11 Dec 2003
On 11th December 2003, the world champion elect, Michael Schumacher took on an unusual opponent at the wheel of his F2003-GA: the Italian Military’s Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighter. On the runway of the “Baccarini” military airport at Grosseto, a duel took place over three runs between two symbols of Italian excellence, going head to head over three distances, 600, 900 and 1200 metres. With his hand on the joystick was Italian pilot and astronaut, Maurizio Cheli.
The first test was won by the F1 car, which made the most of its better acceleration: 9.4 seconds to cover the 600 metre course, two tenths faster than the jet. Cheli settled the score over the longer distance of 1200 metres, covering it in 14.2 to Schumacher’s 16.7. The tie breaker went to the jet by a head, with just two tenths separating them, as the Eurofighter won in 13 seconds over the 900 metres. The Ferrari was also penalised by the fact that rain meant the car had to be fitted with wet weather tyres.
“Obviously the best race was the first one,” said a smiling Michael. “If it had not been for the rain, we would have had more grip! It was fun seeing the plane take off from where I was sitting… I hope the crowd enjoyed the spectacle as much as we all did!”
This challenge was preceded by the recreation of a similar duel staged on 8th December 1931 at Rome’s Littorio airport between an Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 driven by Tazio Nuvolari and a Caproni CA-100 piloted by Vittorio Suster. Seventy two years on, the Alfa was entrusted to Massimiliano Stancari, while Stefano Rusconi slipped into the cockpit of a Tiger Moth, which stood in for the Italian biplane. As was the case in Rome, so too in Grosseto, the plane beat the automobile, although not by much.
Ferrari also ran another duel up against an airplane on 22nd November 1981 at Istrana airport, near Trieste. At the wheel of his 126 CK, Gilles Villeneuve narrowly beat (just ten hundredths of a second difference) an F104 from the Military Airforce.