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Rebirth of the Cool: Maserati MC12 - Part Two

2005Sebring12_jb_1837 Two wins from four races was a pretty good start for the men from Modena (read more about that in Part 1 of this story,) but that success did nothing to allay the fears of the other competitors, nor did it dim the desire of the governing bodies to reign in Maserati and make the MC12 conform to the rulebook. The first visible sign of this in early 2005 was the reduction of the length of the car by 20cm from the front, the car now complied with the FIA rules, but not, it appeared, to the ACO's regulations, so no Le Mans for Maserati in 2005. 05_Sebring12_jb_1256-1 Of course, this being motorsport in general, and endurance racing in particular, there is always another side to the story. Therefore it did not come as a complete surprise to see an announcement from the American Le Mans Series that the MC12 would run, under ACO rules, at Sebring and for the rest of the ALMS season. IMSA had juggled their supplimentary regulations to achieve this. “Competitors are hereby notified that it is IMSA’s intent to invite certain entries to compete at Sebring (and each ALMS event thereafter) that have cars homologated under the FIA GT1 regulations, with specific modifications required by IMSA in writing. These documents will form the basis of scrutineering." 05_Sebring12_jb_3374-3 There was a price to be paid for this indulgence, Maserati would race without scoring points, but would be classified. There would also be some performance penalties, it was hard to see what would be gained by Maserati's participation in the ALMS, but at least Corvette had some full time opposition. 05_Sebring12_jb_4936 At Sebring the MC12 finished fourth, behind the 'Vettes and ACEMCO Saleen... it was going to be a long season. 05_Sebring12_jb_2882-2 So it proved, podiums at Road Atlanta and Road America were the high points in the year, with Corvette dominating and the Saleen usually too quick for the MC12. 05FIAGTBrno_jb_1410 The campaign in Europe proved to be much more successful. For the FIA GT Championship two teams were each running a brace of Maseratis. JMB Racing had their lead car for Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger while Philipp Peter anchored the second car with a variety of co-drivers. 2005 FIA GT Bahrain A new enterprise set up by Michael Bartels, Vitaphone Racing Team, was the other organisation to run the MC12s, Bartels driving with Timo Scheider, the second car was in the hands of Italians, Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi. This was a serious effort looking to scoop up all the honours. 05FIAGTMall_jb_119 The main opposition to the MC12 would be from the Ferrari fleet, in either 550 and 575 Maranello guise, the Saleens, the Lister, the Aston Martins and the Belgian Corvette. The Silverstone round would also have the status of being for the venerable RAC Tourist Trophy, hence the photoshoot down The Mall, in front of a famous house. 05FIAGTDubai_jb_2161-1 The season was largely dominated by the two Maserati teams, taking four outright wins between them to give the Modenese marque the GT1 Manufacturers' Cup. 2005Spa24_jb_2719 The GT1 Teams' title was effectively decided at the double points Spa 24 Hours when the Vitaphone #9 driven by Bartels/Scheider/van de Poele beat the JMB Racing example of Bertolini/Wendlinger/Peter. If there was a slight disappointment for Maserati, it was that Gabriele Gardel took the Drivers' crown for Ferrari. 06FIATestDijon_jb_1295-1 2006 saw JMB Racing exchange their GT1 Maseratis for GT2 Ferraris, leaving Vitaphone Racing Team to take on a very strong challenge from Aston Martin's customer teams (BMS, Phoenix, Race Alliance and Cirtek) plus Saleen and Corvette. 2006Spa24_jb_1748-1 The #1 car of Bartels/Bertolini took victory in three races, including the all important Spa 24 Hours, and this, combined with a consistent finishing record, gave the pair a comfortable win in the Drivers' Championship. 06_FIAGTDijon_jb__2127 The #2 MC12 also got into the act, Thomas Biagi sharing with Jamie Davies and winning two rounds, ensuring the the Teams title stayed put. 06_FIAGTDubai_jb__0565 However strong performance from the Aston Martin quartet seized the GT1 Manufacturers' honours. 