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The 1980s Maserati Touring Cars


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#1 Haddock

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Posted 19 November 2001 - 11:14

I note that Maserati are planning to return to racing....they say after nearly fifty years of absence. Now, I'm sure that isn't true. I remember Maserati Bi-Turbos running in the British Touring Car championship, and possibly also the World Touring Car championship in the mid-to-late 1980s.

They were hideous cars that bore more than a passing resemblance to the top of the raneg Hyundais of the same era. I seem to remember the racing versions were uncompetitive too. Anyone know anything more about the project ?

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#2 Frank de Jong

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Posted 19 November 2001 - 17:02

Well Haddock, if i can't answer your question, who can at TNF?;)
My website hasn't reached 1987 so far, but still.
In 1987, a Maserati Biturbo was raced at the World Touringcar Championship. Potentially a winner, but the car turned out to be hopelessly unreliable and undeveloped. The car was raced by quite professional drivers, like Brancatelli and Armin Hahne. The car was prepared by Imberti and had something like 360 HP (as much as a Volvo but not nearly enough to beat a Sierra).
It is very unlikely that 5000 Maserati Biturbo's were produced within a year, but since Jaguar had homologated the XJS without sufficient numbers anyway, nobody cared.

I remember a car in the BTCC as well, that's correct. Even less succesfull.

BTW: are you aware of the "Bora Competizione" of 1974? It should have raced at Le Mans, was tested succesfully (it was very fast) but... they didn't manage to homologate it as a GT
(minimum 400 cars produced).

I don't share your opinion concerning the Hyundai styling; the car looked in my opinion as a very chique BMW 3-series.

#3 Haddock

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Posted 20 November 2001 - 10:36

Thanks, I like the touring car website...though it hasn't yet reached the time I started to get interested in motor racing. (Mid eighties-ish, shortly before the ETTC became the the WTCC and then promptly disappeared)

For that reason, I don't remember the abortive Maserati Le Mans car either. Would be good to see them put together something for the international GT series or something in the near future.

#4 Falcadore

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Posted 20 November 2001 - 14:11

For the 1987 World Touring Car Championship, Pro Team Italia enterred a pair of scarlet Maserati Biturbos for most rounds of the series. Truth be told they were a bit of a disaster. When they came into my sphere of attention onthe first of the three South Pacific legs, they ere somewhat of a shambles. The cars were slow and unreliable. For the Bathurst 1000 they only submitted one entry, assuming that their entry was for the entire team, only to find out when they got to Australia only one of the Biturbos would be allowed to qualify.

For the Bathurst 1000 the eventual driver line-up was Armin Hahne, who amongst other things had won this race two years prior, Bruno Giacomelli, former Alfa Romeo Formula One driver, and Kevin Bartlett, a man who had won Formula 5000 events all over the Pacific rim, won Bathurst in dramatic fashion in 1974 and over the years driven Mitsubishis, BMWs, Fords, Alfa Romeos, Chevrolets in a hugely varied and successsful career.

It was just as Bartlett was roped in to hep the South Pacific races as Giacomelli failed to make the qualifying cut, leaving Hahne & Bartlett as the only drivers. But the car would retire early in the event.

Early retirements were also in store at the Calder Park 500 for now both cars, with Hahne/Bartlett being the first significant retirement of the race and Marcello Gunnella, Nicola Tesini and Stefano Livio not lasting much longer.

#5 William Dale Jr

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Posted 21 November 2001 - 06:18

From memory, Mike Oliver also tried to bring out a pair of Biturbos to run in the ATCC, with help from the factory. I'm pretty sure that this didn't end up happening, though.

I remember seeing some footage of the Pro Italia Biturbo rounding Copse at Silverstone - I have yet to see another car that has handled so badly through a corner!!

I also doubt that they produced 5000 Biturbos, so perhaps they just built 500 as evolution models?

#6 Frank de Jong

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Posted 21 November 2001 - 08:17

Originally posted by William Dale Jr
I also doubt that they produced 5000 Biturbos, so perhaps they just built 500 as evolution models?

