Special to Motorsport.com by Kaye Wilson Despite the heavy rain and damp conditions at Silverstone Circuit this weekend, it turned out to be a very "sunny" return for Marino whose last drive in the UK was in 2001 in Silverstone at the final...
Special to Motorsport.com by Kaye Wilson
Despite the heavy rain and damp conditions at Silverstone Circuit this weekend, it turned out to be a very "sunny" return for Marino whose last drive in the UK was in 2001 in Silverstone at the final round of the British GT Championship which he won when last driving for Parr Motorsport.
But this weekend Marino was competing in the inaugural Britcar 24 Hours on the full Grand Prix Silverstone circuit having only ever previously driven the "International" part of the track in the past. The car was a Porsche 996 GT3 Cup car prepared by Parr Motorsport, and co-drivers were his former British GT team-mate, Kelvin Burt, fellow Scot Barry Horne, and car owner Bill Cameron.
By the end of the unofficial practice on Friday the team topped the time charts, but slipped to 3rd in the official qualifying session just 0.8secs off the pole sitter, Rollcentre Racing with a Mosler GT3 RS.
The race began at 5.00pm in fairly dusk and damp conditions, Kelvin Burt started for Parr and quickly took the lead during the first lap. This was gradually extended by Barry Horne, and Bill Cameron did a great job holding position until Marino got into the car at around 10.20pm. The early stints had all been punctuated by safety car periods as some drivers misjudged the wet and slippery conditions, but during Marino's first stint he managed to extend the overall lead from 4 to 5 laps and put in the quickest lap of the race at that time of the evening. But all the hard work was sadly to be short lived, soon after midnight Marino handed the car back to Kelvin who had a coming together with a Marcos causing extensive damage to both of the car's radiators. The repair was to cost the team dearly, so much so when they eventually rejoined the race they were in 5th place some 6 laps down on the leading Rollcentre Mosler.
Undaunted the team pushed on gradually clawing their way back up the leader board and by the end of Marino's second stint at about 5.00am they were lying in 2nd spot although still 4 laps adrift of the lead car. Night turned to day, and the weather conditions began to worsen once again. Marino's 3rd stint saw him seesawing between the necessity to go from slicks to intermediate tyres, and back again.
"It was interesting and certainly called for focus! It's not easy, you have to make the call at some point when conditions are like that in order to maximise your efforts and you just hope you've got it right too" said Marino. "I actually enjoyed that stint and managed to gain quite a bit of time on some of the other cars who thought they'd leave their tyre choice a bit longer"
At shortly after 11.00 on Sunday morning Kelvin was back in the car and suffered another incident - almost identical to his first, this time with a Mazda, but fortunately only the right radiator needed changing plus a fair amount of taping to the right hand side of the car. It cost the team about another 20 minutes in the pits.
Marino was put in the car after the repair was completed; this was to be his fourth and final stint of the race. Marino rejoined in fourth place overall and clearly the target was now to finish the race in the top three which meant the challenge was to overtake the Cirtek Porsche which had moved up to the third podium spot during Parr Motorsports' second enforced stop. Marino pushed on, consistently lapping around the 2 minute mark on the slippery track. At the end of his stint he remarked "I've just kept a comfortable pace. Without the two radiator replacements we'd have been well ahead of the pack. It's disappointing, but we are where we are."
Bill Cameron took over the car after Marino and maintained a strong steady pace, and it was left to Barry Horne to take the car to the chequered flag. The pit stops were out of sync with the Cirtek car, but Paul Robe and his team were in no doubt that after Barry's final splash of fuel, Cirtek were still left to pit once more. But ironically, as is often the case in 24 hour racing, the Cirtek Porsche developed a steering problem with just under an hour to go which meant that the Parr Porsche just had to be brought home safely.
The result was a safe third place for the team and a 2nd in class in this inaugural event. Fifty five cars had taken the green flag at the rolling start and 40 cars saw the chequered flag despite several safety car periods and many yellow flags on track throughout the 24 hours.
But everyone at Parr Motorsport were delighted. For Marino "it was just like coming home" he said. "All the guys on the team did an awesome job, but it's always like that when you run with Paul (Robe), he prepares excellent cars, and it was great to be back in one of them. All my team mates did a great job too, it was a pity about the two lots of damage we had, but that's motor racing. To get this result it great, I said I hoped it would be third time lucky, and it was, in fact it was a double whammy, I not only got to finish my 3rd 24hour race this season, but I got to come 3rd overall too which is really great. I can't thank everyone enough."
The event was won by Rollcentre Racing in a Mosler GT RS who completed 603 laps, second were Chad Racing in a Porsche GT3 Cup on 602 laps, and Parr Motorsport were 3rd on 595 laps.
Marino's next racing venture will be this coming weekend at the classic Goodwood Revival meeting where he will be driving an historic, beautifully restored, 1960's Mini Cooper S. "It's something I've always longed to do" said Marino who has a passion for historic cars and historic racing. "The dress is just as important as the racing at this event, so I'm trying to decide right now what to wear!".
Motorsport.com appreciates that Kaye Wilson, Managing Director of KWA and Personal Manager to race driver Marino Franchitti, sent our readers the story on Marino's ride at the Britcar 24. No one could quite replace her wonderful words on how the weekend progressed.