Ferrari detail. Ferrari Owners' Club
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Ferrari Happenings
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Scuderia Ecosse at the Le Mans 1000Km
*01.12.03
Text courtesy of www.dailysportscar.com
click for website

We first announced this new team back in late March, at which time team owner Stewart Roden commented that "We have the Ferrari factory's full endorsement of our programme. It's been a dream of mine (to enter a full blown GT Ferrari) since I used to race cars, so I'm delighted to see that dream turn into a reality.”

Marino Franchitti was the perfect driver name to help launch this effort – an Italo-Scot, driving a Scottish-entered Italian race car. Perfect. But then the news went quiet: the team was actually concentrating on winning the UK Pirelli Maranello Ferrari Challenge, and with that mission accomplished, it then became time to focus on the GT project.

The Le Mans 1000 Km became the ideal race in which the Modena should make its debut, and with the decision taken to submit an entry just six weeks before the race, the 360 was immediately returned to Italy in order to be fitted with components to conform to ACO endurance regulations.

By the week beginning November 3, Marino Franchitti was one impatient Scot: he hadn’t raced since Sebring in March, and here at last, nearly eight months later, was his second and last chance to show what he could do in 2003 – in a race.

Tim Mullen joined the team for testing, and was eventually confirmed for the race, joining Marino and Chris Niarchos. The Scuderia Ecosse 360 wasn’t as highly developed as the rival Cirtek car, but four days of testing (Monday to Thursday) went very well, and the car passed through scrutineering with flying colours on Friday.

The team set about preparing the car for qualifying on Saturday – when the weather was colder than throughout any of the test days. Very bright and sunny though - so we had a mix of Italian sunglasses and Scottish headgear.

Marino was set to qualify the car in the morning: he went out to check the car, but gremlins struck, gear problems meant that he could only rev the car to 3,000rpm and then, in the freezing conditions, he was unable to improve on a very low 1:42. He was ranting about traffic and the struggle to find a clear lap. There was way more time to come from the car.

Tim Mullen went out in the afternoon, and in slightly warmer (less cold) weather set a 1:41.357, fifth fastest in GT – just over a second off the time of the Cirtek car.

Tim Mullen has masses of experience of a 360 in FIA GT trim: what’s the difference Tim? “We’re running with a flat floor in ACO format, and with a smaller splitter. This car has some good ‘bits’ on it, and the team is made up of a really good bunch of guys. We’ve got the paddle shift system though, and that’s quite slow compared to the sequential (on the rival Ferrari).”

Chris Niarchos explained that “the car still has the F1 shift and not a sequential shift and that is costing us a tenth with every change, and there are 19 shifts per lap. When you take that into account, we’d be right at the front (of the grid)!” Chris had also had problems with traffic (and yellow flags) so was slightly disappointed with his time, but very happy with the car.

Tim Mullen started the race – in the spray and the gloom - but within a few laps of the midday start was back into the pit. A serious problem? Some kind of first race problem to end the day? No, an infuriating one. Somehow, the ducting to keep the screen from misting wasn’t all it should have been, and two stops were needed to ensure that Tim Mullen could see where he was going. The Scuderia Ecosse 360 was suddenly two laps down.

Marino next into the car – and unlike most of the opposition, he opted for slick tyres! Within a handful of laps he was setting the quickest times among the GT cars – and the GTS cars. “The first few laps of my stint on slicks in the wet were interesting, but it was a challenge I relished. Can't wait to do it all again,” said the Scot.

Eleventh at one hour became seventh at three hours, but with the reliability of the GT runners (in fact the whole field), there was only one more place to be made up – on the #46 TVR. The Sebah Porsche of Pompidou and Collard remained just out of reach.

So a sixth place on the team’s debut, and third fastest race lap in the highly competitive GT class. What a maiden race at this level – and apart from the misting screen, not a single problem throughout the six hours.

2004 plans should be announced soon, but enquiries are already underway to find out if Sebring and the first LMES race (at Monza two weeks later) can be fitted in. And there’s the possibility of another Ferrari, besides the 360 Modena….

 

 

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