Well, to homologate an evolution version, you've got to homologate the base model first, so 5000 cars still stand. Like I said, it remains very doubtful if 5000 cars were actually produced - but this feat was not unusual, the Jaguar XJ-S was certainly never produced in those numbers (something like 3700 maximum - with automatic gearbox...).

#7 dmj

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Posted 21 November 2001 - 16:03

I think Maserati production reached his all-time height in '80's, with around 5000 cars annualy. Biturbo was only model then so it is possible that Maserati managed to produce required number. And I really like the way Biturbos look - understated and agressive in same time.
As for racing Boras, I think two were produced but none ever raced (except maybe in some classic car series lately).
But in last ten years there were at least two cup challenges for Maseratis - one for Ghibli and one for Barchetta.
And "almost 50 years" is wrong anyway since Maserati tried in Le Mans with tipo 151 and 63 until mid-'60's.

#8 Rainer Nyberg

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Posted 21 November 2001 - 19:08

Here is a pic from the 1987 effort, with Bruno Giacomelli behind the wheel at Monza. Armin Hahne was codriving plus an another italian driver.

After this experiment ended, I remember Thomas Lindström took over one of the cars and ran it in the Swedish Touring Car Championship at least in 1988, I don´t remember about 1989.

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#9 Frank de Jong

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Posted 21 November 2001 - 20:11

Phew Rainer, what a great picture. I might be tempted to use it (albeit much smaller) when I reach the "cars" section of 1987 on my site.... :clap:

#10 byrkus

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Posted 21 November 2001 - 20:18

IMO, this is a NICE looking car. But it's a shame, that a car make, which made 250F, ended this way... :down: :down:

#11 clickhappy

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 05:11

I really like the lines of the old BiTurbo

#12 Falcadore

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 08:28

Just reading up on the topic. Despite the dire nature of the car's ability, and finishing in 23rd position, they actually left the opening Round at Monza second in the title chase, and leading Class 1.

How? Bernie Ecclestone had demanded a $60,000 championship levy. Only team who paid the fee would get points towards their car. And that's $60,000 per CAR. That promoted them from 23rd to 9th. Then post race scruitineering found that all bar one of the eight BMW M3's were using some carbon fibre body panels and were promptly disqualified. Suddenly the BiTurbo finished second in the race behind one of the official Alfa Romeo 75 Turbos who originally finished 14th, and a second Alfa 75 in third place which finished 18th and several laps ahead of the Maserati, although because of a vaguary in the points system under which the Alfas were Class 2 cars of lesser engine capacity than the Class 1 Maserati.

You follow? I'm not sure I do....

#13 byrkus

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 10:02

Bernie Eccle$tone, a true motor racing fan...:mad: :down: :down:

#14 Frank de Jong

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 11:01

Originally posted by Falcadore
Then post race scruitineering found that all bar one of the eight BMW M3's were using some carbon fibre body panels and were promptly disqualified. Suddenly the BiTurbo finished second in the race behind one of the official Alfa Romeo 75 Turbos who originally finished 14th, and a second Alfa 75 in third place which finished 18th and several laps ahead of the Maserati, although because of a vaguary in the points system under which the Alfas were Class 2 cars of lesser engine capacity than the Class 1 Maserati.

You follow? I'm not sure I do....


I can't wait till I reach 1987 on my site... As far as I remember, in Monza the M3's had a problem with the thickness of the metal of the roof. Altough BMW insisted that this was a production tolerance and the cars were legal, a lot of racing M3 became temporarily cabrio's before a legal roof was welded upon them...
And don't forget most Sierra Cosworths were disqualified as well because of non-standard Engine management systems...
:love: Those were the days...

