Thanks to the excellent culinary skills of my cousin Mike, personal chef to a driver in this weekend’s opening round Blancpain Endurance Series, I had a behind-closed-doors look at “gentleman GT racing” last Sunday.
We arrived early to a very damp Monza circuit, as Milano’s spring showers never fail to deliver, which made for a dark, wet and overall, dismal looking day. No matter though, as we had this for shelter:
A fourty-five foot motor home, complete with a pair of scooters to usher us to a fro and a patio set, in case you suffer from claustrophobia.
Excuse me if I go all goo-goo-ga-ga for a second but just look at this interior! A bit French-country for my taste but the size of the thing is scary. The driver and passenger seats are TV room arm-chairs with seat belts. They just are. It kinda reminded me of the Space Balls Winnebago for a second until I looked down the…hall?!… and saw the rest of it.
The fully-optioned kitchen area was bigger than most kitchens in tiny Milanese apartments. Behind the second flat screen was one of two washrooms and just passed that was the bedroom, sporting a queen sized bed no less. Mike, looking properly enthusiastic to make breakfast.
Mike told me the “motor home guys” drove it down from somewhere in the U.K. last thursday and had to take it back at the end of the day. I only imagine that must feel like pulling an arm-chair up to the front window of your house, opening the curtains, then driving it across Europe – twice within a week.
Unfortunately, as the gentleman driver was due to show up with his entourage in tow, it was my time to leave my cousin and the high life behind. With my camera in hand, I set out into the densely packed motor home and transport truck paddock area, which felt like being in a glamourous trailer park. Check out the classic Gulf livery on this Gulf Racing transport.
As the rain fell harder I had to find shelter again but then I noticed this car: Valentino Rossi’s yellow Ferrari 458 Italia.
Of course, you must be thinking, what’s VR doing at a GT race? Doesn’t Ducati Corse have more testing to do after their less than brilliant debut? As it turns out, MotoGP testing is scheduled by the governing body, Dorna, which means teams must adhere to official testing days. So VR, with a little time off, decided to join his buddy and co-driver, Allessio Salucci (aka Uccio) and race a Ferrari 458 GT car tuned by Kessel Racing. I actually have a ton of respect for VR and all he’s accomplished on two wheels and think it’s absolutely fucking fantastic that he can take a time-out from his own racing agenda to participate in an event like this.
Leaving the paddock behind, I found another shelter, albeit colder and much less glamorous, inside Monza circuit’s administrative building. Looking down on the paddock now, I was amazed at the number of cargo trucks and RV’s, but then again, there were nearly 60 cars entered in the Blancpain Endurance race alone, in addition to the Lamborghini Super Trofeo (one make race series, all Gallardos) and Formula 3 race cars set to race the same day.
Fans walking into the paddock past the Lamborghini driving academy display. Tyre technicians having to trek across the entire lot to reach the Michelin tent (background), the official tyre sponsor. If you’ve ever been to Monza for an F1 or WSBK race before, you can see just how few people were here and no umbrella girls floating around. However, there was a small but dedicated crowd gathering in front of one luxury RV in particular.
Of course, I’m referring to the Valentino Rossi fans, some who had been standing in the wet since I arrived at the track around 8:30. By lunch time that small gathering grew larger, as people began popping up like weeds hoping to get a glimpse of the 9-time motorcycle champion. Then finally, around 13:15, he emerged from his piano black motor home to what looked like a garden of umbrellas.
That was the behind the scenes. Up next, I take a close-up look of a race ready Ferrari 458 Italia from inside the garage of Scuderia Vittoria.