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512 M s/n 1018
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Enna-Pergusa/Sicily, November 7-8, 1997

The days prior to the London decision
At the weekend prior to the memorable date on which Michael Schumacher was deprived of his title as 1997 Formula 1 vice-champion at London, Ferrari hosted the second and final part of the official 50th anniversary celebration in a quite unusual location:

The reason for which Ferrari obviously chose this remote spot for the event was the desire to involve entire Italy into the festivities. After Rome and Modena/Maranello had been the sites of the major part of the unique celebration in late May and early June, the tifosi in the very southern part of Italy should have their very own festa as well.

Thus, one had decided to host the traditional final event of all series of the F355 Challenge at the Autodromo di Pergusa instead of Mugello.

The circuit, opened in 1961, still has the charm of the earlier days in motor-racing compared to many high-tech tracks around to world. Nevertheless, several important events take place here every year, including for example a race of the European Formula 3000 championship.

Enna-Pergusa is a quite unique, being a nearly oval circuit (with chicanes) surrounding a lake, the Lago di Pergusa.

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A traditional circuit

Despite of the fact that the three above mentioned chicanes have been installed in recent years, a very high average speed is possible on the 4,2 kms long circuit, as shown during qualifying by the mid-engined sportscars in the Ferrari Shell Historical Challenge: Only 2:09,873 minutes elapsed until Patrick Stieger had finished one lap; this proves an average speed of 157,099 km/h!

The historic racing series (managed for the factory by Jean Sage), too, held its final event on Sicily. For the first time, the Challenge had been divided up into two categories of drum-braked and disc-braked cars. At the end, the overall champion had to be determined, although the ranking is not important to many of the entrants. The important thing is to race the historic cars in a way they should be raced instead of tucking them away in museums and collections.

Peter Hardman out - Gary Pearson champion
To tell the statistics at once: Gary Pearson became the champion in Brandon Wang's 250 Testa Rossa s/n 0718TR.

In the first of the two heats at Enna-Pergusa, Pearson took over the lead from Peter Hardman who, up to that point, had been the best scoring driver in the foregoing events. The professional racer and former Formula 3- and touring car-pilot could not do anything against this: After just two laps, he had blown the engine of the 330 LMB s/n 4381SA; mechanic Tim Samways will have some work to do in the winter months.

New participants in the popular Ferrari Shell Historical Challenge

While Pearson and Hardman were regular starters in the entire 1997 season, some new participants could be seen at Enna as well:

Most spectacular was the 857 S s/n 0588M, owned by Jean-Claude Bajol from France. The car with an unusual rearwing was driven by Willie Green, who is well known in England for his many entries in historic racing.

The Brit could not be very fast in the 857 S (by the way, its four-cylinder engine had been replaced by the V12 of a 250 GT, but the ex-John Edgar car was a treat to see anyway.

Also a new face in the series: Giorgio Schoen, the official Ferrari-agent in Milan. He drove his 250 GT LWB Berlinetta Scaglietti "Tour de France" s/n 1335GT, accompanied by the two identical models of Carlo Voegele from Switzerland s/n 1385GT and Nicolaus Springer s/n 0909GT, the Switzerland-resident German collector.

Organizer Jean Sage would have liked to race his freshly DK restored 375 MM Berlinetta Pinin Farina s/n 0358AM at the event, but a defect oil-filter kept the car from being entered.

Another non-starter was the 250 GTO '62 s/n 3387GT of Bernard Carl, also due to technical problems. So, the car could at least act as a donor of a front-axle which was implanted to P. Paul Pappalardo's GTO s/n 5111GT for the race.

Michael and Eddie in action
For probably most of the 120.000 Sicilian spectators, the F1-demonstration run of Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine was the highlight of the weekend. Starting their F310 Bs at full throttle and disappearing in clouds of burned rubber caused frenetic applause among the tifosi.

Back to the Historical Challenge:

The first heat of the drum-brake cars was won by Matt Grist in an Alfa Romeo C35 which had once been an official Grand Prix-car of the Scuderia Ferrari back in the times of the 750 kg-formula.

After the track had been hit by heavy rain just before the race, the light Alfa Romeo GP-cars had an advantage; only the 250 TRs could keep up with them; Gary Pearson, of course, had the best performance among them.

Carlos Monteverde, who has compiled one of the world's most important collections of race-cars during the year, had a fantastic debut and placed his yellow 250 TR s/n 0738TR on a sensational 3rd position. And he was even able to reach the same position in the second heat on Sunday!

Showers of rain
Due to the massive rain, the Stieger brothers and Marc Caveng decided not to participate on Saturday. Their two 512 Ms (s/n 1018 and s/n 1050) and the 312 PB (s/n 0888) were left in the dry box for the day.

So, in the heat for disc-braked cars, David Piper and his 330 P2 (s/n 0836) "inherited" the pole from the withdrawn cars and eventually took the win. David Franklin in the cockpit of Carlos Monteverde's 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione (s/n 15667) came in second.

Jean Sage had entered his 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione (s/n 2165GT) in this race. The car could be seen racing for the first time after the restoration which had become necessary after the heavy crash during the 1996 Ferrari Racing Days at the Nürburgring.

While Sage safely reached the finish, Gerhard Schwing dropped out of the race in his SWB Berlinetta s/n 1887GT which had suffered a severe damage on the engine. Just one of many defects which occurred on the cars during the weekend. The number of non-finishers had never been this high in the Ferrari Shell Historical Challenge.

Am Sonntag endete allerdings ein Duell Sages mit Gerhard Schwing für den Deutschen wenig erfreulich: Seine silberne Berlinetta (1887GT) erlag einem kapitalen Motorschaden. - Die Rennstrecke von einst stellte auch Anforderungen von einst an Material. Noch nie zuvor waren soviel technische Defekte im Laufe eines der historischen Ferrari-Rennen aufgetreten.

The results on Sunday: Gary Pearson became 1st OA, followed by Pietro Brigato and Carlos Monteverde (all three of them driving 250 TRs).

Patrick Stieger took the win in the disc-brake heat in his 512 M, Marc Caveng became second (also on 512 M) and Christoph Stieger finished third in the 312 PB.

Even David Piper suffered ignition problems on Sunday, but this did not bother him very much.

Nino, Nino !

A motorsport celebrity paid a visit to the event on Sunday: Nino Vaccarella. The teacher from Palermo had been one of the top-drivers in sportscar racing 30 years ago, and he won the Targa Florio in 1965 in a 330 P2.

Virtually being a local hero, Vaccarella was honored by the crowd who cried "Nino, Nino!" in chorus. Of course, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo "Luca, Luca!" and Michael Schumacher "Schummy, Schummy!" were welcome in the same way.

The event on Sicily was great, and one may hope that a second edition of this Grande Festa Siciliana will take place earlier than Ferrari's 75th anniversary.