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MARANELLO FERRARI CHALLENGE
It's been a pretty good season for the Challenge, perhaps not one of the all-time greats but there were lots of things to keep drivers and spectators entertained. Grid sizes were satisfactory, with an average of 23 starters per race, with the highest being 31 at Brands Hatch and the April Castle Combe race.
Fourteen rounds took place at nine different circuits and, thankfully, because the far greater prevalence of modern tipos had regained us respectability in the eyes of Ferrari, two of these events were the very high profile Spa Ferrari Days and the Brands Ferrari Festival.
Nathan Kinch did most of the winning, taking six outright wins, with Ian Hetherington taking three and John Seale two. Alan Cosby, Fred Moss and Gary Culver were the other outright winners. In the "C" class (for 355/Chs) Gary Culver was the best, with nine victories out of the 13 races he entered, with Robin Ward winning two and Fred Moss, David Ashburn and Tony Jones taking a win apiece.
In the "O" class (for largely standard cars) Richard Smeeton swept all before him, with eight wins out of the nine he contested, and then came John Swift with two wins and Simon Bartholomew, Steve Young and Terry Esom with one win each.
Only two drivers started all 14 races: Ted Reddick and Robin Ward, but no one finished them all. The most number of laps out of a maximum possible of 147 were completed by Reddick and Ward, who did 133 each, followed by Phil Nuttall on 121 and Richard Stevens on 120.
The "O" class really suffered during 2001 with very low entry levels. There was an average of only three cars per race and only 12 drivers raced in it during the year. The class has been restructured for 2002 with sub-divisions for older and newer tipos, which will split the much quicker 360s and 355s away from the older 308/328s. We hope that people will hear this call to arms - the cars are all out there in garages gathering dust.
The "C" class was the real success story of 2001. The 355 Challenge car can provide exciting racing and is generally very reliable. The formula of a great basic car with standard engine and gearbox, coupled with modified suspension and big brakes plus lower weight really works. As the cars get older we need to keep standards of preparation and presentation up to scratch. An average of twelve 355/Chs started each race and there were even 15 of them at the June Donington; no less than 26 drivers raced in this class during the year.
Putting the new 360 Challenge cars into Class "S" was definitely the right decision. An average of eight cars started in this class during 2001, with the older modified cars (the late "M" class) gradually fading away as the logic of running factory-prepared modern racing cars overcame the romanticism of persisting with, in some cases, 25-year old tipos. With a bit of adjustment to the 2002 Regulations we hope to see the return of an F40 or two and also the first appearance of the exciting 550 Maranello. There will be several more 360/Chs out next year. Great stuff.
Our main sponsors this year were Ferrari UK and Pirelli, both of whom will remain with the series in 2002. For their tremendous support we thank them, as well as our other sponsors, who include Ricardo, Deutz Champagne, Wilkinson plc and The Wine & Beer Company . As always, the PMFC would not have happened without the hard and conscientious work of Anne and John Swift, who organise and run the series, John May, the MSA scutineer, and many others who contribute towards the success of the series. Our thanks to them all.
Of the 53 different drivers who took part in the Challenge this year it is simply not possible to mention everyone due to space constraints, although undoubtedly every single one of them would have had a good story to tell. So let us wrap up this review by just mentioning a few names who caught the eye at various times:
David Ashburn (Class O & C) "The Entertainer". David has real pace and a steely determination. However he is not the finished article just yet. There are too many spins and incidents to mount a serious title challenge where consistemcy counts. If he settled down a little would the pace disappear? Only time will tell. He will certainly keep the opposition on their toes in 2002 if he transfers to a 360Ch as expected.
Simon Bartholomew (Class O & S) Until this season Simon had lacked a certain commitment to racing which showed in his driving. This year there was much more focus. He had a very interesting year racing no fewer than three different cars - F355 Class O, 360 Class O and 360Ch in Class S. In both 360s he was on or not far off the leading pace. Had he continued next year we might have seen further improvement. As it is he is having a year out of competition so we will have to wait to see.
Rod Carman (Class C) "Rod Almighty" was his nickname in hillclimb and sprints. Well, not quite yet in PMFC. Rod is quite quick but has thrown away good class positions too many times this year. His once pristine car has also had its fair share of knocks which may indicate overdriving. Talented no doubt, one to watch - maybe.
