The countdown to the debut of the Ferrari 296 GT3 is over, with Maranello’s newest model set to feature in the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 61st edition of America’s leading endurance race held at the Daytona International Speedway. The opening act of the 2023 IMSA SportsCar Championship season will feature four 296 GT3 entrants, including the crew made up of official drivers Pier Guidi-Calado-Serra-Rigon in GTD Pro class, who will head off from ninth spot on the grid, as will Fuoco-Lacorte-Sernagiotto-Balzan in GTD class after an identical result in qualifying. The race gets the green light at 13.40 local time on Saturday, 28 January.
GTD Pro. In the main GT class, Risi Competizione team will entrust a 296 GT3 to official Competizioni GT drivers Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra, the same crew that finished on the second step of the podium in 2022. The no. 62 car will start from ninth on the grid, dictated by the 1’49”495 time recorded during the Roar Before the 24 qualifying session, with the Brazilian driver at the wheel.
Two months after their third WEC Drivers’ Championship triumph in the LMGTE Pro class, and one month on from their success at the Gulf 12 Hours, the Italo-British pairing Pier Guidi-Calado will once again be in the spotlight on the historic American track. Rounding out the quartet will be Rigon and Serra, who last season were crowned IMSA series Endurance Cup champions, with the same team, at the wheel of a 488 GT3 Evo 2020.
GTD. The class that includes crews made up of professionals as well as gentlemen drivers will feature three 296 GT3s on the starting line, each with at least one official Maranello driver. Antonio Fuoco, Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Alessandro Balzan will make up the Cetilar Racing team in the no. 47 296 GT3, which set the ninth quickest class time in qualifying, with the official Competizioni GT driver registering 1’48”309.
Miguel Molina with Simon Mann, Francesco Castellacci and Luís Pérez Companc will handle the AF Corse-run no. 21 car, which is set to start from the seventeenth spot by virtue of the 1’49”265 marker set by the Spanish driver.
Completing the trio will be Triarsi Competizione, relying on Alessio Rovera and Andrea Bertolini, called upon to line up alongside Onofrio Triarsi and Charlie Scardina. The American team in the no. 023 car qualified twenty-second with a 1’49”763 best qualifying lap time set by Rovera.
The history. Daytona’s name is intrinsically linked to the world-famous endurance race, the 24 Hours, held in January, representing the first major event of the international motorsport season. This year sees the 61st edition of the event, with 61 crews competing, sub-divided into GTP (a platform debuting in the race), LMP2 and LMP3 class prototypes, and the closed-wheel cars of GTD Pro and GTD (GT3 platform).
Ferrari have won 5 overall and 16 class wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona, the last of which was in 2014 when Pier Guidi alongside Americans Tucker-Sweedler-Bell-Segal won the GTD class in a 458 Italia GT3. The date 1967 remains indelibly stamped in endurance racing history, when Ferrari celebrated a podium lockout with a side-by-side parade finish: first were Lorenzo Bandini and Chris Amon in a 330 P3/P4, ahead of Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti in a 330 P4 and Pedro Rodriguez and Jean Guichet in a 412 P.
The track. The Daytona International Speedway was inaugurated in 1959 in Florida, not far from Daytona Beach, where car races were already being organised in the late 1940s, partly taking advantage of public roads and partly using the beach front overlooking the Atlantic. The circuit layout for the 24 Hours, which for the most part uses the tri-oval track, is characterised by its banked curves – reaching as high as a 31° gradient – is 3.56 miles (5.73 kilometres) long and features 12 turns.
The car. The Ferrari 296 GT3, derived from the 296 GTB, represents the latest evolution of the two-seater mid-rear-engined Prancing Horse berlinetta. The competition racer, which will be the protagonist of the top international sprint and endurance races, is fitted with a 2,992cc turbo V6 engine with a maximum power output of 600 bhp and a maximum torque of 710 Nm (values subject to Balance of Performance), mated to a 6-speed sequential transverse gearbox.
The programme. The grid for the 24 Hours was determined by the qualifying session at the Roar Before the 24 held on 22 January. Thursday, 26 January will feature two free practice sessions, open to all classes, from 11.05 and 19.15, with the GTDs getting their turn from 15.20 and the GTD Pros from 15.35. Friday 27 will see the practice session from 11.20. The endurance race itself