AF Corse goes the space in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup
Ten years in the past, AF Corse’s journey into American sports activities automobile racing took off with a really American — and impossible — driver.
Michael Waltrip, the two-time Daytona 500 winner, teamed with Rob Kauffman, Travis Pastrana and Rui Aguas for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in a Ferrari 458 Italia ready by Italian racing group AF Corse. The unlikely pairing of various kinds of racing from totally different continents led to one thing extra everlasting. Since that race, AF Corse has competed frequently in endurance races within the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“Our story within the U.S. begins at the moment,” AF Corse supervisor Didi Cazzago recalled. “From that second, we fell in love with American-style racing, and we stored doing it.”
It wasn’t the group’s first foray into American sports activities automobile racing, although. Months earlier, AF Corse gained the GT class at Motul Petit Le Mans with Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer in a 458 Italia. However the Daytona journey with Waltrip was the race that garnered essentially the most consideration within the U.S.
The Rolex 24 end result wasn’t spectacular — twenty fifth in GT, thirty fifth general — however the introduction to Daytona led to AF Corse’s persevering with annual pursuit of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which continues subsequent week with the twenty fifth annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Highway Atlanta.
The Michelin Endurance Cup’s 4 races — the Rolex 24, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Offered by Advance Auto Components, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Petit Le Mans — carry status for AF Corse and different European groups that make some extent of competing. Different European groups — together with Excessive Class Racing, Cetilar Racing and Racing Staff Nederland — additionally compete frequently within the 4 races.
“We discovered that the American races had been very attention-grabbing and specific and totally different from what we had been used to,” Cazzago mentioned. “We run something, principally, however anytime we’re within the U.S., we wish to be at these tracks and in these races.”
A kind of races is subsequent for AF Corse. On Oct 1, the group will discipline its No. 21 Ferrari 488 GT3 with drivers Toni Vilander, Simon Mann and Luis Perez Companc. The automobile completed third at Sebring and fourth at Daytona and is second within the Michelin Endurance Cup standings heading into the season finale.
AF Corse competes globally in a wide range of sequence and classes, together with the FIA World Endurance Championship, the European Le Mans Collection and GT World Problem. The group initially wanted time to adapt to IMSA guidelines, Cazzago mentioned, however because the 2011 Petit victory confirmed, it didn’t take lengthy to get accustomed.
“When you perceive the way it works, it’s very helpful to each group,” Cazzago mentioned. “With the full-course yellow and the pass-around system used within the U.S., a automobile is all the time in a position to be again within the recreation, which is one thing good for the general public and the followers and in addition for the group itself. Something can occur in endurance races.”
Based in 1995 by former driver Amato Ferrari, AF Corse has gained championships in quite a few racing sequence, together with the WEC, FIA GT2, FIA GT3 and DTM. The worth of the American market to Ferrari — and the group’s dedication to endurance racing — will maintain the group within the WeatherTech Championship in 2023, Cazzago mentioned, maybe on a grander scale.
“The spirit of AF Corse has all the time been the endurance races, and the historical past of AF Corse has all the time been long-distance races,” Cazzago mentioned. “We don’t wish to go away the American market or IMSA. I feel we’re going to be current with multiple automobile from Daytona (in January) onward. Let’s see what’s going to occur.”
The connection between European groups and IMSA advantages each, Cazzago mentioned.
“Now we have an excellent relationship with IMSA,” he mentioned. “We’re all the time very welcome. We’re Italians. We’re very pleasant, and we’ve discovered a really particular household in IMSA.”