroll Shelby to several podiums, including a first place overall finish at Lime Rock in the summer of '57.

The fastest qualifier within the drum brake class was Nick Soprano, behind the wheel of his 1958 250 GT LWB "Tour de France" (s/n 0881GT). Soprano's fast lap of 1:06 seconds out-qualified the other 1958 250 GT LWB TdF (s/n 1139) of Stephen Dudley, third on the grid, by nearly two full seconds. Between Dudley and Soprano, lurked Tom Price and his 200Si.

Considering the very real monetary values at stake, the feverish start of the historic disc and drum races, and subsequent twenty minute heats of controlled slides and hail-Mary passes, made the 360 Challenge look tame by comparison. In the first of the two drum brake races, Price, in his 200Si and Soprano in the TdF ran away from the pack, dicing heavily among each other until the very end, with Price finishing four seconds ahead of Soprano. Meanwhile, Wang in the 300S and Dudley in the other TdF, along with Jon Shirley in his 1957 250 Testa Rossa (s/n 0666), the prototype for one of the most famous Ferraris models ever made, fought among themselves for third, fourth and fifth position overall, respectively. Rounding out the class winners within the drum brake class, were Peter Giddings, in his 1933 ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Monza (s/n 2211114), finishing ahead of Dennis Machul in his ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Monza (s/n 2211108). Jim Fuchs skated about in his 1953 Vignale-bodied 166MM/53 (s/n 0290M) to a class 2 win, holding off Herb Wolfe in his 1953 Scaglietti-bodied 166MM/53.

When Soprano's TdF came up lame in the second Drum Brake race, Price went unchallenged for another overall drum brake victory. The battle for first place in group 3 behind Price, however, was a great four-way dice between Wang, Dudley, Shirley and Lawrence Stroll in his 1957 250TR (s/n 0718TR), with Wang narrowly holding off Dudley by 1.5 seconds for the class win. Dudley's second place finish, however, gave him the necessary points to clinch the overall 2003 Drum Brake Championship. Giddings and Fuchs once again finished first in their respective groups.

Race one of the Disc Brake class looked to be a walk in the park (no pun intended) for former Historic Challenge Champion and Historic Challenge Master Todd Morici, in his 1981 ex-Chinetti/ NART 512BB/LM (s/n 35527). Morici's qualifying time of 1.00.1 was four seconds quicker than the second place 512S of Charlie Arnott, and would have been good enough for sixth place on the 360 Challenge grid. However, when the green flag dropped, it was Charlie Arnott in his decade-older ex-NART 512S (s/n 1006), which finished second in the '71 24 Hours of Daytona, that took Morici by surprise with a blistering start and lead into turn one. For the remaining 18 laps, the two 512s were never more than 10 feet apart, as they raced flat-out, changing leads no less than six times. Despite Morici's quickest race lap of 59.7 seconds, which would have won both 360 Challenge races, Arnott held on by three-tenths of a second to take the win. The second Disc race had markedly different results, however, as Morici thoroughly scorched the field and took the checkered flag 30 seconds ahead of second place Arnott.

For Bill Noon and his 308GT/Michelotto (s/n 21883), finishing 5th overall and 1st in class 7 in both disc races, meant snapping up the 2003 overall Disc Brake Championship. First place in class 5 in both Disc races was Nick Longhi in Lawrence Stroll's stunning 1967 412P P3/P4 (s/n 0850). Besting Bob Bodin's 250GT SWB (s/n 2291), Tony Wang's 250GT/LMB (s/n 3769), Stoll's 250GTO (s/n 3451GT), Tom Price finished 1st in class 4 in his pristine 1962 ex-Noblet/Guichet 250 GTO (s/n 3943GT) - which finished 1st in GT and 2nd overall during the '63 Nürburgring 1000 km.

Along with his wonderful 1961 196SP (s/n 0790), Chuck Wegner showed up at Lime Rock with his exciting 1971 ex-Hurley Claxton/NART 365GTB/4C (s/n 14107), the second 365GTB/4C ever "conceived." This very special car was no match, despite Wegner's driving prowess, for the significantly advanced Series-1, ex-Scuderia Filipinettti 365GTB/4C of Charlie Arnott, which was driven to first place in both class 4A races by Arnott's son, Charlie Arnott, Jr.

Another feature of the Lime Rock Ferrari Days weekend, was the Regularity Run, an event that features drivers with navigators attempting to duplicate times of two back-to-back laps. The team of Jim Fuchs and Matt Jansen in Fuchs' 1953 166MM/53 had a time deviation of a mere 1.01 seconds between their two timed laps, narrowly edging the team of Stephen and Lynne Dudley's time of 1.17 seconds, in their 1958 250 GT LWB TdF (s/n 1139).

It's difficult to imagine a higher caliber weekend than this, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ferrari North America Challenge Trofeo Pirelli and Shell Historic Challenge. From the karting, to the vendors, to dealer sport and touring laps, to the countless and priceless Ferraris and Maseratis on hand, simply for show; to the miracle of the Lime Rock rain holding off until the end of each day .....

Hats off to the drivers, teams, spectators, Ferrari Maserati North America and Lime Rock Park for putting on an incredible show.

 

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