#15 racer69

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 12:35

i think the problem was with the bootlids. On the race cars at Monza that day the M3's ran with plastic boots, but they weren't homologated that way and because the boots were plastic and the cars were therefore underweight and got disqualified. The winners, Aussies in an Aussie car, Allan Moffat / John Harvey in a Holden Commodore VL. Up the Aussies. oh yeah and they hadn't registered with Bernie.........No Points, No Prizemoney

BMW's and Sierra's disqualification, Huge Entry Fees, Late changes to management which unstabled the series causing the loss of the sponser, Bernie, the drama at Bathurst, the Bathurst appeal being upheld on the Friday at Fuji, the axing of the series and class in favour of Bernies 'Silouette' Production Formula, this would make an awesome (and big) book.

#16 Falcadore

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 14:54

It's certainly a wierd set of results when you look at it.
DSQ - Disqualified - DNE - Din Not Enter

World Touring Car Championship, Round 1, 87 laps, Monza, March 22, 1987
DSQ Riccardo Patrese / Johnny Cecotto BMW M3
DSQ Emanuelle Pirro / Roland Ratzenberger BMW M3
DSQ Markus Oestreich / Altfrid Heger BMW M3
DSQ Ivan Capelli / Roberto Ravaglia BMW M3
DSQ Winni Vogt / Christian Danner BMW M3
DSQ Luis Perez Sala / Olivier Grouillard BMW M3
DNE Allan Moffat / John Harvey Holden Commodore VL
DSQ A. Bovensiepen / Eric van de Poele BMW M3
DNE G. Bosshard / J-A. Sasiambarrena BMW 635CSi
DNE Peter Oberndorfer / Franz Klammer Mercedes 190E
DNE A. Fischaber / J. Cserkuit / A. Szabo BMW M3
DNE R. Castagna / R. Orlandi BMW 635CSi
DNE P. Sekel / G. Schio Ford Mustang
1st Walter Voulaz / Marcello Cipriani Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo
DNE G. Quargentan / S. de Angelis BMW 635CSi
DNE M. Bienvault / L. Descartes BMW 325i
DNE Andrew Bagnall / Chris Hodgetts Toyota Corolla
DNE Carlo Rossi / Alessandro Santin Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo
DNE another car
DNE another car
DNE another car
DNE another car
3rd Alessandro Nannini / Michael Andretti Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo
2nd Bruco Giacomelli / Armin Hahne Maserati BiTurbo

#17 dmj

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Posted 22 November 2001 - 15:55

Some more comments about Maserati racing history:
Factory officially withdrawn its own team at the end of 1957 but continued to develop and supply racing cars to customers well into next decade (it means that even famous Birdcage never existed as "works" car). After that Maserati returned to F1 as engine supplier to Cooper for 1966 and 1967, and its V6 engine developed for Merak and Citroen SM was pretty successfull in '70's. Ligier used it for JS2, a sportscar that was entered in quite a lot races in that decade, and it is possible that Ligier also build several more sportscars and prototypes with that engine, but I have no confirmation of it.
A SM even finished 6th in Bandama rally in 1973, driven by Verrier and Umbricht. It is possibly the best result for a Maserati engined car in an international event ever.
After that just Bora project and two cups I mentioned yesterday come to mind, and it leaves Biturbo touring car project as only official works Maserati presence in motorsport since 1957.
And I'm almost certain Maserati did built enough Biturbos to homologate it without problems - in 1983 they produced more than 5300 cars and in 1984, their record year ever, 6180 cars. It is almost sure that more than 90% of production in these years were Biturbos.
And, by the way, there is an interesting Mexico Barchetta for sale at http://www.mecanicim...icospecial1.htm but there is no mention of its possible racing history. Does anyone knows about that car?

#18 dmj

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Posted 23 November 2001 - 09:12

Last night, when I came home, I tried to find a picture that I have in some corner of my memory: a touring Biturbo spinning in a spectacular way, just in front of rest of the grid. I browsed through my 1987 copies of Autosprint but couldn't find it. Anyway, being an Italian magazine, Autosprint had at least one picture of Biturbo in every issue, along with detailed reports of all races. What really amazed me is that Maserati had starting number 1 in Brno and Spa (where it didn't manage to qualify). It has number 1 in Rainer's pic too, so I believe they had it for whole season. I wonder why - how starting numbers were issued in ETC back then? It is a little bit unusual that a new team has No. 1 on its car in first season...

