Team Modena

Modena Cars, principally a Lamborghini dealership, at High Wycombe on Wednesday evening (August 23), was the scene of a very pleasant, conversation-filled reception – which served the twin purposes of getting to know some of the personnel behind Team Modena, and allowing Rik Bryan to present a couple of significant cheques to two deserving charities. There were a number of interesting racing people present, besides those who make up the team – although Antonio Garcia and Peter Hardman represented two-thirds of the driving squad for this weekend’s Le Mans Series event at Donington Park.

Antonio Garcia came to prominence, again, in GTs, late last year, with an outstanding performance at Bahrain, driving Rik Bryan’s Aston Martin (with Christophe Bouchut). The team name was Russian Age Racing then, which evolved back to Cirtek Motorsport earlier this year, but a split between Cirtek and the Team Modena personnel led to the latter running in its own right at Le Mans, and then at the Nurburgring last month.

Garcia was an FIA GT winner as long ago as 2001, in an RWS N-GT Porsche at the Spa 24 Hours.

“I drove for RWS in 2002, with Felbermayr, but although I could race with Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard in the opening part of the races, we could only finish as high as second. I was racing in the Nissan World Series as well that year, and finished fourth or fifth in the championship, but only really scored well in the second half of the championship. I could have done another year in the Nissan single-seaters, but I had an offer from BMW to race in the ETCC – and didn’t get back into GTs until the end of last year (apart from racing at Spa in the factory BMW GTR in 2004).”

That middle-eastern victory at Bahrain created an opportunity with Russian Age / Cirtek / Team Modena for this year, and led to a stunning performance at Spa in May (racing the Oreca Saleen throughout, above) – and then a slightly unobtrusive Le Mans (with David Brabham and Nelson Piquet Jnr.)

David Brabham, here talking to Marino Franchitti, was present to lend his support on Wednesday evening, and thinking back to Le Mans, the Australian remembered that “it was a scramble once the team got hold of its Le Mans car, and we had a problem at the test day, which meant that we didn’t get in the set-up work before race week. We had problems then too, and it only really came together just in time for the race, but I was always confident that we would run well in the 24 Hours.”

It was a strong run to fourth place in GT1, and a fine debut performance.

Sporting Director Rik Bryan – the owner of the car behind Franchitti and Brabham, the Le Mans car – is “hoping to take both cars to Jarama in September (for the last round of the Le Mans Series), and the ideal situation would be to have a top professional alongside Antonio, and hopefully that will be David. We’d also love to have him racing for us next season – he’s a fantastic driver. We couldn’t have achieved what we did at Le Mans without him.”

Sebring looks to be an almost definite fixture on the team's 2007 programme.

So who else is behind Team Modena?

Graham Schulz – Managing Director (and co-owner, with Rik Bryan - right)
Sergio Rinland – Technical Director
Kerry Adams – Team Manager
Hans Muhlbauer – Race Engineer
Dave Prewitt – Team Co-ordinator.

Rik Bryan’s initial objective is to “be one of the top teams in GT1,” and the 2007 plan is to “enter the two Aston Martins, in the Le Mans Series and at Le Mans, but we also want to demonstrate our skills by running cars for other people in other classes of the Le Mans Series, and at Le Mans.

“We have the offer to run a GT2 car for someone next year, and we’re exploring running an LMP2 Porsche for another customer…. but a DBR9 needs to win Le Mans next year. We always want to stay in GT1 – because it’s the most fun.”

Rik Bryan did let slip that the team also has a plan to “demonstrate its capabilities at increasing levels of technology” – the implication being that with the personnel they have involved here, they could see through a project in any formula – and they are working on a plan for “a prototype as no one will ever have known it before. I can’t say any more than that.

“We see this as a shop window for the design and engineering we can do for other people.”

Graham Schulz suggested that the Le Mans Series, with five events per year, was more appropriate for the team than say the FIA GT Championship – “but we all want to do Le Mans again. We’re going to race at Dubai at the end of this season (in the FIA GT Championship).”

Team Modena is playing a role in bringing people / spectators to Donington Park: “We’ve got 100 guests coming to the race. This is a very serious business, and we want them to see us win,” says Schulz.

Currently the race car ‘resides’ at a unit owned by Peter Hardman at Silverstone, “but we’re actively looking for a unit here at High Wycombe,” explains Rik Bryan. “There are several available.”

The formal part of the evening involved Rik Bryan handing over cheques to a total of £85,000, to representatives of Cancer Research UK and the Motor Neurone Disease charities – and here’s the first one, for half of that sum, being presented. That’s Sergio Rinland and Graham Schulz on the right of the bearded Rik Bryan, with Kerry Adams, Hans Muhlbauer and David Brabham on the left of Cancer Research’s Annie Lomas.

Besides those drivers already mentioned, Oliver Bryant, Michael Mallock and Killian Konig were also present: Oliver Bryant will be in action at Brands Hatch this weekend, Michael Mallock has a GT drive lined up for 2007, while Killian Konig would have to class himself as a former (British GT) driver – in one of the HKM Vipers, back in 2000.

His connection with Aston Martins is that Konig car Storage and Transportation is approved by Aston Martin to look after and deliver customers’ cars. “We’re very busy and we offer a very personal service.”

He’s pictured with a unique car, a Schuppan 962CR, a car built in High Wycombe, formerly owned by a local businessman – and now for sale, through Modena Cars, for a modest “£1.1 million”. Killian still follows what’s going on in GT racing – and will now be doing so via dailysportscar.

Aston Martin Racing Commercial Director James Turner does so anyway, and he let slip last night that he was keeping the likes of David Richards and George Howard-Chappell updated on the dark hours of the Spa 24 Hours by “rolling over in bed at the Radisson, at Spa, refreshing the latest page on dailysportscar, and sending them text messages (on the progress of the Aston Martins).” So they thought James Turner was at the race all night, did they?

Oliver Bryant and Marino Franchitti have other commitments before their next 24 hour race (Franchitti is racing a Riley 1.5 at the Goodwood Revival meeting – “the best event of the year”), but they’ll both be in action for the Britcar 24 Hours on September 9-10. For Team Modena, the next 24 hour race should be Le Mans next June – but this weekend it’s the challenge of taking on the Corvettes, the Saleen, a Ferrari 550 and the Larbre DBR9 at Donington Park. With its red flashes and red wheels, it’s probably the most distinctive car on the Le Mans Series grid. This is a distinctive team too.
MC

 

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