“Dream come true” for Italian Raffaele Marciello in Ferrari test

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Driving for Ferrari is always an honor to those who get the opportunity, but when you’re an up-and-coming Italian driver, it tends to mean more.

Such is the case for Raffaele Marciello, the Italian GP2 driver and member of Ferrari’s young driver academy who had a run in the Ferrari F14 T in today’s second day of testing at Abu Dhabi to round out the Formula One season.

Marciello completed 91 laps, doing a mix of aero work, tire testing and other developments as would be the case in any test. He ended second with a best time of 1:43.208, matching Kimi Raikkonen’s position from Tuesday.

But more than the times or development, Marciello was emotional and proud to have the opportunity.

“Today was a dream come true,” he said, via Ferrari’s official release. “For an Italian, to jump into a Ferrari, at an official test no less, is a really strong emotion and I am grateful to the team for giving me this opportunity.

“You can really feel the difference, compared to a GP2 car, especially in terms of engine power and the braking force. This being my first time at the wheel of an F14 T, I had to gradually adapt my driving style, but in general, I felt comfortable and I hope I helped the team gather useful data.”

There was one other thought on his mind, and that was Jules Bianchi. Bianchi has now been transported home to France last week following his accident in Suzuka.

“It was impossible not to think about Jules: he and I joined the Ferrari Driver Academy at the same time and if I am here today, it’s in part because he is not,” Marciello reflected. “Jules taught me to always push myself to the limit and here today, I tried to do that for him.”

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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