Saturday, 1 February 2014

Michela Cerruti


Michela on the podium, at Monza, in 2013

Michela is a multi-talented Italian driver, who competes in several different disciplines, sometimes almost simultaneously.

As with many female drivers, she got her start in motorsport rather late, at 19, when she began taking performance driving instruction in 2006. As a child and teenager, her main sporting interest was skiing, rather than motorsport, although her father, Aldo, was a racing driver in the 1970s. However, she was soon bitten by the bug, and wanted to compete herself.

She began her career in earnest in touring cars in 2008, in an Alfa Romeo 147. She drove in some rounds of the Campionato Italiano Touring Endurance, with Mario Ferraris, who had been her driving instructor previously. Her best overall result seems to have been a 19th place, at Adria.

In 2009, she returned to the series, or part of it, at least, in a more powerful Fiat 500 Abarth, which she had helped to develop with the Ferraris team. She and Mario were tenth in Division Two, having scored four class wins. They were 29th in the overall CITE championship. Michela’s best overall finish was tenth, at Misano.

In 2010, she made the jump up to the mainly Italian-based International Superstars touring car series, driving a Mercedes supported by the Ferraris team. This was a big step up into international competition, against very experienced opponents, such as Fabrizio Giovanardi and and Johnny Herbert. She struggled somewhat at first, finishing near the back or not finishing at all. However, her form improved, and her best finish was seventh, at Varano, near the end of the season. She also scored two tenth places, at Kyalami and Mugello, in the second half of the year. She was 30th in the final standings.

In addition to this, she tried GT racing in the Italian GT Cup, still with Ferraris. Her car was a Ferrari 430. The learning curve was shorter here, and she was fifth and seventh in her first two races, at Varano. At Vallelunga, the next meeting, she scored her first podium finish, a third. Later in the season, she was fifth and third again, at Mugello. She was fourteenth in the championship, ahead of her team-mate, Francesca Linossi.

In 2011, she concentrated on the Italian and International Superstars series in an AMG Mercedes. At the first meeting, at Monza, she grabbed attention by finishing second in her first race, then winning the second. She was in the top ten again at Valencia and Algarve, but was unable to match her home race form. However, her improved performances gave her ninth in the International series, and eighth in the Italian standings. As well as this, she found time for a couple of CITE races, in another Mercedes.

In 2012, she was an extremely busy driver, moving into single-seaters as well as GT cars. During the early part of the season, she decamped to New Zealand for the Toyota Racing Series, a single-seater championship. Although she had almost no single-seater experience, she did not disgrace herself, managing three top-ten finishes: tenth places at Teretonga and Hampton Downs. At the end of February, she was 16th, and it was now time to move back to Europe.

She continued to shine in the GT3 division of the Italian GT Championship, with one win and three podiums in a BMW Z4. By now, she was driving as an official BMW Italy driver. Her win came at Mugello, and she scored additional podiums at Misano and Mugello. She was tenth in the championship. She drove the same car in the Spa round of the Blancpain Endurance Championship, and was 19th overall.

Later, she competed in Formula Three in Europe, combining drives in the German (ATS Cup) series and the Euro F3 Open. Lacking in top-level experience in this sort of car, she was somewhat less competitive in a big single-seater. She did the second half of the German championship, with best finishes of ninth, at the Nürburgring, Lausitz and Hockenheim, and was consistently around tenth place. For the first half of the season, she raced in the Cup class of the Euro F3 Open, which was considerably more difficult. She was usually near the back of the main field, but got up to tenth in class at Algarve.

If this was not enough, she also made guest appearances in the Mini Rushour one-make cup, as an official Mini guest driver.

She maintained this busy schedule in 2013. The Italian GT series was a success, with a win and a second at Imola, and a third at Mugello, in the Z4. This was the first win for a female driver in the championship, which is remarkable, considering the female sportscar racing greats who have raced in Italy. She was eighth overall. In the same car, she also did the Blancpain Endurance championship, with a best finish of second, in the last race, at the Nürburgring. She was ninth in the GT3 Pro-Am Cup. She was also sixth at Paul Ricard.

On the single-seater side, she contested the FIA European F3 Championship, but was far less competitive, with a best finish of only 18th place, at the Norisring. She did not run in all of the races, suffered a DNF at Monza and was unplaced in the championship.

She also found time to travel to Bahrain for two rounds of Formula Middle East, giving her two thirds. Later, she went to Moscow, for a guest appearance in a Megane Eurocup race. She also went to Brno and the Nürburgring, for guest spots in Auto GP. The German round was better, giving her a ninth and eighth place.

In 2014, she put together a deal to race in Auto GP with the Supernova team. This proved to be a good move. She was on the pace straight away, with a fourth and fifth in Marrakech. At Monza, she scored her first podium, a third place, and at Imola, her first win. She was sixth in the championship, after another third at the Red Bull Ring.

Part-way through the season, she was announced as a driver in the FIA Formula E championship, for electric-powered single-seaters. She was driving for the Trulli team, alongside Jarno Trulli. Unfortunately, she was less competitive in Formula E than in Auto GP, with a best finish of twelfth, at Punto del Este. She was replaced in the team after the fourth round.

The rest of her 2015 season was spent hopping between the VLN, and guest spots in several different one-make series. Driving a works-supported Z4 in the VLN, she won her class twice, but did not feature highly in the championship's complex final leaderboard. She finished the Nürburgring 24 Hours, driving the Z4 with John Edwards, Daniel Keilwitz and Felipe Fernandez Laser. They were sixth overall. 

The Z4 also came out for a guest spot in the Italian GT championship, at Monza, where Michela was ninth and eleventh. The following month, she travelled to the UK for the Brands Hatch round of the NASCAR Whelen Euroseries, but she could only manage one 20th place. Back at the Nürburgring, she took guest spots in the Renault Sport Trophy, finishing eighth and fourth, and a trip to the Red Bull Ring gave her eighth and tenth place in the SEAT Leon Supercopa. 

She competed in the TCR International touring car series in 2016, driving an Alfa Romeo Giulietta for Mulsanne Racing. She missed some races mid-season, and lost some momentum, and it was not one of her most illustrious seasons. Her best finish was ninth, at Oschersleben, and she was 29th in the championship. 

In 2017, she is driving the Mulsanne Giulietta in the TCR Middle East series. 

She is also involved in the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. 

(Picture from www.michelacerruti.com)

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