GIDLEY TESTS GRAND PRIX CAR -- THOROUGHLY MODERN RACER GETS A TASTE OF AUTO RACING'S STORIED PAST April 1, 2009 (Sonoma, CA) - It may not have been a current Ferrari or McLaren F1 car, but Grand-Am Rolex Series star Memo Gidley did recently...
GIDLEY TESTS GRAND PRIX CAR -- THOROUGHLY MODERN RACER GETS A TASTE OF AUTO RACING'S STORIED PAST
April 1, 2009 (Sonoma, CA) - It may not have been a current Ferrari or McLaren F1 car, but Grand-Am Rolex Series star Memo Gidley did recently get a rare opportunity to feel what it's like to drive in a number of history making cars including a Maserati race winning Grand Prix Car around Infineon Raceway. This particular 1956 Maserati 250 F Grand Prix car was driven by Stirling Moss and won the Australian Grand Prix in 1956. "When I first climbed into the Maserati 250 F, it was like being able to climb into a history book for racing," said Gidley. "Everything was so different from any open wheel Indy Car I have ever raced or my current #77 McDonalds Daytona Prototype Racecar. For one, it had no seat belts! And also, in this car, they had the brake pedal on the right and the throttle pedal in the middle. But one thing it did have was power, easily enough to excessively light up the tires on any corner!"
Memo also drove a rare 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO considered an almost priceless car by monetary standards. "This car was easily the one that I was most surprised on the track," said Gidley. "I could not believe how light and nimble it felt. Honestly, if I wouldn't have been able to see the beautiful vintage Ferrari red hood as I was sliding the car around the track, I would have guessed the car was race bred car from the 80's at least, it worked that well. I now know why this car had so much success at LeMans!"
Memo then drove a 1957 Maserati 250 Si. Designed for European Sports Car racing, this car was built when the focus really went to building purpose built and light race cars as is reflected by its birdcage style frame and use of magnesium throughout. "What a beautiful car to drive," said Gidley. "Even on the longest straight at Infineon Raceway, this car was just getting going. It brought a smile to my face as I imagined it flying down some of the European race tracks it ran on in its day."
The last car Memo drove was a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato that was leading LeMans during the final hours before a starter failure ended its race. "This is a really nice looking car and really well balanced on the racetrack," said Gidley. "But with its weight and skinny tires, it slides a lot and I have even more respect for the drivers driving this at LeMans in 1961."
Although at first he had a slight face of concern first climbing into these cars, by the end of the first run he had a smile from ear to ear. "When I watch old racing footage I notice these beautiful four wheel drifts from these cars back in their day," said Gidley. "And then when I drove them, I got to experience that. In modern race cars, by design it is usually one end or the other that slides so having these big four wheel drifts was really fun and I hope to do it again soon!"
Most of the cars are owned and raced by Tom Price and maintained by Shawn Thomas Automotive, one of Gidley's karting sponsors. "The cars ran perfect, Shawn does a real nice job keeping these cars running great," said Gidley. "And it is cool to see the kind of passion that Tom Price has for these cars and the passion he has to race them on a regular basis. We were on the track together a few times and he certainly was not afraid to mix it up with me and hustle the cars around himself."
Memo Gidley currently drives for the #77 McDonalds Daytona Prototype in the Rolex Grand-Am Series for Doran Racing. The next race takes place at the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway April 24-25th.