07FIAGTBucharest_jb__0424 It was all change in 2007 with an attempt to reduce costs by cutting the races to just two hours and other measures to answer criticisms from the teams who declared that GT racing had become too expensive. There was a new street race in the centre of Bucharest, round Ceaușescu's Old Palace. JMB Racing returned to contest a new competition for the Gentlemen Drivers, the Citation Cup, with a pair of MC12s. Vitaphone Racing Team were joined by the ex-Italian GT squad, Scuderia Playteam Sarafree, with Andrea Bertolini joining the newcomers. 07FIAGTBucharest_jb__1332 Maserati took a clean sweep of the titles, Thomas Biagi grabbing the Drivers' Championship to go along with both Team and Manufacturer awards. 07FIAGTSilverstone_jb_0439 As if this achievement was not enough for Maserati, Ben Aucott won The Citation Cup to give the Modenese brand an almost perfect score card, only Spa 24 Hours eluded them. 07PLM_jb_2927-1 The Maserati MC12 made another appearance in North America when Fredy Lienhard and Didier Theys contested the ALMS round at Road America and Petit Le Mans. 07PLM_jb_3027-1 A podium against the dominant Corvettes in the first race and a retirement in Atlanta marked the end of the MC12 story in the USA, though a pole position at Petit Le Mans was a small consolation for the team. 08FIAGTSpa_jb_1923 2008 saw the title once again go to Vitaphone with a consistent run of scores. 08FIAGTSpa_jb_3316 The victory was once again built on a victory in the Spa 24 Hours. Regulars Bartels and Bertolini were joined at the wheel by Stéphane Sarrazin and Eric van de Poele, achieving a record-breaking fifth win in the Ardennes classic for the popular Belgian driver. The triumph at Spa almost guaranteed that the Drivers' title would be the property of Bertolini and Bartels, and so it turned out. 09Spa24_jb_1936 2009 was to be the last year of the FIA GT Championship with a new competition in the air for 2010. The Vitaphone outfit successfully defended their titles, both Team and Drivers, scoring victories at Adria and Hungaroring. 09Spa24_jb_0891 The team did not have a smooth Spa 24 Hours, with #2 retiring and Bertolini in #1 MC12 hitting the barriers after encountering oil on the track during the night, causing a lengthy stop for repairs. The only consolation was the second place for #33. 09FIAGTZolder_jb_2675 The crew of Alessandro Pier Guidi and Matteo Bobbi went one better at the final FIA GT Championship round, held at Zolder. 10SROSilverstone_jb_1089-1 The 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship was comprised of ten rounds with a Qualifying race and a Championship race, each of an hour's duration. What had been a series with an element of endurance had been dumbed down to a sprint format aimed at the television market. While there were no factory teams, each marque was expected to run two two-car teams, giving behind the scenes assistance. 10Spa24_jb_1306-1 Once again Vitaphone had their champions, Bertolini and Bartels, in #1, and supporting them in #2 were Enrique Bernoldi and Miguel Ramos. 10GT1Nurburgring_jb_1098 The other team to run the Maserati MC12 was Triple H Team Hegersport with Team Principal, Altfrid Heger on driving duties along with a variety of others, including Bert Longin, Alex Müller and Matteo Bobbi. Their best result came at Paul Ricard when Heger grabbed a podium with Alexandros Margaritis. 10Spa24_jb_0809 So it was up to the old warhorses Bertolini and Bartels to carry the flag for Maserati. Once again they proved up to the job, taking four victories along the way and being crowned as the inaugural FIA GT1 World Champions. 10Spa24_jb_1934-1 The other car managed one victory, in Brazil with Bernoldi being partnered just for that event by Alexandre Negrão. 2005Spa24_jb_0991 Then it was time to call an end to this remarkable car's career, in seven seasons the MC12 had won 14 titles and 22 races. It had brought the Trident back to the winner's circle in the best possible way and brought the tradition of Maserati motorsport back to life. The Maserati MC12 will go down in history as one of the greatest sportscars of all time. 06_FIAGTDubai_jb__0677 Which is more than can be said of the fashion sense of Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels!
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