Reportage F1 Clienti: The Hobby-Schumis at Ferrari

Rossen Gargolov
Reportage F1 Clienti
Subscriptions & booklets

D outside over the green areas away from the curbs, the steaming morning fog rises as if the moles under the sward were just making their first espresso. Inside there is a deafening buzz, as if a horde of crickets has gathered to form an orchestra with a swarm of bees. The sound of the circulating pumps circulating water and oil - the starting procedure brings Grand Prix high-tech up to operating temperature. The Formula 1 broadcast does not begin today with the push of a button on the remote control, but live in the pit lane of the racing track on which a certain gentleman named Enzo Ferrari drove an Isotta Fraschini for the first time in Mugello in 1920 before he drove nine years later founded his own racing team, Scuderia Ferrari.

Children's birthday party with Ferrari toys

7.59 a.m., L‘Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, the hair is right, the tailor-made racing overalls too. The bright white smile could make models from the toothpaste advertising unemployed. Kevin is overjoyed. “It's like a children's birthday every time”, that's all he gets out of it while he climbs into Schumi's former workplace to then adjust the countless buttons on the F1 steering wheel like a little boy playing with his remote-controlled model car. For several blink of an eye Kevin Weeda, purely visually a mixture of Steve McQueen, George Clooney and Michael Douglas, has no words. And that means something: although we are in bella italia, at the end of the day it will be the smart Californian who joked, laughed and talked the most.

No McLaren, no Red Bull and also no Mercedes GP - the starting grid is one-sided today. F2007, F2004, F2002 and two each of the F2003-GA and F300 - seven Ferrari GP legends from 1998 to 2007 are once again in the spotlight. The tamers are not called Schumacher, Barrichello or Räikkönen, but Mazzara, Bukhtoyarov or just that Kevin who hastily peels out of the seat shell after the first seat rehearsal: 'Boys, now it's your turn.'

It's nice to have friends like this

This refers to your two friends, also dressed in fire-proof red, who are also looking forward to starting number 1 with childlike joy on their faces pilgrimage around as if they had never stood in front of a racing car. And that although they are the only two professional racing drivers in the field of Hobby Schumisare. Ex-champ car runner-up Adrián Fernández and his team-mate Harold Primat, with whom he started the 2011 Le Mans 24-hour race in the LMP1 Aston Martin, got to know F1 owner Weeda while going karting. “At some point, Kevin unpacked the hammer and asked if we would not even be interested in Formula 1. It's nice to have friends like that, 'says Fernández with a smile as he apparently shoots the thousandth picture for his private album with his iPhone.

50 GP Ferraris in one hall

8:35 Uhr, Drivers Briefing: The test day for recreational drivers is perfectly organized. Since 2003, Ferrari's F1 Clienti department has been taking care of Ferrari customers who want to climb into the cockpit of a decommissioned top-class racing car. Under the umbrella of Corse Clienti, the F1 division is proving to be an excellent source of income. If you only have a touch of envy, you shouldn't read any further. Everyone else can dream and enjoy with us. A brief thought leap from Mugello to Fiorano, 140 kilometers away. In a hangar-like hall on the edge of the Ferrari test track, around 50 GP heroes built between 1970 and 2009 parked next to each other, centimeter apart. Two years after retirement, the F1 remain in quarantine at Ferrari, so as not to lose any technical advantages to the competition via third parties. Only then are the World Cup racers up for sale. Only a third of the customers will then take the dream car into their own garage.

Ferrari virus is a requirement

8.50 a.m., the drivers' briefing is over. Whistling happily, Kevin puts Helm, Hans and racing gloves on the side box of his Ferrari F2004, with which Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello won 15 of 18 races in 2004. “I already had an F2002 before I bought the 04”, says the 53-year-old, who also drives a Radical SR8 race in the USA. Michael Schumacher's red goddesses are especially popular. The ex work equipment of the record world champion is traded between 1.5 and almost three million euros. “A Barrichello car or a former T-car are much cheaper,” reveals Antonello Coletta, head of Ferrari Classiche and Corse Clienti.

It is clear that all participating Ferrari disciples are financially relaxed here. Who made it into the Forbes billionaires list in what way, or not yet, doesn't care at all about this day. The only topic of the day: gasoline in the blood. A treasure in the bank account isn't enough either. For Ferrari, it's not just the dollar signs that count, but also the people behind them. The solvent buyers first have to introduce themselves to Maranello. Those who are not really infected with the Ferrari virus will fail at the private audience. Strict rules ensure that the rolling Formula 1 history is preserved in detail. Repainting orNew stickers are an absolute taboo - only the names of the new drivers are allowed to adorn the F1 racer.

Hobby racers are part of the Ferrari family

Around 30 drivers are permanently registered with the Clienti and regularly take part in eight events on international racing tracks such as Suzuka, Laguna Seca, Spa-Francorchamps or Silverstone. In contrast to the former EuroBoss Series or the current Boss GP championship for disused F1 cars, the Clienti drivers do not compete against each other in races, but move their Ferraris in several 25-minute training sessions per day of the event. For storage, transport and support costs, the hobby racers have to shell out the equivalent of a Formula 3 season of around 300,000 euros a year. But there’s not just a first-class all-round package including the feeling of being a real Formula 1 professional. The Italian sports car manufacturer treats its exclusive customers as part of the Ferrari family. Alonso, Massa and Montezemolo drop by regularly.