#19 byrkus

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Posted 23 November 2001 - 09:56

It is usual, that the champion weras no. 1 the next season, no matter which car he is in it. Damon Hill used no. 1 in Arrows, remember?? Now, the question is, if B. Giacomelli or H. Hahne were 1986 champion/s??

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#20 dmj

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Posted 23 November 2001 - 10:16

As far as I know, Roberto Ravaglia was 1986 champion.

#21 Frank de Jong

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Posted 23 November 2001 - 10:54

Originally posted by dmj
As far as I know, Roberto Ravaglia was 1986 champion.


You're right.

Byrkus, the ETC was no strict championship like F1. Each round would see many new (national) faces. So don't try to draw too much conclusions...

#22 byrkus

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Posted 23 November 2001 - 10:56

OK, OK, it was just a guess!! :p :p

#23 racer69

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Posted 24 November 2001 - 12:09

But remember that the Maserati competed in the WTCC in 1987, which was the first one, there was no previous champion. In 1986 the Volvo's were no. 1 & 2 because they won in '85, and in '85 the Walkinshaw Rover's were no. 1 due to victory in '84.

The numbers were though also worked out in class order. For instance, the class B BMW of Winni Voight won the ETCC in 1987, but in '88 the Eggenberger Sierra's were 1 & 2 because they won class A in '87 i suppose.

#24 William Dale Jr

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Posted 25 November 2001 - 02:03

For 1987 the numbers were allocated for each class as follows: Class 1 - Over 2500cc - #1-39; Class 2 - 1601-2500cc - #40-89; Class 3 - Under 1600cc - #90<. This probably applies to the years before too.

For 1988 the system was slightly changed: Class A - Over 2500cc - #1-49; Class B - 1601-2500cc - #50-89; Class 3 remained the same.

It is also why Peter Brock drove in the 1988 Tooheys 1000 with #56 instead of his usual #05. Because Brock was in a BMW M3, a Class B vehicle, he had to choose between #50-89 for his two-car team.


Just back to the Biturbo for a minute. Yesterday I was watching the tape I recently bought of the 1988 BTCC, and there was a Biturbo entered in the wet British GP support race. The driver was a person by the name of Nick (sorry, don't remember the last name) and the car had an in-car camera. After watching the car getting passed by a Toyota Corolla exiting the chicane, my attention turned to the dash. What a lovely interior!!! The car had a red dash with tan panels in it!!! I'll try and get a picture capture off it so you can see what I mean.

#25 Haddock

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Posted 25 November 2001 - 14:15

I'm guessing the driver in question was Nick May. My 1989 GP programme has him down as driving a Maserati BiTurbo in the BTCC race. He was outqualified by, amongst other things, at least a couple of class C Vauxhall Astras, including that of Louise Aitken Walker, who was of course, not primarily known as a touring car driver.

#26 racer69

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Posted 27 November 2001 - 06:38

Kevin Bartlett tried to bring out a Maserati BiTurbo for the 1988 ATCC with factory support, it didn't comeoff like Mike Quinns didn't either, as mentioed.

I was watching the 1987 James Hardie video i had on tape (from when it was on TV), and i saw the footage of the BiTurbo going through Copse, it got around ok, but when the driver tried to straighten it up and got the shakes, i'd never seen anything like that before.

It shows major dedication that Maserati tried to push on with the BiTurbo in the '88 ETC.

#27 Frank de Jong

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Posted 17 February 2002 - 21:53

Originally posted by racer69
i think the problem was with the bootlids.


Since I'm busy with the 1987 season now, let's put the record straight.

The first reason for the disqualification were, as you pointed out rightly, the bootlids. Thet were made of Kevlar, whereas the homologation papers said "plastic". Now BMW was going to produce a paper, which would reveal that Kevlar was a sort of plastic.
But there was more. They measured the metal thickness of the doors and the roof, and it prooved to be less than half of the thickness of a roadgoing M3.
All the cars that were made with the "help" of the works kit had to replace the roof and the doors in the next week (and that really happened). The only M3 in Monza which was classified was made from a roadgoing car.

