15 minutes of fame

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Lucchini-Alfa Romeo SR2-2000

Spa, 2000 SportsRacing World Cup

The mustachioed driver being pulled from the tiny prototype by his ecstatic team didn’t look like a driver who should be winning major sportscar races. Salvatore Ronca was an amateur, the wrong side of 40, yet together with Filipo Francioni and the Italian Lucchini squad he had just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of endurance racing.

Giorgio Lucchini had been building sports-prototypes since 1980, but they were mostly run on hillclimbs and in domestic Italian events. All that changed for 1999 when he decide to enter the International SportsRacing Series with an Alfa Romeo-powered car built for the low-tech SR2 class.

Lucchini wasn’t a frontrunner in its debut season, nor had it tasted glory by the time it turned up at Spa for round three of the renamed SportsRacing World Cup in 2000. All that that changed courtesy of two and half hours of driving rain.

Sometime Formula Opel Euroseries racer Francioni qualified only 12th, but the weather and the high rate of attrition among the Ferraris, Cadillacs and Lolas that made up the top SR1 division contrived to produce a freak result.

“Sure, a lot of the big cars stopped,” says Francioni, “but we were quick in the wet. I’d been second fastest overall in the warm-up.”

A succession of safety car periods helped too, and Ronca found himself running second in the closing stages. When the JMB Competition Ferrari 333SP shared by Christian Pescatori and David Terrien stopped with transmission problems with seven laps to go, he inherited an unlikely victory.

No one could quite believe what had happened, not least Ronca, who thought that the ‘P1’ on his pitboard referred to his class position. “It was a unique race,” says Lucchini. “but a great memory for all involved.”

The team failed to notch up another class victory that year, but it did go on to win the SR2 title, albeit against limited opposition, in the 2003 FIA Sportscar Championship.

A new chapter has now begun with the debut of an all-new car designed for the LMP2 rules. Another 15 Minutes of Fame could be around the corner, but until then the Spa victory stands as the highpoint in Lucchini’s 25-year history. GW