The 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship will start off on Saturday, 17 April at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi with six manufacturer entries consisting of twenty-four cars. The defending champions, the Maserati MC12s, are expected to be at the forefront, even if they are slightly penalized in terms of performance by new FIA GT technical modifications. This is actually nothing new as when the racing versions of the MC12s first came out in 2004, the GT1 rules were somehow changed and the cars were already penalised for their extra range. One of the major changes to the GT1 Championship is the race formula itself, with two separate sprint-type one-hour races instead of a single two-hour race. It could be more interesting as spectators get to watch two races instead of one. And we all know that the most exciting stuff happens during the start of every race. Especially at the first corner.
Maserati will participate in the GT1 Championship with four cars manned by two teams. Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini, winners of the driver title for the past two years running, will be driving Vitaphone Racing Team's lead Maserati MC12 once again, while Miguel Ramos and ex-F1 driver Enrique Bernoldi will helm the second MC12. The other MC12s are from the German racing team Triple H Team Hegersport and will be driven by a Belgian, Bert Longin and an Italian, Matteo Bobbi . This is in addition to the team's owner MC12, where Alftid Heger will be paired up with Alex Margaritis, a German driver of Greek origin.
There will be ten championship rounds, four of which outside Europe and again a middle eastern country starts off the racing season (which shows you where the actual customer base for expensive GT cars is located nowadays). The championship will conclude in Argentina on 5 December 2010.
For those who are not familiar with the Maserati MC12, the car is actually an Enzo Ferrari in race clothing. It shares the same Ferrari V12 engine with slight modifications (for more torque), the same gearbox and the same chassis and track. The Maserati MC12 has its own bodywork which is wider, longer and slightly taller leaving the windshield as the only externally visible component shared with the Enzo. This extra size allows for greater downforce across the whole body, adding to that of the two metre wide spoiler. It is harder to drive yet is faster than the Enzo on most race tracks. This is supposedly due to its more focused nature, more racer than road car compared with the Enzo. It is because of the focused nature that the car is still competitive five years after its launched.
For those who may be in or around Abu Dhabi, the schedule for the race at Yas Marina is as follows:
Practices: Friday, 16 April, from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm (local time)
Race: Saturday, 17 April, from 4 pm to 5 pm and from 7:45 pm to 8:45 pm (local time)