The electronics of the Eggenberger Sierra was just as amusing. Eggenberger replaced the standard Weber fuel injection system with a Bosch motronic, if you consider the engine management system responsible for the fuel supply (which is free, providing the system is the same) this could be legal. FISA didn't think so, therefore the car could not start. The next races, a Ford sticker on the Bosch motronic made the car legal.
Andy Rouse, however, turned up in Monza with a Zytek EMS - and a Ford sticker. Of course, he was declared legal and could start...

#28 Geza Sury

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Posted 17 February 2002 - 23:08

Originally posted by Frank de Jong
The only M3 in Monza which was classified was made from a roadgoing car.

This car had been built and raced by Jozsef Cserkuti, a Hungarian racing legend, who always built his racing cars by himself. He was partnered by German Anton Fischaber and up-and-coming Hungarian touring car driver Andras Szabo. The team didn't have the financial means to buy the ligther 'race chassis', so Cserkuti had built the car using the 'road chassis'.

Also, the didn't have enough money to enter the car for the race, but this fouth position on the road is still one of the biggest success for Hungary in a modern day motorsport race.

#29 Frank de Jong

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 07:59

Great info, Geza! I'll include it in my site.
Do you have a picture of this unique legal Monza M3??

#30 Geza Sury

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 08:39

Sure Frank, I have a couple of pictures. I'm going to scan them tommorrow. I personally met Jozsef Cserkuti at the end of 1987 during a 'fan-meeting' and he spoke about his race experiences.

Here's an interesting story: Travelling to the race, they stopped at the customs and Cserkuti bought a newspaper. Seeing the entry list for Monza, he wanted to to turn back...

If you're interested I can translate an interview made with Cserkuti when they got back to Hungary after the race.

#31 William Dale Jr

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 09:02

On the Monza DQ, then-boss of BMW Motorsport Peter Flohr talked to Frank Gardner at Bathurst.

"Blokes were going around saying they could push body panels in and such like, but that was a load of rubbish.
"They did run off some plastic bootlids which were lighter than the standard ones, but I would say they were technically within the rules because a weight was never stipulated for them. They were just supposed to be 'plastic', and plastic is plastic whether it's kevlar, carbon fibre or whatever.
"The real problem was that they didn't have part numbers on them. We had a similar problem at Bathurst, because the part numbers on some of our panels had been rubbed back for respraying. We showed that French bloke [FISA scrutineer, Marcel Servais] that they weighed the same, but all the whacker could see was that if it didn't have a part number then it wasn't a part!"

BTW Frank, I'll get that scan I promised you as soon as I can, but I've had two hard drives go down within the space of a week and I have yet to reinstall the scanner drivers (can't find the bloody CD :) ), and if you have any blanks that need filling on the 1987 WTCC, I might be able to help - the book I took the Peter Flohr quote out of also has results for the WTCC.

#32 Geza Sury

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 12:19

The sooner the better... Here's a picture of the BMW M3 built by Jozsef Cserkuti:

Posted Image
This car finished in fourth place overall driven by Cserkúti József/Anton Fischaber/Szabó András.
(About Hungarian names see my Hartmann László thread! (I hope you can see the right letters!)

#33 Frank de Jong

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Posted 19 February 2002 - 18:07

Well, the letters are OK Geza, the picture however takes such a long time to load that my browser gives up - either at home or at the office. Anyone else has the same problem?

#34 William Dale Jr

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 06:56

And I thought it was just me :) Yeah, I'm having the same trouble.

#35 Geza Sury

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 09:25

I'm sorry to hear your problems. I'm going to try to put the picture to another server this evening! Hope that helps!

#36 Geza Sury

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 20:42

I've just put the picture to another server. Can you see it now? Here it is:

Posted Image

#37 Frank de Jong

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 21:20

:| I'm sorry Geza, negative. If you mail the picture to me, I'll post it.

