29.June, 2006 @08:06     Coupe News
The GranSport Trofeo featured the red Maserati livery that recalled the glorious Trident competition cars from the past. These include Fangio's championship winning 250F from 1957. The Nordschleife circuit is considered one of the most difficult in the world and the 24 Hours one of the most select international races.

With Over 200 vehicles lined up on the grid, the GranSport Trofeo, making its debut in this event, proved to be extremely reliable. The GranSport Trofeo that took on the tough 24 Hours is very close to the roadgoing version that rolls out of the Modena workshop every day. The only modifications are the roll bar, the roll cage, the fire extinguisher system and the set up designed for this track. That is not all: the GranSport's performance at the Nuerburgring 24 Hours is even more impressive given that the car was driven by a mixed crew. In the car were not only experts like Jacques Laffite and Gianni Giudici (in his eleventh Nuerburgring 24 Hours) but also American journalist Patrick Hong and his English colleague Richard Meaden. Starting from 62nd on the grid, the car made up 27 places during the race. The overtaking moves were made without any problems and pit stops were only made for driver and tyre changes and refuelling.50565mas_

"It was an incredible experience", confessed Jacques Laffite at the end of the race. "After many years I have come back to the old Nuerburgring and in a Maserati. It was amazing. We were also very fast. We did not have any problems; everything was perfect. The GranSport seemed easy to drive. It reacted well and, above all, was reliable. This is a fundamental characteristic at Nuerburgring."

Though the GranSport Trofeo made it to the finish, the other official GranSport, the Laboratorio, was unlucky. The car was driven by Andrea Bertolini, Michael Bartels, Eric Van de Poele and, once again, Giudici. While in 5th position, after four and a half hours of racing and with the yellow flag flying, Van de Poele was rammed by a back marker that then catapulted onto the GranSport Laboratorio's roof.
The Maserati was pushed violently against the guardrail and suffered damage that was too serious to repair at the circuit. The driver, fortunately, was not hurt. The Laboratorio, competing for the first time, had raced well until the incident. The performance was much better than expected, from the tenth best qualifying time to fifth place in the race.

Andrea Bertolini, Maserati Corse's official driver and tester, was a little disappointed. "Unfortunately, a great race was ruined by a lapped car but we have to be positive as we have gained useful data from the experience. The Laboratorio proved it was more competitive than expected, despite the new technology like the carbon fibre drive shaft and the sequential gearbox. It all went well and fifth place overall is the proof of this."50563mas_

Even Maserati Corse's Technical Director, Giorgio Ascanelli, was looking to the future: "I am disappointed for the whole team, who in this month has worked very hard to arrive here at Nuerburgring and do well. This was how things went as our Laboratorio did brilliantly right from the start. Finishing the race would have meant accumulating more useful data and gaining more experience. However, it was greatly satisfying. At the same time I am very pleased with the GranSport Trofeo's display. The car coped perfectly in an extremely demanding 24 Hour race."

Each car was equipped by Pirelli PZero Racing tyres