It feels like you’ve stepped on to the set of a Bond film when you reach Thomas Gostner’s home, deep in a dense larch wood a few miles from Bolzano in South Tyrol. Some 10 small aircraft are parked on the lawn: one is landing and another two are up in the air, waiting for the go-ahead to do the same, while a helicopter takes off, its elongated nose dramatically downward-pointing.
Guiding them from below, with transceiver in one hand and satellite control in the other, is Thomas himself, who has organised what can only be described as his very own Oktoberfest. Everything’s a bit special around here, much like the Gostner family itself.
Not least because these guys are real racers. In addition to the patriarch Thomas, who was born in 1957, there is Manuela, 32, Corinna, 31, and David, 30, who all still live in the local area.
Gostner senior is one of Italy’s major producers of green energy, his two daughters work in the clothing industry and his son is a wine-producer. They’re all registered to race in the Ferrari Challenge Europe, the championship devised especially for European clients, divided into two classes: the Coppa Shell, in which Thomas, Manuela and Corinna take part, and the Trofeo Pirelli, open to more experienced drivers like David, who won the Coppa Shell back in 2013.
The Gostners compete with the Bolzano-based Ineco-MP Racing; like the other single-make competitors, the car they race is a 458 Challenge Evo, an absolute gem powered by a 4.5-litre V8 engine, capable of producing 570hp.
‘I’ve always loved Ferraris,’ Thomas explains. ‘I started racing with my son David in 2011, at Monza, after buying a 458 Italia road car. So this is my sixth season and, I have to say, I’ve had some fantastic experiences in that period. Motor racing is unique and unforgettable. I’ll always remember the rounds at Imola, Silverstone and Mugello, hard-fought, intense, fast races. My dream has always been to finish on the podium. Sooner or later I’ll make it. My best result is fourth place… I’m nearly there.’
The new Ferrari Challenge Europe season starts next weekend, 19 May, in Valencia. So, who’s the fastest in the family? ‘David’s the best,’ says Thomas. ‘He’s the most talented and the fastest of all of us. Now that we don’t race together in the same class, I have an even better idea of how natural his driving is and how fast he can go. He sits behind the wheel, listens to the engine and just goes.’
And what of the Gostner women? Manuela and Corinna respond as one: ‘We had our first race two years ago, in Brno,’ Manuela says. ‘Dad and David couldn’t take part due to work commitments, so they asked us if we wanted to go in their place. We said yes straight away, even though we’d never done it before. We enrolled on the Ferrari Corso Pilota to get a race licence, entered our first race and have never looked back.’
As far as disgruntled male rivals and possible teasing from fellow Challenge participants goes, the two women have had to put up with the occasional remark, but thankfully never anything more. ‘Partly because I’ve overtaken most of them,’ Manuela explains with a little gleam in her eye. ‘And, in the end, it’s really only what you do behind the wheel and the results that you take home that actually count. This is one of the few sports in which men and women can race together without problems.’
David, the fastest Gostner, suddenly arrives and promptly bursts out laughing. ‘The most incredible thing about our family is seeing how much my sisters now enjoy racing. For years I invited them to come and watch one of my races and they would never turn up. Ferrari fever strikes again.’