#38 Speed Demon

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 21:37

Going back to the pic of the Maserati, I'm not surprised it handled badly - it's hardly got a roll cage!

#39 MrAerodynamicist

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Posted 26 February 2002 - 22:07

Originally posted by Falcadore
It's certainly a wierd set of results when you look at it.
DSQ - Disqualified - DNE - Din Not Enter

World Touring Car Championship, Round 1, 87 laps, Monza, March 22, 1987
DSQ Riccardo Patrese / Johnny Cecotto BMW M3
DSQ Emanuelle Pirro / Roland Ratzenberger BMW M3
DSQ Markus Oestreich / Altfrid Heger BMW M3
DSQ Ivan Capelli / Roberto Ravaglia BMW M3
DSQ Winni Vogt / Christian Danner BMW M3
DSQ Luis Perez Sala / Olivier Grouillard BMW M3
DNE Allan Moffat / John Harvey Holden Commodore VL
DSQ A. Bovensiepen / Eric van de Poele BMW M3
DNE G. Bosshard / J-A. Sasiambarrena BMW 635CSi
DNE Peter Oberndorfer / Franz Klammer Mercedes 190E
DNE A. Fischaber / J. Cserkuit / A. Szabo BMW M3
DNE R. Castagna / R. Orlandi BMW 635CSi
DNE P. Sekel / G. Schio Ford Mustang
1st Walter Voulaz / Marcello Cipriani Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo
DNE G. Quargentan / S. de Angelis BMW 635CSi
DNE M. Bienvault / L. Descartes BMW 325i
DNE Andrew Bagnall / Chris Hodgetts Toyota Corolla
DNE Carlo Rossi / Alessandro Santin Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo
DNE another car
DNE another car
DNE another car
DNE another car
3rd Alessandro Nannini / Michael Andretti Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo
2nd Bruco Giacomelli / Armin Hahne Maserati BiTurbo

Having looked at the above and read the entire thread, I'm confused :lol:

Falcadore said "finishing in 23rd position, they actually left the opening Round at Monza second in the title chase, and leading Class 1.". I assume he's talking about the Masarti, but above they're shown as 24th. I assume theres one too many 'another car' in there? Secondly,he talks about "and a second Alfa 75 in third place which finished 18th". From above that would Rossi/Santin but they're shown as DNE. 3rd place is shown as going to the one that finished one place ahead of the Masarti. Which is the correct version? Secondly, I'd like to know more about how "because of a vaguary in the points system under which the Alfas were Class 2 cars of lesser engine capacity than the Class 1 Maserati." meant that the Masarti was classified above one of the alfa but not the other?

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#40 Frank de Jong

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Posted 26 February 2002 - 22:19

Currently I'm working on 1987 and that famous Monza round. Let's finish the discussion when I've added 1987 (after crosschecking with all my resources and final championship positions. One moment I feared that Nannini and Andretti drove two separate cars, for instance - otherwise I couldn't get the championship results right...). Stay tuned.

#41 Jesper O. Hansen

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Posted 22 December 2004 - 21:15

Sort of reliving the past twice over, but anyhow.

Originally posted by racer69

BMW's and Sierra's disqualification, Huge Entry Fees, Late changes to management which unstabled the series causing the loss of the sponser, Bernie, the drama at Bathurst, the Bathurst appeal being upheld on the Friday at Fuji, the axing of the series and class in favour of Bernies 'Silouette' Production Formula, this would make an awesome (and big) book.


What was it about changes in management? I think I have heard that a major series sponsor was sought or actually found, but the whole idea was ultimately dropped shortly before the start of the season.

Originally posted by dmj

And I'm almost certain Maserati did built enough Biturbos to homologate it without problems - in 1983 they produced more than 5300 cars and in 1984, their record year ever, 6180 cars. It is almost sure that more than 90% of production in these years were Biturbos.


Interesting figures. Actually Maserati tried to homologate the Biturbo in 1984 and failed - as did Porsche with the 928, according to comtemporary German magazine Rallye Racing.

