Marc Gene

Marc Gene

29/3/1974

Marc Gene proved himself to be a competent racer in his junior career but never really got a break to prove the same in Formula One, although his testing abilities remain in high demand. The Spaniard had taken the Italian Superformula championship in 1994, but his step up to British Formula Three the following year proved somewhat disappointing when he struggled in the wake of his team-mate Helio Castroneves. In mitigation, however, Marc was at this stage still studying at university, which naturally curtailed the amount of time he could devote to his racing career. Budget problems kept him out of action for much of 1996, but he managed to gain a place in the Pacific F3000 team at the start of 1997. Unfortunately, an accident in the second round at Pau left Gené with a cracked vertebra, which sidelined him for a month, and when he was fit to return his place in the team had gone. Although he was able to find another berth with Nordic for a couple of races, his season lay in tatters. So it was back to his day job as an accountant in Spain and competition in the less pressurised atmosphere of the Open Fortuna by Nissan single-seater series. Driving for Adrian Campos, Marc swept to a convincing championship win, chalking up six victories from twelve races. In truth, there wasn't a huge amount of competition for him to beat, but it was to give his career a massive boost. With the Spanish communications giant Telefonica backing Minardi in 1999, Marc was suddenly a shock candidate for a place with the Faenza team and immediately impressed the Minardi hierarchy with his hard work and willingness to learn. Certainly, he was not outclassed by his more experienced team-mate Luca Badoer, and he had the great satisfaction of bringing his car into sixth place at the European Grand Prix. This single point pushed the little Italian team above the mega-rich British American Racing to ensure that, for one season at least, they were not bottom of the pile. Gene's promising debut season, and his links with Telefonica, secured his place in the team for 2000. Partnered by another rookie, Gaston Mazzacane, and powered by outdated Ford V10s, the Spaniard was always likely to have his work cut out to reach the heights of '99, and so it proved, as Minardi received as much TV coverage while being lapped as some of the midfield runners did for avoiding the ignominy. With Telefonica pulling out of F1 at the end of 2000, and a proposed buy-out deal involving media company PSN also falling through, Minardi appeared to be on the brink of closure. Not wanting to wait too long and possibly being taken down with the team, Gene opted to jump to Williams, where he acted as back-up to Ralf Schumacher and Juan Montoya for 2001. He continued to act as the team's official test driver in 2002, notching up miles at Mugello, Barcelona, and Silverstone amongst others, but the itch of competition still clearly needed scratching. While spending most of the 2003 season continuing to test for Williams, Gene found an outlet for his competitive side in the Nissan World Series, where he ran with Adrian Campos Motorsport and instantly proved to be a winner. The return to racing, allied to solid knowledge of the Williams-BMW package from testing meant that Gene was on the ball when he got an unexpected chance to race for the F1 team in the Italian GP, after Ralf Schumacher was ruled out through injury. The Spaniard didn't let them down, finishing a career best fifth. With Schumacher returning alongside Juan Montoya for the following race, Gene reverted to testing duties for the rest of the season- canning his FNissan activities too - and carried the role into 2004. Following Ralf's crash at the US Grand Prix in June, Gene was again drafted into the fold, but this time he failed to do himself justice in either France or Britain, and was subsequently dropped in favour of fellow test driver Antonio Pizzonia, who got the nod to race in Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Italy, before Schumacher returned for the final three grands prix of the year. Seemingly upset by his treatment, and the fact that he was overlooked as a candidate to partner Mark Webber in the 2005 line-up once it became clear that Jenson Button was no longer available, Gene decided it was time to move on, and signed a deal to work alongside former Minardi team-mate Badoer at arch rivals Ferrari.

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