Michela Cerruti is an Italian racing driver, currently a team manager in the ETCR International Series. She made her racing debut in the Italian Touring Endurance Championship (CITE) in 2008, racing an Alfa Romeo 147, before moving up through the ranks of professional racing and into team management. Now, she’s leading the efforts of the Romeo Ferraris team with a rather special car – an Alfa Romeo Giulia that’s been converted to run on electric power.
Michela, we don’t see many women competing at this level of racing. How did you get into this?
I was born and raised between race cars and fast road cars. Romeo Ferraris is the dealership my dad started and where I also work, and I am the team principal and operations manager here. My family has been racing cars since the 1950s. We are specialists in tuning prestige road cars and the race preparation of track cars. We officially service Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio, Abarth, Bentley, Morgan, and Caterham. For the last two brands we also take care of new car sales. My dad introduced me to racing, and from there on, the rollercoaster took off.
Is the tuning division of Romeo Ferraris also taking care of the racing department?
Yes, we execute car tuning in the broadest way possible, taking care of aesthetic upgrades, brakes, wheels, suspension, engine tuning and, since the launch of the ETCR Championship, we also became specialists in electric race car development with our Alfa Romeo Giulia. We fully converted a Quadrifoglio petrol-powered car to a 100% electric racing car. Our race drivers in the competition are Stefano Coletti, Luca Filippi, Oliver Webb and Rodrigo Baptista.
Alfa Romeo is not particularly advanced in its EV development. Was this a complex engineering challenge?
Yes, indeed. In the ETCR Championship, every competitor is obliged to race with the same battery pack, so the other components of the car make the difference between winning or losing. The batteries have a total power output of 500kW, deliver 680hp and 900Nm of torque. As we all enter with the same ‘engine’, it all comes down to the rest of the engineering and the driver skills. In terms of engineering, the electronics are complex and the whole installation is taking up a lot of space in the car. It was the most complex race development we have done so far. The Alfa Romeo factory was not involved, but we informed them of course.
What’s Motul’s contribution in the development of the ETCR racing car and the workshop in general?
Motul and Romeo Ferraris have been partners since 2013. As Motul offers a very large range of products, we use them all in our road and racing cars, from cleaning products, coolants, braking oil to the 300V engine oil. Of course, an electric car doesn’t need engine oil. But as we developed the car, it soon became clear that the total weight including the batteries would stress the suspension and braking systems heavily. In comparison, the Giulietta in race trim weighs about 1,265kgs, but for the electric Giulia, we carry about 520kgs of batteries alone!
What makes you win or lose the race?
Mechanically, the cars are all the same. The weight of our car is 1,820kgs. It’s difficult to make it lighter. A normal track car is mostly empty inside the cockpit, but if you look inside the electric Giulia, even the passenger seat is taken up by all the electronics! So yes, it was quite a challenge to make it all work and get a good performing race car. We really had to trust our performance partners and work on the aerodynamics to make it all happen. It’s certainly not an ordinary race car.
How is the partnership with Motul developing?
Of all the brands, Motul lives and breathes motorsport and is very passionate. We like to work with them not only for the good products, but because they think like us, and are flexible in terms of delivering products. We always appreciate good suppliers. We have enough to worry about in this complex project, and Motul simply makes our life easier. Some other suppliers just can’t follow us [laughs].