Spaghetti Saturday - The Maserati MC12 GT1
The 6 time FIA GT1 Championship winner that never ran at Le Sarthe
I bought this 1/43 model from BBurago without any idea of the extent of this car's achievements. In fact, I did not even realize this was the race going version of the road going MC12, that I remembered was painted in dual tone blue and white color.
After editing these pics, I started reading and I realized this is a car that had dominated the GT1 class of endurance racing for more than 5 years, winning the FIA GT's overall team championship 6 years in a row between 2005 and 2010. And its drivers were overall champions during four of those years.
And the only reason why I did not know of this car was because it did not win the most famous endurance race in the world - Le Mans. It never even ran at Le Sarthe. This might come across as a knock on my own description as a motorsports fan, but I take refuge in the excuse that I lived in NASCAR land during those years and the only racing I did follow then was Formula One.
In any case, Maserati conceptualized the MC12 in 2004 with the aim of returning back to racing after a hiatus of more than 35 years. 7 years earlier, in 1997, Maserati's parent FIAT had sold half the company to Maserati's famed rival Ferrari. So when time came to develop a revive their racing ambitions, instead of starting from scratch, Maserati looked into the Ferari stable for inspiration and chose Ferrari's latest supercar, the Enzo as their starting point.
Using the Enzo's chassis and its 6 litre V12, Maserati built 25 of those blue and white road going MC12s. And with that, they qualified to participate in the GT1 class of the FIA GT Championship in 2004. However the MC12 was allowed to participate but not race for points. In spite of several wins and podium finishes, the MC12 was disqualified from scoring points because the MC12's length and width exceeded the restrictions for their class. In fact, the ACO, the organizers of the Le Mans 24 hours would not allow teams to enter the MC12 into the race.
Maserati attempted to comply with the FIA rules by shortening the MC12 GT1's length by 200mm come under the maximum length allowed under the FIA's rules for the GT1 class. Even as other teams protested that the MC12's excess width would prove dangerous for the other cars in the class, the FIA relented and allowed the MC12 to race for points starting in the last race of the 2004 season at Zhuhai (China) where the car finished 1st and 2nd.
2005 saw the MC12s dominate the FIA GT Championship over its closest rivals, the Corvette C5-R and the Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello. The two teams running the car, Vitaphone Racing and JMB Racing, finished 1st and 2nd overall respectively in the manufacturer championship, which their drivers finishing 2nd.
And from 2006 onward until 2010, Vitaphone Racing continued its domination of the GT1 class winning the team championship every one of those years. Vitaphone Racing's dominance running the MC12 also ensured that Maserati won the FIA's Manufacturers' Cup twice in the GT1 class during the 4 years that such a prize was awarded for that class.
For a team that had not raced in more than 3 decades, the MC12 was a stupendous success. And credit partially goes to Ferrari too since Ferrari not only provided the chassis, engine and the gearbox, but also the services of their long time test driver Andrea Bertolini who won 4 drivers champions with the MC12 and one of their factory drivers Mika Salo who also drove for Ferrari's F1 team..
However, it could be argued that Ferrari's most valuable contribution was offering the testing services of (arguably) two of the greatest drivers to race under the crest bearing the Prancing Horse - Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost, to take part in Maserati's extensive testing program at Ferrari's test track at Fiorano.
In any case, Maserati ended the MC12's race program after the 2010 FIA GT season, preferring to concentrate on their road car business. But the MC12 continues to be rememberd by lots of racing fans (that aren't me!) for their dominating success in that era.
However, it must be said that I find it incredulous that, in spite of its massive success , the ACO (the organizer of the 24 hours of Le Mans) never relaxed their rules to allow the MC12 to race around Le Sarthe. I believe the car would be higher up in the legend category had it ran at Le Mans where, considering its success elsewhere during that era, it would have definitely performed strongly.