While still obscure to modern racing fans, the “Babalus” name has a long history and has been back under the spotlight in the 2015 Ferrari Challenge Europe.
Italian second generation racer Matteo Santoponte spent all his career in racing under his beloved nickname, the same used back in his father back in the day.
After climbing up the motorsport ranks in Formula Campus, Formula 3 and Formula 3000, his journey came to what seemed like a final stop in 2004.
“I was nauseated,” he says. “I tried really hard, and I gave 100 percent in terms of commitment. It went well at the start and I had a good chance for Formula 3000 with also a Formula 1 testing program in sight. Unfortunately, a bad decision regarding the team basically ruined the chance”.
So the first sporting life of Babalus came to an abrupt end: “It all happened at Spa-Francorchamps on a Saturday afternoon. There had been some issues with the team, and I just realised that I was the only one with some true passion. The others were there just because it was their job. I didn’t like it so I jumped on a plane, got back home and it was over”.
Matteo got back to his family business, a fashion store also called Babalus specialised in importing clothing and apparel from the States.
“I thought I had healed from the racing bug, although I still kept working with cars and in other roles," recalls Matteo. "At some point though I met these true gentlemen from Autoropa and I became their coach. I really liked it, because they have a much more relaxed and distinguished approach. At that point, one thing led to another. The Swedish championship required two drivers, and I jumped back in…”
“I spent two years in the Swedish GT series with great results, so they offered me a car for Ferrari Challenge Europe. We dominated straight away at Monza, before some technical choices hampered our chances to win the title. Not that we didn’t have the speed, maybe one more day of testing would have made the trick. We lined-up at Mugello in our best shape and we’re determined to end 2015 on an high note”.
The future is still unclear for the 38-year-old. “Somebody knocked the door for next season. But this has to be a real job for me, other than a pleasure. If it stays this way, it will be good”.