|With the arrival of the Maserati MC 12 the goal posts in GT racing shifted once again.
So far the MC 12 has been a controversial car to say the least, but one that the "powers that be" at the FIA were determined to see racing.
From the onset its was clear that the MC 12 would on the edge of breaching the "spirit of the rules".
For a bit more background info the Maserati MC 12 ...a breef insight
The powers that be
First of all it was a purposely built racer, not a development from a production based street car.
Secondly it had a fullly carbon tub/chassis (not alowed by the 2004 FIA rules). And last but not least it was run by what only could be considered a "Manufacturer" team. The first problem was fixed by Maserati as it presented its "streetlegal" MC 12 Stradale at the 2004 Geneva Autosalon. The others were "easily" corrected by the FIA as it did a 180º on its rules, allowing both carbon chassis and manufacturer entries for 2005. To make sure that the car would be ready for 2005 they allowed Maserati to race the car in the remaining 2004 series, although it would not be able to score points.
So this year with the help of the mighty FIA the MC 12 was ready to conquer the "Sportscar" world......
although not the whole world....
..In a small village in France, a group of brave Gallios resisted the "Roman" conqueror by stating that [i]" Zie car was simply to wide and too longue" [/i]
Maserati would have to modify its car to the same 5000 x 2000mm max dimensions as respected by all the other competitors if it wanted to be allowed to take part in the LM 24 hrs, LEMS or ALMS. Grudgingly Maserati promised to build an all new car to the ACO specs, but still wanted to race their already fully prepared current car.... They turned their attention to the land of oppertunity, the USA or more specific in this case the American Le Mans Series.
Looking for a playmate...
In the states IMSA (the ALMS governing body) and GARRA (Daytona 24hrs and Grand Am series) are in direct competion in getting more teams interested in their series. For the ALMS this goes especially for the GT1 class, where the competition has been thin. (In 2004 Corvette's C5 had no "real" opponent)
Although run under the "LE MANS" label and rules, the Americans have been known to do things "their way" if it serves their interest better. Last year they chose to postpone the "new ACO LMP" regulations so their teams/clients could still race their "old cars" and surpise, surprise,.... decided to allow the Maserati in.
GM would get a much needed "play mate" for its new Corvette C6 and Maserati could race what they had until their new and legal car is ready to go.
A development not welcomed by some of the other entrants, mainly Aston Martin aka Prodrive aka David Richards.
So here's where the plot thickness...
In the run up to the Sebring 12hrs, Richards filed a official protest against the MC 12, stating the car was not compliant to ACO rules.
As a resonse Maserati pointed out, in a press conference, that they were [i]"invited by IMSA" to take part in the ALMS series"[/i] and that [i]“the MC 12 is legal to run in the FIA series, and because the ACO and the FIA regulations are “the same”, we are able to run here also. [/i]
Well...that as we know is not entirely true! As it was quickly clarified by an ACO statement.
[i]"Noting the decision by the ALMS to put the MASERATI MC 12 on the list of entries for the coming SEBRING 12 HOURS.
Reminding the parties concerned that the MC 12 does not comply with the Technical Regulations and is not homologated.
Thus, this car is not allowed to take part in events run under the ‘LE MANS’ label.
Having not had any contact with either the F.IA. or I.M.S.A concerning the control of the performance of this car."[/i]
So is the MC 12 out...or in?
The latest development comes from IMSA as it ruled on Prodrive's protest, or actually stated that they had no ground to protest at all, stating that
[i] "Pursuant to various sections of the (FIA) International Sporting Code..IMSA has the authority to promulgate and enforce its own rules"
"...the IMSA Code takes precedence (over the ACO) as the governing body of rules for all events sanctioned by IMSA"[/i]
In layman terms this means that although they agreed to run the ALMS to ACO rules they consider the FIA rules as "higher" and have the freedom to make their own rules and use the FIA homologation to allow the car in.
Besides creating a possible divide in the recent brotherhood of sportscar racing (ACO, IMSA, and FIA ), the decision of IMSA to go its own way opens up all sorts of scenarios in the future. Much like the sport went through in the late ‘90s, when the GT class wars escalated from a road going McLaren, to pure prototypes like the Porsche GT1 to the Mercedes CLK series.
Which is exactly what Dave Richards and Prodrive want to prevent.
My personal view...it is already to late.
The existence of the MC 12 allone proves that "in sportscar racing" history is most likely to repeat its self over and over again.