Ferrari returns to Daytona with five cars, one in the GT-Le Mans (GTLM) class and four in the GT-Daytona (GTD). The 488 GTE and four 488 GT3s will be trying to beat the many other manufacturers at the legendary 24 Hours that opens the IMSA SportsCar championship season and, indeed, a full-on year of GT racing.
GTLM. One car will be competing in the GTLM class. The 488 GTE of Risi Competizione will be there with an entirely official crew of Toni Vilander and Davide Rigon, plus the FIA World Endurance Championship winners, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Calado and Vilander came third last season, so now the goal is to win, even if the BoP once again penalises the Italian berlinetta on the straight, which at Daytona means much of the track given that the 31-degree parabolic curves are also driven at full throttle. Calado and Vilander’s best finish at Daytona is still the third place of 2017, while Rigon was sixth in 2016 with the 488 GTE of Risi Competizione, and Pier Guidi won the 2014 edition in the GTD class with Level 5 Motorsports, for the Prancing Horse’s most recent triumph on the legendary Florida track.
GTD. Four 488 GT3s will be involved in the GTD class. Expectations are high for the car of Scuderia Corsa that, without Christina Nielsen, will see Alessandro Balzan, the return of Jeff Segal and new entries Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette. Segal was part of the team that won in 2014, while MacNeil was second in 2015. Fourth is the best result so far for both Balzan (for Ferrari in 2013) and Jeannette (2014). Giacomo Mattioli’s team is also fielding a second car, the no. 64 of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Sam Bird and Frankie Montecalvo. Bell won in 2014 with Sweedler while both Bird and Montecalvo recorded their best results in 2014, with respectively a sixth and a fourth place. The third 488 GT3 belongs to Spirit of Race and will be driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy and Daniel Serra, who more usually compete against Ferrari crews. Fourth place is the best result achieved so far by all four drivers. Dalla Lana, in his ninth outing, recorded it in 2016, just like his three co-drivers, although Lamy had previously been fourth also in 2009. The last of the Ferrari group is Risi Competizione’s second car, crewed by rookie Miguel Molina, official Ferrari driver, Matt Griffin, and Mexicans Santiago Creel, Martin Fuentes and Ricardo Perez de Lara, an old acquaintance of the Ferrari Challenge. Griffin was fourth in 2015, Fuentes sixth in 2014, Creel tenth in 2017 and Perez De Lara 17th in 2013.
History. Ferrari has twice been overall winner of the 24 Hours. The first victory came in 1967 with the official 330 P3/4 of Lorenzo Bandini and Chris Amon, when there was the famous one-two-three finish and a Ferrari hat trick on the podium. Then in 1998 the 333 SP of Doran-Moretti Racing won with Arie Luyendyk, Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Gianpiero Moretti. There have also been eight class victories, most recently in 2014 in the GTD with Segal-Pier Guidi-Bell-Sweedler and Level 5 Motorsports. However, there were also another 11 wins not obtained in the 24 hours. The first came in 1959, in the USAC series, with Santiago Gonzalez and Skip Hudson in a 250 GT of the Hans Hirch team. We also shouldn’t forget the triumph in the 6 Hours of 1972 by the 312 PB of Scuderia Ferrari with Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx.
Programme. The long weekend at Daytona kicks off on Thursday with the free practice sessions followed by qualifying at 3:55 pm local time (9:55 pm CET) for the GTLM class and at 4:20 pm (10:20 pm CET) for the GTD. On Friday, there is another test session before the race starts at 2:40 pm local time (8:40 pm CET) on Saturday. The conclusion is of course scheduled for the same time on Sunday.