Originally posted by Rainer Nyberg

After this experiment ended, I remember Thomas Lindström took over one of the cars and ran it in the Swedish Touring Car Championship at least in 1988, I don´t remember about 1989.


Lindström ran a Marlboro sponsored car in the ETCC in 1988 and continued with a Ital-Car sponsored car in the 1989 Swedish Touring Car Championship. I actually wonder if Lindström retired as a driver after this campaign? Very nice picture of the car, thank you very much.

Jesper

#42 Ray Bell

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 01:38

Just to add a little detail about the Maserati 'attack' on Bathurst and Calder...

Oddjobs - Maserati’s bi-turbo



Racing cars tend to need to have everything going for them, for everything to be right. But the Maserati bi-turbo that raced in Australia in 1987 only ever went well when something was broken!





Campaigned through the 1987 World Touring Car Championship by Pro-Team/Imberti, the impact of analysing the running the Maserati bi-turbo through the year conveys nothing that’s ‘pro’ about the team, and that’s exactly the same impression that’s conveyed by discussing the car’s appearances in Australia with people involved in running it at Bathurst and Calder.

Yet on paper it had so much going for it. A neat car with a good footprint – the wheelbase and track were pretty close to ideal and decent wheel sizes were able to be fitted – its weight was reasonable, and the lithe engine promised plenty of power.

But promise would be all that would be seen from the Maserati.

Our interest, of course, stems from its races here – Bathurst and Calder hosting rounds of the title that year. And though Kevin Bartlett forgets the details of how he became involved, he was asked to become a partner to Bruno Giacomelli and Armin Hahne. Today he remembers it as a nightmare best forgotten.

“It was just frightening to drive at Bathurst,” he told us, “Giacomelli told me it was the worst car he’d ever driven, that he’d never been so frightened in a car. It was on its bump stops the whole time.”

While the problems didn’t begin and end with the suspension setup, it was probably the outstanding issue with the car. “There wasn’t enough suspension movement at all, neither in bump or droop. This meant that it would keep breaking things, axle flanges, driveshafts and so on. The bodywork was scraping over the Dipper, that’s how bad it was!”

With suspension movement being so restricted, the car was constantly having its wheels losing contact with the road. This meant that the power would be unleashed one moment and contained the next, as the wheel came down, and stresses on components were magnified immensely.

But the car had already run in seven races before arriving for the Bathurst event (or tried to – it didn’t qualify for the Jarama and Spa events), wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that some sorting had been done?

Bartlett, upon finding out how bad it was, called in Bob Riley to help out. “The car looked good on paper,” he recalls, “but it needed a lot of work! There were lots of things needed doing, particularly with the suspension – it simply hadn’t been built for road events.”

Indeed, it did seem good on paper. A quad-cam 18-valve V6 of 2491cc, heavily oversquare at 91.6mm x 63mm bore and stroke, twin IHI turbochargers ensuring limited lag and good low down response, it was said to have 360bhp at 6,500rpm. A 5-speed ZF gearbox, 9.75” x 16” wheels all round and a reasonable weight at 1185kg.

With the fuel injection that had replaced the two Weber carburettors part way through the season, it should have been a very good thing.

But at Monza, first round of the series, it had only completed 70 of the 87 laps, and qualified 28th. Then none of the three cars sent to Jarama qualified, the two at Dijon saw one make 27 of 112 laps with turbo failure cutting its run short, the second car not starting after an engine failure in qualifying.

There was more promise in practice at the Nurburgring, 13th fastest, but then another turbo failure almost half way into the race. Spa was unlucky, you could say, because only one driver qualified, putting it out. But undoubtedly it was unreliability in practice that led to the second driver not getting in a good lap.
Then a finish, Brno seeing the car finish 78 of 93 laps to claim 24th place after sitting in twelfth spot on the grid. Britain’s Tourist Trophy at Silverstone was even better – 12th place and 100 of the 105 laps after qualifying 16th. For this race, curiously, the entrant was Sala W Racing.

