Interview with Maurizio Leschiutta

Interview with Maurizio Leschiutta

Before the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship officially kicks off, we took the chance to get to know Maserati Corse’s technical director, Maurizio Leschiutta. We wanted to find out what his expectations were for the upcoming season, the modifications made to the car and the competition that the MC12 will be up against.

The new regulations introduced for this new championship meant significant modifications being made to the MC12. What were the main changes made to the car?

The rule changes were made to reduce the performance of the ‘old generation’ cars like the MC12, the Corvette C6R, and the Aston Martin DB9R and bring them into line with the new range of cars like the Ford GT40, the Lamborghini LP670 and the Nissan GT-R. The idea is to create a healthy and balanced mix for the new world series.

The 2010 version of the MC12 was modified to adopt a new twin rear spoiler, one set further forward and lower than it was in 2009. A wooden skid block was added car’s belly just like those used in Formula 1. This stretches from the car’s front axle to its rear axle, is 300 mm wide and 25 mm thick.

The ‘FIA spec engine ECU’ was fitted. This is supplied to all the teams by Magneti Marelli with a single piece of software that allows the FIA to download the car’s data for its ‘Balance of Performance’ analyses. With the new engine control unit in place, traction control was eliminated. The engine restrictors have been reduced from 30.4 mm to 30.1 mm so that they meet the regulations. Finally, the car’s weight was taken to the minimum of 1200 kg

What challenges did you face in developing the 2010 car?

The definition of the MC12’s ‘2010 package’ called for a series of simulations and aerodynamic calculations before we settled on a balanced solution that allowed us to best interpret the FIA’s indications; not an easy task. The new engine control unit meant a lot of set up work on the test bench and out on the track. The freezing of the whole ‘2010 package’ after two Balance of Performance track tests (at Algarve at the beginning of February and at Paul Ricard at the end of that month) came late on. This meant a real effort on everyone’s behalf make sure all the parts arrived and for testing the car. These were completed only on the evening of Sunday 14 March, just in time for the test drive at Fiorano, the day the MC12 was sent to Abu Dhabi for the season’s opening race.”

What are your expectations for the season ahead?

With 24 cars lining up at the start, six different constructors, and top level drivers like reigning champions Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels as well as others like Karl Wendlinger and Mika Salo, I think that it will be a really exciting season”.

Vitaphone Racing Team and Triple H Team Hegersport, who will be racing in the MC12, will be fielding mostly unknown crews apart from Bertolini/Bartels.

“Our Maserati client teams have quick crews this year. The Bartels-Bertolini duo for Vitaphone Racing Team will be out to defend their title and win their fourth crown. Vitaphone’s other pairing will be made up of Miguel Ramos and Enrique Bernoldi, an ex-Formula 1 driver who did well in last year’s championship in the Team Sangari Corvette.
The Triple H Team Hegersport (THTH) team will be led by its owner, Altfrid Heger who will be sharing the drive with ex-DTM man, Alex Margaritis. In their second car will be Bert Longin (another with Corvette experience) and Matteo Bobbi, making a comeback to the MC12 after starring last year in the Maserati Vitaphone-DHL.”

Looking at the competition, who do you think are Maserati’s closest rivals for the title?

I think that the older cars, even though they have been slowed by the FIA’s ‘2010 package’ of regulations, are still the cars to beat so I would say Corvette and Aston Martin.
We know all about the Corvette from last year. It’s powerful 7 litre V8 and 31.2mm restrictors means the American car’s engine performs well, especially when accelerating and at the start. The new regulations call for two hour-long races and not one two-hour event and so we will be doubly affected.
The Aston DB9R makes a return after a year away from FIA action with a new-generation ACO Le Mans model. The same 2010 package modification has also been applied to this car

What do you think about how the series has evolved?

The changes made to the GT championship meet the needs of the promoter (SRO) to find a format of races that appeals to those watching on TV. This would ensure not only its survival but also the growth of the series through increased media coverage.

The requirements laid down by the FIA for holding a world championship were, for SRO, difficult to meet. What made things tougher was the financial restrictions in today’s current economic climate, something that doesn’t affect just motorsport. While we are pleased to be part of it all, I think this new format is a move away from GT’s original philosophy and its classic endurance events where cars are designed to be reliable; a feature that also characterises Maserati’s roadgoing cars. However, times change and we have to adapt until the FIA, with the input of the constructors, clarifies what the future of GT racing will be