From Silverstone to France, from England’s temple of motorsports to Le Castellet’s futuristic circuit, with its numerous configurations and traffic lights instead of the traditional flags. Between these two races the Italian Challenge run at Vallelunga. The atmosphere is the same: competition, sportsmanlike behaviour and passion. There are different winners in the races, but the standings start getting a certain shape: Blancardi seems to be slightly faster than his competitors, always fighting with the French driver Barde, but also with the two young drivers Baron and Grossmann. Apropos young: 2008 was a season with numerous young new talents on the track, putting their abilities to the test at the Challenge. There were many names I got to know in their moments of glory or of disappointment: Marco Mapelli, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Philipp Baron and Bjorn Grossmann, Riccardo Ragazzi, Stefano Gai, Nicolas Misslin and Ragazzi, who has a bright future. These men animated the races over this wonderful season.
In France it was Niki Cadei showing off his great talent, not leaving much room for his competitors in the Pirelli Trophy Italy.
The racing series dedicated to the F430 are not the only thing I’ve experienced on my trip inside the Corse Clienti. It’s absolutely impossible to forget the engine sounds of the cars from the Historic Challenge. This is the history of the Prancing Horse: breathtaking models from every era. I’ve seen things you can’t even imagine. Very often I was speechless: a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO on the track, or a duel between two F 512 BB, cars you usually can only see in museums. But at the Mugello Racing Days the spectators could almost touch. And when the engines were running and the cars lined up on the grid there was even more, when the historical Formula One single-seaters appeared, the cars from the Clienti department at Maranello. With these cars names of historical significance like Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Niki Lauda and Michele Alboreto competed for the Prancing Horse. Incredible seeing these cars right in front of my eyes, with the Ferrari mechanics working on them, as if they were starting into a Formula One race.
Although it was really hot at the race in France, I have to admit that it was even hotter at Misano, where the Italian racing series held its next race. Cadei went on winning in the Pirelli Trophy, while the Shell Cup was a duel between generations with the young Ragazzi and the experienced drivers Benedetto Marti and Massimo Mantovani.
A long Challenge season came to an end. It was a fascinating and exciting experience. It was definitely a long season, because it started at the end of March and ended at the wonderful race track of Mugello just a couple of days ago. Almost nine months, where I had time to get to know the secrets and the history of this single-marque racing series; the most famous and exiting series in the world. I still remember my first day at the paddock at Monza, where the first race of the Italian and European series was held. I met Domenico Fantasia, the logistic genius for the Corse Clienti. He immediately explained to me the technical details and the magic of the fantastic F430, queen of the Challenge. I have to admit I was a bit shy, when I saw all these cars from the Prancing Horse. It was a really stunning experience at the box and the pitwall, because it was the first time for me that I was behind the scenes at such an incredible motorsports event. But in the end I wasn’t shy anymore, because I also had pretty much work to do. When I saw the cars lining up for the start, the adrenaline level rose. The Challenge 2008 started and I was ready to write about it, tell you about my feelings and the sensation such a race can cause, but also about the drivers, the team managers and the mechanics.It was easy to see that there’s a golden thread, connecting everybody involved in the Challenge: passion for Ferrari and the love for motorsports. Following this thread I was able to see the most spectacular race tracks in Italy and Europe, up to Mugello, where the fact that we met the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, the Formula One team of the Prancing Horse, was the season’s most natural conclusion.
From Monza we went to Silverstone, “home of British motorsports”, as the billboard reads above the track’s entrance. It was cold and foggy over the whole weekend, when the standings of the European Shell Cup and Pirelli Trophy got their first shape: on the British track Max Blancardi and Mike Cantillon started their race for the title, although they had to wait until crossing the line at Mugello to win the series.
This is a sign of how difficult these racing series are and how the drivers have to work hard for every race, giving it all, to bring back home precious points over the whole season. Meanwhile in the background there are great teams, such as Rossocorsa, Motor, Ferrari GB Dealer, Ineco and all the others, who constantly work on the cars before and after the races. Every time I left the media centre late in the evening I could still see the mechanics at work, setting up the F430s in the best possible way for the race.