At ‘home’ with an Italian speed demon
When you first meet Gianmaria Bruni it’s hard to imagine that there’s a full-throttle speed demon residing within him, such is his easy-going demeanour. The Rome native is one of the fastest racing drivers in the world – he competed for a season in Formula 1 – especially when behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 RSR in the World Endurance Championship. And there’s no track that he knows all the twists and turns of better than the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, F1’s fastest racetrack.
“Monza is something special,” says Gianmaria – or ‘Gimmi’, as he’s also known. “It starts with the names – Curva Grande, Parabolica, Lesmo, Variante Ascari – whereas modern racetracks have turns drawn on the computer, like Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3.” Within these corners, whether at Monza or any of the great racetracks, lie stories that continue to be told. “When racing drivers who grew up somewhere else in the world come to Monza for the first time, they shout out, full of euphoria – ‘Look, I’m on the Parabolica!’”
Gianmaria’s first recollection of Monza was watching the 1988 Italian Grand Prix on television. “Ayrton Senna led by a huge margin and then had a collision with a Williams while lapping.” Ten years later, Gimmi drove at Monza for the first time himself in 1998 – and promptly won. “I was really good!” he says with a grin.
Small margins, big gains at F1’s fastest racetrack
Every fast lap, whether you are a professional or taking part on a Porsche Track Experience at Monza, starts with the previous lap, says Gianmaria. “You have to come out of the last corner well. And you have to brake as late as possible,” he explains. “To do that you need a car that is very well balanced and stable.” At Monza, the start-finish straight is long and fast. It means that every centimetre you accelerate later affects your top speed one kilometre further up the track.”
“After that, you have to get through the first two turns as quickly as possible. Before the second chicane, you have a long right-hand turn that you must take as far inside as possible – every metre you save counts here,” explains Gianmaria. “And before the second chicane, you have a rule to follow – brake as late as possible then get through the left-right passage as quickly as possible. The exit is crucial for the next two Lesmo corners.”
“Lesmo 1 is a third-gear corner, but you have to be careful with the track limits at this point,” he adds. “At Lesmo 2, you have to brake a little beforehand, pay attention to the limit again and at the same time get out again as quickly as possible – because after that there’s a long straight and it is crucial to pick up speed here towards Ascari.”
“At the Variante Ascari, there is still this bridge that’s part of the old route,” Gianmaria continues. “The sound is exciting there because you brake, then drive left, right, left… it must be very clean, but at the same time you have to turn right and go full throttle. And then it’s down the straight to the Parabolica. It’s still such a nice spot – but it has too much run-off today!”
Too much run-off? If you are a non-professional driver enjoying a couple of days at the Porsche Track Experience at Monza, you would probably not complain so much about that. This is the spot that Gianmaria would come to if he made a pilgrimage to Monza, F1’s fastest racetrack, as a fan. “It’s like walking through a museum. You discover so many things from decades past here. The buildings, the old turns, the old oval with the banked turn.” Would he like to drive through the banked turn like the old heroes? “It would be great. They are looking at the possibilities now [there has been talk of renovating the old banked circuit next to the current track for use in non-F1 races] but of course there are also risks. I wonder if it would be realistic.”
At Monza, speed is of the essence
No racetrack in the world has held more F1 races than Monza. “I was really fast at the Ascari and the Parabolica,” says Gianmaria of his experience. “The curbs have always been very strategically important here. Slipstreaming is also extremely important because of the long straights. It’s also about luck. Ideally, the car in front of you will be a bit faster and will pull you along.”
The parameters of this track are so far beyond those of other circuits that F1 cars need a unique aero package here. At Monza, you can do breathtaking speeds. There are only six corners, so the focus here is more about how fast you are on the straights than on perfect corner alignment. It’s this unique thrill that makes Monza F1’s fastest racetrack so special – whether you are a professional driver or simply an enthusiast on a trackday.