Team Identity / Monza
Suddenly it’s May 13, and this month’s editorial is almost two weeks late. In fairness (excuse no. 104 coming up). It has been a frantic three weeks here – for ourselves and for teams involved in the Le Mans Test Day, Magny-Cours, Mondello and Monza – and now it’s Hockenheim.

We did have a mid-April editorial lined up, on the subject of teams having their own identity, but that was consigned to the recycle bin, as just a touch too controversial. Let’s just make the point now though that characters such as Leo Hindery and Martin Short (add Sam Li to the list after Monza) are vital ingredients in this crazy world of sportscar racing. Hindery and Short for getting out there and doing it themselves, Li for allowing his superstars to get out there and do it in such a thrilling fashion.

So that brings us to Monza. John Macdonald did have the core of a fantastic series with the ELMS: the sense of frustration was widespread when that series didn’t continue for a second year. But patience is a virtue, and the ‘Le Mans’ name helped kick the LMES into vibrant life on May 7-9. Sam Li added one extra special ingredient, but every one of the entries (well, almost every one) played a part in creating a platform for future success.

It’s a mystery why the Italian fans didn’t flock to the track in numbers: those who did, saw a memorable event. Following it in the press room, the five hours went by in a flash. It was one of those races where you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen for a moment, fear of missing something significant.

It began with first chicane dramas, had a first stint featuring the Wallace-driven Zytek all over the Audis like a rash, then marched onwards for lap after lap of furious racing – usually between McNish and Herbert. Some had read the rule book carefully: there was no rule to stipulate a maximum of three hours in a car at a stretch, so McNish passed that landmark. Then he got back in for the last 48 minutes. Racing luck seemed to favour the Herbert / Davies car almost throughout the race, but perhaps it was as simple as the fact that Herbert was in the 88 car throughout the last (almost) three-quarters of the race, and had track position from the moment he passed Pierre Kaffer with that sensational move on the grass out of Ascari, on lap 112.

You could hardly have faulted Sam Li if he’d given the command to hold track position – at any time during the second half of the race. To his immense credit, he didn’t. And as predicted by Audi’s Martyn Pass, the first thing Allan McNish did after crossing the line was to offer his congratulations to the winner, over the radio.

The two purple and silver cars are going to be very tough to beat on this form.

MotorsTV is a tough act to follow too. Those stuck at home had the chance to enjoy hours of outstanding coverage of this epic: one can only wonder at the frustration felt as the scene switched back to the BTCC, but perhaps that series has an appeal to viewers too.

This marvellous channel then followed the live coverage with a two hour highlights programme. Mrs. Ed. even deigned to watch it, so it must have been a good race. We know it was an outstanding race.

Now all we need is some very careful managing of the regulations, to allow new cars, whenever they appear, to slip in without upsetting those who made the investment and commitment to be at Monza.

At last, in Europe, we have a Le Mans-rules series to match the format that has worked so well in North America.
Malcolm Cracknell

 

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