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Marc Gené and the Ferrari 430 Scuderia – evo Archive

How Ferrari ensured its 430 Scuderia measured up against the clock

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It was a lovely summer morning in 2008 when John Barker and I arrived at Bedford Autodrome to performance test the 430 Scuderia (evo 121). The ever-friendly circuit manager met us in reception.

‘Hello, chaps,’ he said, offering up one of his customary crushing handshakes ‘The people from Ferrari are here already. They’re just getting some breakfast in the canteen. I think I recognise one of them but for the life of me I can’t think of his name. He just looks familiar.’

At this point the Ferrari PR manager emerged from the scene of the bacon and eggs and announced that as well as the engineers, a fellow called Marc Gené was there to lend a hand with the testing. There was the sound of a penny dropping.

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‘“Michael Schumacher not available, then?” is what I wish I’d said at that point,’ recalls Barker. ‘We had got used to Ferrari doing rather more for these tests than other manufacturers, but sending someone like Gené along was taking things to a whole new level.’

The idea of a Ferrari F1 test driver and Peugeot Le Mans racer scrutinising what we were doing certainly piled on a bit of extra pressure, but as it turned out, Gené is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. He was not only insightful about how to get the best from all the new systems on the Scuderia (this was at the dawn of the manettino era) but also happy to just shoot the breeze. I asked him about his accident in the Peugeot 908 HDi at the Porsche Curves earlier that year during testing for Le Mans and his account certainly sounded no less scary than it had looked from the footage. He confessed that he thought he might not survive it.

As was the Prancing Horse way, Ferrari had already visited the circuit on a previous day and set a target time that the engineers wanted to see the Scuderia achieve. And, as ever, John rose to the challenge admirably. Actually, there was one different occasion when it looked like John was off the pace. We were testing one of the front-engined cars (the 599, I think) and Ferrari gently suggested that John had a couple of seconds to find. This was obviously quite a gulf, so the test driver was sent out with John in the passenger seat so that the errant seconds might be found. After the first corner it was obvious what the problem was. As the test driver crawled all over the kerbs, John explained that evo always stayed off the kerbs to set our times as it was easier for everyone to consistently define the track limits that way. This caused some consternation. A new benchmark time was then set by the test driver, sticking to these new rules, and it turned out that John didn’t need to do any more laps.

There was plenty of time left at the end of our session with the 430 too, so it was suggested (by Ferrari) that Marc might go and set a lap time as well, just for comparison and data gathering. To make it fair, I sat in the passenger seat, just as I had for John’s laps. As you might imagine, it was very impressive to witness and he did shave a tenth or two. However, it wasn’t without incident. On our last lap, at the far hairpin (clearly feeling the pressure!) Gené carried a little too much speed…

‘You were both quite quiet when you came back to the pits,’ recalls John. ‘It was only when everyone else was out of earshot that you told me about the car’s small excursion across the grass, shedding some carbonfibre as it went. I was just glad it was him not me! People are less likely to look disapprovingly and tut when you’re an F1 test driver. Particularly a nice one.’

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