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2002 PIRELLI MARANELLO FERRARI CHALLENGE
2002 SEASONAL REVIEW
Many people wonder at the longevity of our club championship. It is unique in the UK racing scene in surviving and thriving for so long.
There are many reasons for this success and I would not try and list them all here. There are a few factors worth a mention however. It has never got too big for it’s boots. It is not a commercial championship and has no desire to become one. It never loses sight of the fact that it is there for Club members who wish to race their cars in closed to club competition. People All concerned in it’s administration are there for the love of it, they are not taking anything out other than satisfaction of a job done well. Consistency From day one the championship has been administered by the same people in the same style. It is a Ferrari racing family and I think very welcoming. Development Nothing stays the same and our championship recognises this. I can hardly remember a season that has not seen a slight tweak to the championship regulations to reflect current trends etc. This is not revolution but evolution and has contributed greatly to our continued success.
So what of 2002 ?
Pre-season we were maybe thinking of a Culver domination of class S in his newly acquired 360 Challenge . We were genuinely excited by the prospect of a racing 550 in the series and, in March, Ian Hetherington’s 550 Maranello was a fabulous centre piece at the pre-season dinner. This car was a product of regulation tweaks in the winter. Regulations had also been slightly relaxed for the F40 and we were hopeful of seeing their return to our grids.
Class C for 355 Challenge cars was set to be the biggest class in terms of numbers and the competition looked really hot. Pre-season favourites were possibly Robin Ward and Tony Jones but Graham Reeder and also Richard Stevens in the ex-Culver car could not be ruled out either.
Class O was the problem child. I think we were just hopeful of a decent entry level. The class had been restructured and a new Classic O category created for the older tipos. Many of us remembered what great racing there had been between road going 308/328s a few years ago when they were the thing to have. Newer, faster tipos had made them uncompetitive and they had all but disappeared from the scene. Entry level was therefore seen as a 355 (where the Challenge version made more sense), and also the 360 where initial costs are very high and again perhaps the Challenge version was the better option. At least you would not be devaluing a decent road car. We knew that the O class was going through a bad period but also knew that its survival was worth fighting for.
• Round 1 at Castle Combe: pole position Oliver Morley – Who ?? This young man had hired the Hetherington 360/Ch and with no testing put the car on pole. No fear and lots of talent – simple as that really. In the race Morley and Culver were rarely separated by more than a coat of paint. It was great clean racing. If you were not there you really missed something.
• Alex Mortimer (son of Robin) raced with us aged 17yrs and 4 weeks. He showed great maturity in everything he did and it was a shame that he chose not to continue after a few races.
• Spa really showed us how much the star of Robin Ward was in the ascendancy. Robin was always talented but he had now combined raw talent with a bit of instruction and lots and lots of track time. Now a class act.
• The Ferrari Festival was great for competitors and is set to become a season highlight. Popular ex-PMFC champion Marco Attard hired Simon Bartholomew's 360/Ch and really flew. It was the first time when PMFC lap times had compared favourably with those of the European racers in the same tipos. We were all holding our heads pretty high that weekend.
• The Oulton Park race on the short circuit looked like a recipe for disaster as we have pretty big speed differentials in the series. On the day everyone behaved themselves admirably. There were some hairy lapping moments but it was a super race to watch.
• Lots of new faces, in fact a record number of new registrations which promises much for the future.
• Our second visit to Castle Combe saw some of the worst driving
we have ever seen in the championship and certainly the worst paddock
• Rockingham, where we saw an entry of ten cars in the pouring rain. Calendar problems beyond our control and the lack of appeal of the venue combined to make a miserable week-end.
• Too many accidents and car to car contact. Some drivers today seem to want to run before they can walk. What an expensive way to go racing and what a pain for fellow, more thoughtful, competitors.
What a shame that
• The Hetherington 550 did not work as intended. Well, most of
it did but the brakes certainly did not. Brakes are not rocket science
but the budget had been reached so the car did not get sorted.
• Richard Stevens struggled with his health all season. Now much fitter, we all wish him well and hope to see him back. It could have been his year.
• Tony Jones' pre-season bang took him right out of the C-class championship race. A Ward vs. Jones battle would have been worth watching.
• Poor support in both O and Classic O gave John Taylor’s 360 a lonely season. In Classic O racing was better but the class was still poorly supported although Mike Furness (328) had to fight hard for his title.
Go to the front of the class
Robin Ward – great driving; Oliver Morley – it would have been a poor season without him; Gary Culver – yes, OK, we’ve said it before; Alan Newton – showed great pace for a novice before his Donington accident; Gordon Riddell – great promise.
The Times are a'changing
Many of us have great affection for “the old days” and there's nothing wrong with that. However some things do change for the better. Drivers, for example. We still have basically well-off chaps (let's not be shy) of all ages. However, in the old days money was spent (lots of it) on continual and very expensive car development (mainly the 308/328 range). It was fun most of the time but driver performance was masked by differing car performance. Apart from, say, Robbie Stirling it was hard to work out who the stars were.
Today, thanks to the factory Challenge series, the cars are all much the same. Drivers now spend money on testing and tuition. This has to be a good thing. The money is going on making better race drivers and we get to see who is genuinely tops and who couldn’t drive sheep.
Hire cars and insurance
We have seen more and more hire cars and insured cars racing this year. I know this may not be a popular view but if you are a private club member racing your pride and joy uninsured (say a 360, capital cost £100,000 with potential big accident repair cost up to £50,000) you simply have more on the line than someone racing a hired and insured car who is basically risking his excess charge only (this year as low as £500 but set to rise). One knuckle dragger this year even seemed excited at having wrecked someone else’s Ferrari. I do not have an answer but it should be top of someone's agenda.
Wish list 2003
• Can we please see a couple of F40s ? The regulations have re-instated
previous boost levels and weight limits and these cars could still be
competitive with 360/Chs.
• A sorted 550 or two. The car has the potential to be towards the front. 2003 regulations also encourage a Challenge-type 512 to be built which would be great fun and they are so much cheaper now.
• Fewer offs. Not everyone can win. It's right to want to be at the front of course but great racing can be for 10th and 11th as well as 1st and 2nd. If you spend the season repairing bent cars you will have (a) a b----y expensive season and (b) learn nothing.
• Classic O class. Come on everyone: an entry level 308GT4 is maybe £10k plus another, say, £5k for race prep?. What a cheap ticket to a great championship at Spa, Zandvoort, Brands GP, plus the Ferrari Festival. Or go for a win with an ex-O class 328 – lots around.
• Although the 360/Chs will dominate and will grow in numbers it would be a shame if 355/Ch owners were to disappear through no longer being competitive. Not every one can afford a 360 after all.
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|Newcomer Morley: no fear and lots of talent|
Robin Ward became a class act in '02
|The new Maranello Champion: Gary Culver|
|Graham Reeder was a pre-season favourite|
|Taylor was lonely in his O-class win|
|Smeeton quietly picked up points for second in the Championship|
|Catt got better all season long|
|Lovely 550 "Challenge" but the brakes were no good|
|An empty Rockingham in the rain was a low point|
|Young Mortimer shone, but only did a few races|
|Attard flew in his only PMFC outing|
|The season was blighted by too much contact|
|Lapping at Oulton caused a few flutters but all was well|
|Morley and Culver had some close and excellent races|
|It could have been Stevens' year, but poor health intervened|
|A pre-season bang took Jones out of contention|
|Newton showed great pace for a novice|
|Another promising newcomer: Gordon Riddell|
|Furness had to fight hard for the Classico title|
pics by Paul/Fotografia Corse