So as they headed to Bathurst with just one car, the poor Maserati company must have been hoping for a major reversal. It wasn’t to come.

“To come to Bathurst without doing your homework is like pushing honey uphill with a sharp stick,” was Riley’s comment. “We were bouncing from one unsolvable problem to another, there was just too many things wrong with the car.”

Bartlett remembers that the team looked the part. “They had all the flags and banners, the suits, it really looked good,” he says. And at first glance the car showed promise, but both Bartlett and Riley concur that a full season of racing and developing would have been needed to mount a serious challenge at the Mount.

Among the issues Bartlett remembers was the oil system. “It needed to be dry sumped, and it needed to have a scavenge on the turbos. They hung down low and weren’t draining their oil back to the sump. This meant that the oil was pressurising there and getting hot and then the turbo seals would fail.”

But they didn’t have the luxury of that time, and they couldn’t go through the processes of homologation that would have been needed to get the parts that were required to get the car right. In reality, they found that the car had not been developed at all.

Perhaps this was the result of a busy race schedule preventing the testing and modifying that was required. Perhaps it was a lack of engineering skills within the team running the cars. Perhaps it was a lack of funding. We don’t know, the local input was almost an aside in a year long disaster-ridden racing campaign for the Maserati.

But there was a bright spot in it all. “At Calder the boost limiter failed. It was one of the type with pills in it, and one of the pills stuck and it got full boost all the time,” Bartlett says, “it was phenomenally quick! I think I passed nearly everybody at Calder at some time after this happened!”

But although it was fast, it was also fragile while so much boost was applied – the car stopped soon after with blown head gaskets.

“This is the sort of thing they’d have found if they’d done some development,” says Kevin. “I told them that this showed them that it needed more boost and an engine management system, but it was very early days then. There was still a lot to learn.”

So all of this is why the bi-turbo Maserati was such a flop when it came here. And it didn’t go on to compete in the Wellington and Fuji rounds that completed the series. They had had enough.

But, reflecting on that speed at Calder, and the scope for improvement, the way that an Australian team with the experience and nous of Bartlett and Riley could have handled this car, it’s really a shame that we have to look upon it as an oddjob.

Ray Bell.


My article about the car for Motor Racing Australia's 'Oddjobs' series.

#43 Frank de Jong

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 08:23

That's a great article, Ray. Since I tend to bite off far more than I can chew, I'm thinking about a section on my site for background articles like this. We've had a thread about Cserkuti with the only legal BMW M3 in Monza 1987 which would be another candidate.
Would you permit me to use this article on my site?

#44 Haddock

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 10:21

Giacomelli told me it was the worst car he’d ever driven, that he’d never been so frightened in a car



Now that's quite something coming from a man who spent much of the summer of 1990 trying to pre-qualify the Life W12 F1 car !

#45 Ray Bell

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 11:37

Originally posted by Frank de Jong
That's a great article, Ray.....
Would you permit me to use this article on my site?


Of course... subject to the usual fees and conditions*...

With the rider that you diligently pursue those slides from Spa, of course!























* No actual fee, of course, but acknowledgement of the origins of the story, including noting the magazine in which it was originally published. And please use it complete.

#46 Ray Bell

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 11:38

Originally posted by Haddock
Now that's quite something coming from a man who spent much of the summer of 1990 trying to pre-qualify the Life W12 F1 car !


But the Life wasn't trying to pitch him over the precipices that exist at Bathurst!

#47 Frank de Jong

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 11:43

Originally posted by Ray Bell

* No actual fee, of course, but acknowledgement of the origins of the story, including noting the magazine in which it was originally published. And please use it complete.


Of course Ray. And you never know about the Spa slides...

#48 fausto

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 12:37

Originally posted by Haddock


Now that's quite something coming from a man who spent much of the summer of 1990 trying to pre-qualify the Life W12 F1 car !



Oh, yes, but he spoke about the Maserati while he was driving it.......the worst had yet to come!

On the Maserati subject I've found some slides, I'll try to have them scanned as soon as I can....