Alan Cosby (Class S) This should have been Alan's year. His 512M had more power and the transmission gremlins seemed to have been beaten at last. Make no mistake, this car is a winner on paper. With more "focus" Alan could have taken the title which he and the Shiltech team would have deserved for their many years of endevour. However the commitment required for pre-event testing was not there. Brands was a perfect example -where Alan got quicker all week-end, but with other drivers having tested prior to the meeting this was just not good enough to take race wins.
Gary Culver (Class C Champion) "We are not worthy, we are not worthy". What can you say about this first-class competitor? Everything about the way Gary and the family Culver go racing is top notch. A real credit to the series in every way. Is there a weak link? I can't see one yet. His transfer to Class S in 2002 with a 360Ch will be interesting. How about a ticket for Culver v Moss v Ashburn all in 360Chs - form an orderly queue behind me.
Ian Hetherington (Class S Champion) He wins his class in 1999 only to have it taken away in the courts. He wins his class in 2000 and does not get the credit he deserves because he was racing an F50 against supposedly lesser tipos. He wins his class again in 2001 and still I suspect that he is not getting the credit due to him. What has the man got to do ? Is he a Moss or a Culver - no maybe not. BUT, does he have silly offs - No. Does he have accidents - No. Can he put in consistent excellent perfomances - Yes. Can he pull out something extra when required - Yes. Is he still improving - most definitely Yes. Ian deserves his titles and a great deal of respect from his fellow competitors.
Tony Jones (Class C) In many ways Tony is the Rookie Of The Year. He has graduated through our track days and also Club Fiorano and 2001 was his first season's racing. He has shown real pace, and what is more exciting he drives very "quietly" which suggests there is more to come. I suspect that he is yet to realise how good he could be - watch his progress in 2002 - a Class C champion?
Nathan Kinch (Class S) On most occassions Nathan has simply blown everyone away this year - often by a long way. He has looked a class above the rest. Oh, to be nineteen and talented with the support of family and friends! He and his team have been good company and have gone racing in a most stylish way. Nathan is heading for bigger things and we all wish him well in the future, although he will have a much tougher time as he remains largely untried at those exalted levels.
Peter Lowe (Class S) Peter has been a great supporter of our series for many years with his much modified 308GT4. Prepared by Shiltech the car has been generally reliable and fast. Peter has also become a good racer who one suspects could do quite well in a more modern tipo. However, he has decided to further modify the GT4 to race in the Inter-Marque championship. Latest plan is a heavily modified 348 engine mounted longitudinally, coupled to a Hewland gearbox. Sounds like a big hole down which to throw lots of money.
Fred Moss (Class C) I have included Fred, even though he has hardy raced with us this year, for just one reason. Fred is QUICK - full stop. I watched him frankly embarrass some pretty big names at Donington in a GT2 Porsche in the streaming wet earlier in 2001. He is thought to be buying a 360Ch for 2002. This would give us some great racing at the head of the field.
Phil Nuttall (Class C) Phil's racing was all about fun with good competition in good company. He was quite quick at times too. This is what our club racing series should be about. The "win at all costs" prima donnas, who spend more time keeping quicker drivers behind them through weaving than they do trying to put in faster laps, need to go elswhere - who needs it ? Come back soon Phil, we need more like you.
Richard Smeeton (Champion Class O) With little competition from similar cars it is hard to assess Richard's class-winning season. There can have been little joy in his achievement for the same reason. When there was some serious competition, at Spa against a similarly equipped Simon Batholomew, things all got rather fraught and the contest became a barging match.He could struggle in Class S next year with his newly acquired 360Ch.
Richard Stevens (Class C) Under the guidance of Robin Mortimer, Richard's driving has improved a good deal in 2001. However there may be some way to go yet before he sees regular podium placings. Like many other of our less experienced drivers I suspect that he may have more fun when he realises that the joy of motorsport is not all in the winning. Having bought Gary Culver's championship winning 355Ch, along with all the set-up data, he has put himself under a lot of pressure for next year.
Robin Ward (Class C) Despite all the distractions of operating Damax Race Engineering and its multitude of rent-a-drivers, Robin has managed to progress this year and his drive at the wet 'Ring was one of the best of the year. He is also modest enough to accept instruction, which is quite rare, and this certainly helped him at Snetterton. He is now a genuine contender for Class C honours in 2002 if he sticks to this class.
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