1000 Km – Four British Efforts (4 – Scuderia Ecosse)
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.”
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 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.
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... warmest guy in the paddock?
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 more time in the
car….. and the Sebah Porsche (ahead, below, in the sunshine)
would turn out to be a worthwhile rival on Sunday.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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…