Round 4 - Spain - Valencia
This decision was influenced by the imminent arrival of Fernando Alonso to the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and the Spaniard was able to take in the atmosphere typical of an occasion organised by the Prancing Horse.
As usual, the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge cars took part and the Maseratis again gave a brilliant account of themselves. Things got underway on the Friday with the drivers kitting up for free practice and the timed sessions to decide the grid orders. In Group A, reserved to cars fitted with drum brakes, the best time was set by Sean Danaher’s 1938 Maserati 6CM. Next up was the 250S with Darius Ahrabian at the wheel and then came the Ferrari 625 TR driven by Nicolas Zapata. In Group B, one for models with disc brakes, pole went to Darius Ahrabian’s Ferrari F40 LM with Dieter Roschmann’s clocking second. The third best time went to Christian Traber in his Ferrari 512 BB LM.
The opening Group B race on the Saturday was won by Darius Ahrabian’s F40. Next up on track was the first Group A event and this is where Maserati secured a superb one-two-three finish. The race was won by Sean Danaher’s 6CM from 1938 with Gigi Baulino in second in his 250F. Filling third spot was another 6CM driven by Willi Balz, a driver who always gives his all in the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge. “Thanks to the 6CM’s extra power I managed to edge ahead of Gigi Baulino’s 250F”, revealed Danaher afterwards. “Things were exciting over the first four laps. I have known Gigi for ages and he is a tough cookie; it is great taking him on on the track. I am pleased to have won and the victory came despite oil leaking from the engine, a problem I hope my mechanics can sort out this evening. I hope that things go as well tomorrow but I have a feeling it won’t be easy”.
Gigi Baulino drove his usual fair race: “These single-seaters are delicious to drive but they do have the occasional niggle. Yesterday, a welded section of the bodywork came away and I had big problems with the brakes. They worked okay up until lap four but after that I had to pump the pedal three or four times for every corner. This meant that it was impossible to attack Sean and I had to make do with second place. The circuit is lovely to drive and well suited to my 250F. There are a lot of braking points but the track’s only straight isn’t long enough. Still, I am feeling positive and hope to improve on my placing tomorrow”.
“I wasn’t too pleased with yesterday’s qualifying session”, reflected Willi Balz. “Luckily, things went much better in the race itself and I am quite pleased with today’s third. This really is a fantastic circuit and, as you get to know it, you learn where to cut corners and pick up some time. I am learning about the track all the time and this will help in tomorrow’s race”.
Sunday’s World Finals opened with the second Group A race, an event that saw Sean Danaher storm to the chequered flag. Gigi Baulino, in a Maserati 250F, and Nicolas Zapata’s Ferrari 625 TR battled long and hard but, in the end, it was the tough driver from Turin who came out on top thanks to the fact that the 250F had a little more under the bonnet. “I got off to a solid start and built up a good lead”, stated Danaher once the race was over. “I then tried to keep up a high tempo: to stay focused I have to drive fast and it went well for me today. I am over the moon with the two wins, ones that mean I end the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge at the top of my category”. Even though he twice finished on the podium, Gigi Baulini was not too happy. “Today I didn’t really compete. Second spot in race 2 came thanks to the 250F’s fine engine. Nicolas Zapata probably deserved it more; he was excellent. He was all over the back of me but couldn’t overtake on the straight because his car was less powerful. He is a strong competitor and it was a shame I beat him”. Zapata made up for things with overall victory in the 2009 Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge. The title was just reward for a consistent, solid and talented driver who has raced in the series for over ten years.
Dieter Roschmann’s Ferrari 512 M triumphed in the second Group B race after being chased hard by Darius Ahrabian’s F40 LM. This was another thrilling race made even more exciting by the four-way tussle between David Franklin’s 312 P (that later pulled out), and the 512 BBLMs driven by Arnold Meier, Christian Traber and Frenchman Mister John of B, who eventually came home in third. Willi Balz, in a splendid Maserati Type 61 Birdcage, took part in both Group B races and finished eleventh in the first event and tenth in the second.