FIA Lurani Trophy Round 1 - Monza – 23rd – 25th March 2012
We were welcomed back to Monza with bright sunshine and shirt sleeves – newcomers were Roberto Tonetti driving his brother’s BT6 FJ-8-63 – in familiar yellow, while Pierre was driving the ex-Francesco Baldanza ex-Luciano Quaggia BT-18-63, in light blue. Antonio Rossi was making his first race appearance in the ex-Julian Wakeley ex Martyn Crump Elva 200 - with a very high “FIA Compliant” roll bar and stay. Dick Van Amsterdam was due back in the repaired Belgica F3, but was struck by flu at the last minute, while James Owen had pulled his Elva 200 after his accident in Philip Island a fortnight previously. Malcolm Cook (Lotus 20) was a new Lurani entrant with Peter Jackson as spannerman, and Iain Rowley bringing the car out.
The paddock was open Thursday and Matt King was soon set up with the Alexis and John Dowson’s Brabham BT2. We had a surprise, albeit welcome visit from a very personable French ALPS and EuroSeries F Renault 2.0 driver, William Dumont, intrigued to see a real racing car and anxious for a fitting in both the Alexis (just) and the BT2 (difficult) – These young drivers are all too tall!! By the way, William has all the personality so often missing from the young (especially racing drivers): he will go a long way – watch him.
The cars were hardly out – in some cases not at all – when Chris Chilcott (Lotus 20) took the Ascari curve for the first time to find new rumble strips since last year – this now takes you out onto the inside of the arc; onto the white line on cold tyres and he was in the Armco on the outside with a broken upright and bent wishbones. Pierre Tonetti was in the pits without a flying lap with a broken engine, while his brother Roberto was down in fifth place, with a gearbox fault. Half way through the session Francisco Liberatore was off at Lesmo 1 into the barrier and a wheel off. Fastest was Urs Eberhardt (Lotus 27) from John Fyda (Lotus 22), well back on form and then Chris Burckhardt (Lotus 22) followed by Bruno Ferrari’s Branca.
So where were the rest of the Italians? Well – the latest story is that at a recent regularity rally, as the competing cars arrived at the Town Square, the Italian IRS arrived – stationed at all four corners of the square, and the cars – and the rally – were delayed for two hours as they checked everybody’s papers – so a lot of drivers are now taking time off from racing in Italy!!
Salodini has ‘engine not ready’; Ripamonti has ‘retired’ but will review at the end of the year; Patrizia ‘won’t race in F.Storiche again’; Beolchi is just doing Laguna Seca in the ‘new’ Apache – BMC Mk2; Taraschi has put the car away for the moment; Tacconi can’t concentrate on anything else until after the Bergamo GP which he organizes; Gelmini himself can’t do Hockenheim (Tour Auto), but hopes to make Dijon; of the Swiss, Baulino had a ‘competing’ engagement; Haschke has gone ‘awol’ and Delea, although still a sponsor and present with his very palatable wine, has just had his hip operation and is off for 5 weeks.
Friday night was the FJ dinner in the ancient town of Canonica Lambro. The Hotel which contains the Antico Ristorante Fossati is where the Grand Prix drivers of the day used to stay: apparently Schumacher still does – but it was a wonderful historic setting, and an almost full house of drivers, wives, mechanics, our three FIA Stewards Rod Parkin, John Felix and Francois Dumont, and scrutineer Mimo Cifaldi – he and I had an intense, but extremely interesting discussion about the minority languages of Italy – Catalan on the west of Sardinia! The food and wines were excellent – but my goodness, like Imola last year, we could have stopped after the 3rd course – before the main!!
Saturday at 11 was qualifying – still warm and sunny. The Tonetti brothers were in a race of their own, separated by less than 1/10th second with Urs Eberhardt, setting his best ever Monza lap time just 2/10th ahead of John Fyda, from Bruno Ferarri and Chris Burckhardt out late after his new seatbelts were delayed in traffic: Iain Rowley again, at the ready. Chris Chilcott led Chris Drake (Elva 200) in D2, John Delane (Lotus 18) was comfortably ahead in C2, and Duncan led the small front engined contingent, Julia de Baldanza recording her best lap stuck in 3rd gear! Malcolm Cook had some serious gear issues, somewhere in the linkage, as well as a first gear that was far too high. PDS had apparently set 9000 rpm as the change up, which made it rather difficult driving across the paddock. The Dolphin of Liberatore was repaired but only managed 3 laps, before a piston went, while Chilcott had, quite remarkably, found a highly skilled welder to piece his upright together again.