Professional mechanics take care of the amateur pilots

9.40 a.m., typical F1 pre-start melody echoes through the pits: impact wrenches rattle, engine panels click into place, electric blankets are torn from the slicks. Like hard-working ants, the helpers in red factory costumes scurry around the monoposti. 'Around 35 to 40 mechanics look after our customers,' explains Clienti manager Coletta. It is clear that at Ferrari there are not just any mechanics working on the Ferrari myth. So that at the F1 Clienti not some Ferrari mechanics screw on the sensitive Formula 1 technology, 15 crew members come directly from the real Formula 1 team of the Scuderia. “The rest of the mechanics learn from us before they join the real F1 team,” Coletta describes the Clienti structures.

Barrichello holds a lap time record in Mugello

9.50 a.m., the pit lights turn green: fire free, every four seconds the Scuderia squadron rushes out with a goosebumps-making speed symphony the pit lane. First of all a Ferrari F2003-GA with chassis number 231. It is exactly the car that Michael Schumacher got stuck in the gravel of the Dunlop hairpin at the Nürburgring in 2003 after a duel with Juan Pablo Montoya. After anxious minutes, four marshals pushed the world champion, and he was able to continue his race - a scene that was decisive for the World Cup and secured the Kerpener with the sixth title. The fact that the champion is not behind the wheel of the 900-hp projectile, which weighs only 600 kilos, can almost only be seen from the new owner's helmet design.

While some Formula 1 legends stumble out of the pits under the gross motor skills of their owners like hobbling sprint runners, others fearlessly chase the limitopposite. Ferrari test driver and F1 Clienti instructor Marc Gené sums up the achievements of his protégés: “Some lap the Mugello circuit in a leisurely two minutes, others scratch the 1.27 mark.” For comparison: Rubens Barrichello burned with 1.18.704 minutes 2004 the record lap in the asphalt of Mugello, which is still valid today.

High-tech engines are protected

But a serious comparison of times is difficult. While the Ferrari V10 units of the 2000s were allowed to turn around 19,000 tours in real F1 life, the Clienti organization reduced the maximum speed to 17,000 crankshaft rotations to protect the high-tech engines. Instead of the grooved tires used from 1998 to 2009, treadless slicks from the GP2 series are used. “With the GP2 tires, the cars are a little faster than with the grooved tires of the time. In addition, the slicks from the GP2 keep the temperature a little better when the drivers drive a little slower, ”explains Gené. Not all hobby drivers manage to keep the temperature of the preheated slicks.

“The F2004 is the most complete car with a lot of downforce. Thanks to electronic traction control, vehicles from this period can be moved very quickly, even by ambitious amateurs, ”explains Ferrari tester Gené, who drives the part-time racing drivers through the neuralgic points of the route in a Fiat Doblo high-roof estate and helps with data analysis and moderate coordination work . With early racing machines like Berger's fire-breathing turbo monster F1-87 /88C, the amateur world is faced with completely different requirements. But the real fire chairs from GP history are not at the start today.

The children's birthday party can go on

12.40 While some pilots are looking forward to lateral forces of 4.2 g in Arrabbiata 1, the high-speed right after start-finish, after the first training sessions on one of the 19 laptops in the pits, there is disillusionment in Kevin’s camp. “The temperature suddenly went up,” Weeda says with a serious expression. 'Don't panic, we're just changing the radiator,' reassured Andrea Galletti, Technical Director of F1 Clienti, and between 1990 and 2002 former racing engineer for Ferrari heroes such as Mansell, Alesi, Berger, Irvine, Barrichello and Schumacher. And then it's back again, the friendly toothpaste advertising smile of the US sunny boy Weeda: “The children's birthday party can go on.” In addition to Weeda, his two racing friends are now coming to their long-awaited commitment.

Repair costs do not play a role in F1 racing cars

Many others would have their smiles frozen in view of the repair costs worth an average annual rent for a large German city apartment. But whether for the Ferrari a cooler now 10,000 euros, a set of brakes 20,000 euros and what oneF1 heart with a choice of eight, ten or twelve cylinders in the event of damage costs is secondary. It is much more interesting how a seasoned professional like ex-Champ Car man Adrián Fernández climbs out of the carbon fiber rocket after his F1 debut: “That reminds me of my days in Champ Car, but the brakes are much more incredible - thanks Kevin! “, Says the Mexican with shining eyes and pats his F1 friend on the shoulder.
“No matter if amateur or professional. In a Formula 1, there is always a wow factor on board for the first five laps, ”says Marc Gené, summing up the fascination of Formula 1. Last but not least, a little note on his own behalf: The author of this story has been playing the lottery regularly since the F1 Clienti visit.


Leave a reply

Name *