Monza - ITA

Salo steers Maserati into the top spots

Swiss Team got off to a flying start in the International Superstars Series at Monza. In the first round of the championship the private Swiss team, in the Maserati Quattroporte Evo, was in the mix straight away: Mika Salo clocked the fourth fastest time in qualifying and Mauro Cesari the twelfth. Twenty-two drivers took part in the session.

 Salo, from Finland, stopped the clock at 1'56"516; just 0"554 off the driver in pole, Max Pigoli and his surprisingly quick Jaguar XF/R5.0 S/C from team Ferlito. The performance of the ex-F1 driver was a solid one given the conditioning factors: this was Salo’s very first outing in the Maserati berlina. The Finn had very little time – just the two free practice sessions – to adapt to the driving position and to set the car up so that it suited his driving style; the car’s set up is, more or less, unchanged from last year. Salo covered just five qualifying laps and used only one set of tyres in posting his time - the second set he kept in reserve for the race proper.

The Quattroporte Evo started the season with two penalties: the 2011 title win has resulted in the car's engine air scoops being reduced, bringing the car’s power down by 20bhp to 473bhp. Another change is that the regulation minimum weight has been upped by 10kg to 1360kg. The technicians have calculated that these changes will mean the cars will lap one second slower.

Today’s showing proves that the Evo is as competitive as ever. The fact that Salo managed to adapt to the car straight away is thanks to the fine work carried out by the drivers that first took it to the track: Andrea Bertolini, who won the Drivers’ title, and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who stepped into the championship fray and was always contending for the top places.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for Cesari after he suffered a problem with his front torsion bar. Still, he will almost certainly hit back as he was very competitive in his Superstars tests, held at Monza.

The season’s first official qualifying session was a close one. The top four slots were filled by four different cars: Max Pigoli’s Jaguar XF/R5.0 S/C, Andrea Larini’s Mercedes AMG C63, Thomas Biagi’s BMW M3 E92 and, Salo’s Quattroporte Evo.

So, it looks like this year’s series will be an exciting one with Maserati up against six other prestigious manufacturers. The ten squads taking part include official constructor teams from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati and Mercedes and things could get even tighter if Porsche decide to make an entrance.