While HGPCA may have the ‘Red Truck’ – Tommaso and GPS Classic have the blue truck, which was serving pasta and other delicacies, and on Sunday, a variety of steaks and meats for mini barbecues on each table – pity our race was to be at 2 o’clock!!
Race 1 was on Saturday afternoon at 16.10 – Malcolm Cook aided by Peter Jackson had been working on the Lotus 20, and they were hopeful, that, at least he could start from the pit lane, after a recce lap – but hopes sadly, in vain. The Dolphin was the other absentee, although Julia de Baldanza (OSCA) only came out spluttering, and, too, disappeared again without a start. The race was as in qualifying, a Tonetti show, Pierre now in the light blue BT6, heading brother Roberto all the way, except for a brief interlude on lap 3 – behind these two was a very good dice between Urs Eberhardt and the returned, and very on form John Fyda, with John getting ahead on lap 8, before Urs repassed two laps later, both comfortably ahead of Chris Burckhardt and Bruno Ferrari’s Branca, battling together until Bruno’s smoking engine finally went bang! Duncan had got himself several seconds ahead of Paolo Gecchelin and Carlo Del Conte, but Carlo slowed with water temperature problems, and Paolo set off after Duncan, aided by Chris Chilcott, who spun in front of Duncan at the Ascari, letting Chris Drake and John Dowson escape ahead. Paolo put in one storming lap and two laps to go passed Duncan past the pits, but Duncan gave chase, putting in his best lap, and they took the flag just 8/10th apart. Antonio Rossi (Elva 200) was happy to finish his debut race, albeit with brake problems, and Steve Futter’s brakes were worse – he had none, a small top washer being responsible.
That evening those on the track went to the Pizzeria St Marco: Duncan fell asleep at the table and was sent ‘home’ to bed.
Sunday morning was a 4 hour GT race, with less than 15 Ferrari’s and Porsche’s racing round, and then the Junior’s were back. This time the Tonetti’s reversed the order at the flag – but within the margin to give Pierre overall victory on aggregate. The Baldanza’s were both late to the track and missed the ‘gate’ so started from the pit lane – and then Julia had contact at the first chicane – finding no damage she came out again but after 4 laps called it a day. For Malcolm Cook however the tide had turned: Iain Rowley, with Matt’s help, had been working on the gearbox, and had located the problem – or at least some of them – and was only just 2 seconds behind Steve Futter, after Chris Chilcott stopped with a cooked engine just beyond Lesmo 1, while Antonio Rossi, also pulled up, after the first chicane.
Behind the flying Tonetti’s there was a great dice going on with Chris Burckhardt eventually just getting the edge from Fyda and Eberhardt, but Urs was close enough to keep 3rd overall, whilst Chris 5th overall was his lowest ever in Lurani!
Chris Drake was off in the kitty litter at the second chicane on only lap 2, so he had a long grandstand view of the proceedings, while Manfredo Rossi fortunately pitted for good after 4 laps when a wheel came loose on the studs.
Both Delane and John Dowson had well satisfied, but lonely races for 6th and 7th respectively.
After each race all the class winners had a podium – but no Italian fare this year - and the weekend finished with the Lurani Trophies being presented at the ‘Blue Truck’.
Next race after us was the 2nd ALPS Formula Renault race. Our protégée William Vermont (no 29) was 2nd overall in practice (in a 30 + car field) and held 3rd/4th/5th for most of the race – but with 2 safety cars, he got involved in a 3 car off at the Parabolica a couple of laps from the end and finished 16th. However in race 2, starting 9th in the line up, based on his 2nd best practice time, he worked his way up to 3rd at the finish. Duncan bumped into him again at Malpenza airport, and he seemed well pleased. You can follow his progress on www.williamvermont.fr