The fog cleared midday Friday for a few hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the first of three days for the five classes in the Ferrari Racing Days event. The temperatures remained in the low to mid fifties, Fahrenheit, chilled by the Monterey Bay breezes.
The five groups on track included F1 Corse Clienti/FXX/599XX; Ferrari F430/F458 Challenge Series; and Cavallino Classic Historics.
The largest group is the Challenge Series, with 26 cars in the two classes – 430 and the newer/faster 458’s. They had four 45-minute on-track sessions.
This series, which is sanctioned by Grand American Road Racing Association, is in its eighteenth year. This year’s schedule has six rounds in North America – with two races each weekend – followed by the International Finale Competition in Italy – which is open to the top drivers from North America and Europe.
All of these factory-built race cars are driver-owned and supported/prepared by authorized Ferrari dealers. The drivers come from several states and three provinces in Canada.
Retired race driver DIDIER THEYS is the official Driver Coach for the Ferrari Challenge Series, and he coordinates all the driver coaches in the Series. This weekend there is an impressive list of 20 coaches. All must be certified by the Series and requirements include a racing resume/experience, and a Grand-Am racing license. Most coaches are hired over the winter and work with their driver all season.
In the practice sessions, the Challenge drivers can have their coaches in the car. Whenever the coach is driving, it is noted and called in to Timing & Scoring, which deletes those laps. The coaches are identified by large round green helmet stickers. The drivers are on their own for Qualifying and Races.
ENZO POTOLICCIO of Venezuela was the fastest 458 Ferrari in the first and third sessions. MIKE ZOI from Miami FL topped Practice Two, and MARK McKENZIE of Austin TX was the last fastest 458.
JUAN HINESTROSA of Ft. Lauderdale FL led the 430 class in three of the sessions, with DAMON OCKEY of Calgary, Alberta Canada on top in the third session.
For some, the most interesting group is the F1 Corse Clienti. Seven drivers are in certified factory Ferrari F1 cars, with Ferrari factory mechanics who prepare and maintain the cars at the Italian factory. It is basically a turn-key program, where the driver shows up and is provided with all needs to run, including driving suit and helmet.
This weekend’s Corse Clienti cars include two cars raced by MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (2001 and 2004), two of Schumacher’s test cars (2007), and one each raced by RUBENS BARRICHELLO (2003), by GERHARD BERGER/NIGEL MANSELL (1989), and by JACKIE ICKX (1972). This group, along with two other groups, have on-track sessions, but are not timed. This weekend their driver coach/tutor was retired F1 racer, MARC GENE.
There is no sweeter sound than a Formula One car flashing around the world-famous Monterey road course now named Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Ear splitting up close and personal. Doesn’t pay to stint on the ear protection in the garage when one of those cars fires up.
The other two non-timed groups are the FXX/599XX cars, which run together. The program for these cars is similar to the Clienti class. The cars are specially modified Enzo Ferraris or 599 Ferraris. It is a factory program for their best customers, and the drivers own the cars. They have seven events this year.
The Shell Historic Group consists of Pre 1990 legitimate Ferrari race cars which have been prepared to race and certified by the factory as being authentic or of historical importance. The cars must have a FIA Historic Technical Passport, something not easily obtained. FIA has a Historics department with a FIA inspector, based in Paris, who travels world wide inspecting and certifying the cars.
One of the unusual cars in the Historic Group is owned and driven by JACK THOMAS of St. Louis MO. It is a blue and white 1956 250 Ferrari Boano, which is about the size of a Sunbeam Tiger. The Boano has an alloy body, which makes it lighter, and the body and chassis are the same as the more well-known Ferraro 250GTF Tour de France. The cars ran the Mille Miglia back in the day. The No.74 car driven by Thomas has won several hill climbs in the past.
Thomas said he thinks he has the only drum brake Ferrari on skinny tires.
Well-known vintage racer, PETER GIDDINGS of Danville CA, drove his 250 GT/Lusso in the Historic class, and was fast as usual. He and Thomas were out in all three of their sessions. When not on track, their valuable historic race cars served as anchors for their canopy.
Thursday had been, as photographer CHRIS O’NEILL said, perfect for photographing. There were clear blue skies, a little bit of a chill in the breeze and the surrounding hills were still mostly green. That is no doubt due to the very rainy spring Northern California experienced, including four days of torrential precipitation earlier this week. The SCRAMP (Sports Car Association of Monterey Peninsula) had to scramble on the first dry day to ready the track.
The Ferrari Fest Feast continues over the weekend and is open to the public, which gets free access to all the cars, including the F1 cars in the garage. Doesn’t get much better than that.
This week veteran F1 driver, PETE LOVELY of WA passed away. He won the very first Laguna Seca race in 1957, driving a Ferrari. Lovely ran eleven F1 races in 1959-1960, mostly Lotus. He ran vintage and historic races until a few years ago. In 2007 he was inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca.