Maltese drivers to the fore in Sicily.

Thursday, July 4, 2013, 9:42

As we take a look at the first half of the 2013 Sicilian circuit racing and time attack season, we see that once again Maltese drivers from Motorsport Team Malta and Time Attack Team Malta have literally dominated the racing at the Autodromo Valle dei Templi in Racalmuto again.

Four of the seven rounds in the Racalmuto Time Attack championship have now taken place, before the present summer recess, and in all four, Maltese drivers have simply dominated proceedings. For the first round in February only 2 Maltese drivers were present, still Nicky Xerxen and Josef Calleja upheld Maltese honours finishing 1st and 2nd overall respectively, and both improving on their hitherto fastest times. Both Nicky and Josef repeated their previous domination on round 2 in March, this time Nicky dipping into hitherto unheard of territory where lap times are concerned. His 1 minute 5.7 second time being a full 3 seconds faster than any production car has ever managed to lap the 2.5 kilometre Racalmuto circuit. Class wins were the order of the day with Xerxen, Calleja, Rodrick Borg, Steve Calleja,and Carlston Degiorgio all winning their respective classes.

In between rounds 2 and 3 of the Racalmuto championship, the Cyprus club was busy organizing this year’s European Time Attack championship, and here too Maltese drivers were prominent in the results,with Xerxen winning overall again to take the title of European Time Attack Champion, Daniel Vella placing and excellent 4th overall in a car he had never driven before the event, and Josef Calleja also showing well among the World Class entry. With their cars still in Cyprus for Round 3 at Racalmuto Josef had to give the event a miss, whilst Nicky borrowed Joe Montebello’s similar Mitsubishi EVO with which he placed 2nd. The class win, and fastest time of the day again went to a Malta driver, this time to Mark Galea driving his new Subaru Impresa for the first time, but there were plenty of other class winners including Steve Calleja, Bernard Galea, and Noel Spiteri.

Last weekend saw the Malta team back at Racalmuto for the 4th round of this year’s well supported championship where entries of over 60 competitors are a common occurrence. Despite the large entry our drivers excelled as always, this time claiming all 3 steps of the overall podium with Nicky Xerxen on the top step, followed by Mark Galea, and Josef Calleja. It was indeed a proud moment for Maltese motorsport. In the process Nicky lowered the outright touring car record to 1 minute 5.2 seconds, whilst Mark Galea’s excellent 1 minute 8.2 on the car’s second outing makes his the second fastest production car ever to grace the Racalmuto track. Adrian Muscat Azzopardi, birthday boy Rodrick Borg, and Steve Calleja also won their respective classes.

The Time Attack championship is not the only championship in which Maltese drivers are involved at Racalmuto, but for the 5th year in succession Motorsport Team Malta drivers are again competing in the Campionato Siciliano di Velocita which this year is being run under the auspices of CSAI. Three drivers have competed regularly in this championship so far this season, whilst also participating in the slalom events which take place at Racalmuto during each championship weekend. Whilst entries for the slaloms have remained strong, the Campionato di Velocita has suffered, mainly due to the economic situation in Sicily. Nevertheless the better drivers and teams still attend regularly so it is even more heartening to see all 3 Maltese drivers winning their respective classes on every occasion. Perhaps the highlight of the season to date has been the total lockout of the slalom overall podium in round 2 in April when Johann Spiteri won overall from Joshua Anastasi and Adrian Muscat Azzopardi. Whilst the first two are seasoned circuit racers having raced and won regularly at Racalmuto, this is Adrian’s first season driving his Radical SR4 Suzuki but his lap times and general performance have improved with each of the 3 outings held to date.

As if this weren’t enough activity for the first half of the year, Motorsport Team Malta in conjunction with the management at the Autodromo Valle dei Templi organized the first Racalmuto Historic Festival in early June. This event was open to cars and motorcycles manufactured prior to 1980 and produced some interesting and varied machinery. Ten cars and drivers from Malta were in attendance and again in their majority they won their respective classes in both the racing and the concours d’elegance, where Joe Said’s beautiful 1952 Jaguar C type, Charles Sammut’s historically interesting 1962 Lotus 23, and Joe Duca’s immaculate Fiat X19 Dallara completely stole the show. Charles also had the honour of lapping his Lotus to the fastest time of the meeting.

We are now into the summer break but activity starts again in early September with the 4th round of the Campionato di Velocita where again drivers from Motorsport Team Malta will be on the Virtu Ferry to Pozzalloo and then on towards the Autodromo Valle dei Templi to be present to show their outstanding capabilities once more.

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