Oct 9, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
For the second consecutive season, Ferrari has captured the championship in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series’ GT class. That gives the Scuderia a perfect 2-for-2 strike rate in the years it has entered with the GRAND-AM spec F458 Italia, before 2014 arrives and GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series take the green flag as the newly merged Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
Scuderia Corsa followed AIM Autosport/Team FXDD’s championship-winning ways of 2012. This year, Alessandro Balzan took the title in dramatic fashion in the season finale at Lime Rock Park. Balzan entered the title decider down four points to the Magnus Racing pair of Andy Lally and John Potter, but avoided trouble as the Magnus Porsche was hit by another car on just the second lap of the race. With second place, his ninth top-five finish in 12 races, Balzan emerged as champion ahead of Lally and Potter by 10 points.
“I was never relaxed during the race since things were always happening in front of us, behind us, or next to us,” Balzan said after the race. “The DP’s were passing us and sometimes it was a nightmare because you know that you are leading the championship but you also know that you are losing so much time in traffic.”
Scuderia Corsa team principal Giacomo Mattioli explained Balzan rose to the challenge in his first full season of Rolex GT competition.
“The thing that really convinced me is his track record,” Mattioli said. “This is now five years in a row he’s won the championship: Porsche Cup three years, Ferrari Challenge and now Rolex GT. I knew he wouldn’t crack under pressure, and wouldn’t do, shall we say stupid things.
“What I was surprised by is how quickly he has learned and adapted to tracks, and to tires he didn’t really know. That beat even my expectations. It’s a telling talent. That’s hard to do and it’s not easy to predict how quickly he’ll pick up a track. I’ve never seen anyone else do that within 3-4 laps.”
Balzan had several different co-drivers in 2013 – Alessandro Per Guidi for two races, Jeff Westphal through Watkins Glen and Leh Keen the last five races – and had to mesh his style with whoever else was sharing the seat of the No. 63 Ferrari F458 Italia. They only won once, but had the best finishing record in the field.
“The chemistry between the drivers is a key ingredient, but the chemistry among the team is a bigger ingredient,” Mattioli said. “Pretty much every driver who has raced for us has felt welcome and comfortable and grown in very quickly. One big component with Alessandro is he is a super nice guy. He’s easygoing, he makes everyone comfortable, and he gelled with Jeff and Leh. I couldn’t have scripted it.”
Nor could they have scripted the fact that the team could enter into Rolex GT and win the title in its first full season. Mattioli and Ferrari North America president/CEO Marco Mattiacci have a strong relationship and to win in front of Mattiacci was great for both individuals.
“My background has been in working with the factory,” said Mattioli, who was born and raised in Modena and eventually came to work for Ferrari in North America. “We have had the opportunity to see – shall we say, both sides of the fence: the corporate and retail ends of it. I have a unique perspective to be able to reflect and understand the factory requirements. Marco and I have had a friendship for many years, but we are very in tune on the business side.”
“The manufacturer championship is very important for Ferrari, because it demonstrates not only the phenomenal performance, speed, balance, but also the reliability of the 458 Italia,” Mattiacci said immediately after the race. “To win it for the second time, against the high level of competition in the Rolex Series in the United States, is an achievement we are very proud of.”
Balzan reflected on the title, too, as this was his first full season racing in the U.S.
“I am very happy for the team. Everyone at Scuderia Corsa, really deserved it,” he said. “It’s really crazy to think we are champions in the first year. I have to thank Giacomo because he believed in me, otherwise I would have never gotten the seat. I’m a 100% Scuderia Corsa product, and it is a dream for a little Italian driver coming from Italy that is now living in Modena.”
Looking ahead to 2014, Mattioli confirmed Scuderia Corsa will return to defend its title.
“It’s definitely exciting and very interesting, the first year, because it’s easier said than done when you mesh two different series and so many classes,” he said. “We’re staying in GTD. The goal is two cars for the full season.
“We are very happy to be involved with the Tudor United championship. I think there will be a lot of competition again, coming from Porsche, coming from other manufacturers. But we’ll be there with the 458 package.
“For a driver – this is not me saying it – but the opportunity to race for Ferrari is the top,” he added. “I think our drivers feel the same, we are very lucky to be involved with Ferrari and there are few things in life you cannot separate. It’s part of the DNA of the company. If you want to represent Ferrari at any level – retail, business, dealer – you need to race. It’s exciting, it’s fun.”
Dec 6, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
UPDATED (7:00 p.m. ET): According to Autoweek, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric has said that team involvement in Australia’s V8 Supercars series “may be a stretch” and instead noted that it could be sponsor-based. Roger Penske’s Penske Automotive Group recently made inroads into Australia with the September purchase of the Western Star trucking company. And…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship announced its entry list late Friday afternoon, with nearly 70 cars confirmed across the merged series’ four classes: Prototype (P, combination of ALMS P2, Rolex Series DP and DeltaWing, Prototype Challenge (ALMS PC), GT Le Mans (ALMS GT) and GT Daytona (Rolex GT, ALMS GTC). Here’s a link to the…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:35 PM EST
Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson added some more trophies to his mantle during yesterday’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. But he’s not the only driver that was honored during the event. Among the major awards given out yesterday was the NMPA Myers Brothers Award, which went to three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart. “Smoke”…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:30 PM EST
It’s happened before for Lotus. Can it happen again? In 2013, Romain Grosjean was able to transform from one of Formula One’s most inconsistent drivers to one of its better ones, closing the year with four podiums in the final six races. Now, the Frenchman will be paired with the incoming Pastor Maldonado (pictured), who…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
At last night’s NASCAR After The Lap show in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson indicated that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team’s efforts to re-create “The Hangover” weren’t quite done yet. Sure enough, he was telling the truth. In their re-creations, the group have used everything from stuffed chickens and tigers to a toy baby. Even…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
Formula One’s top developmental league, the GP2 Series, will embark on an 11-race schedule next season with new stops at Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Russia’s new street circuit at Sochi Olympic Park. All 11 events will be held as support races on Formula One Grand Prix weekends. The season will unofficially begin in March…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:25 PM EST
It’s very rare in modern racing you hear of “racing for the sake of racing.” But with the 2013 season largely in the books, championships decided, top-10 lists written and all the rest, it’s rare you get as close to a pure event full of “run what you brung” machinery that runs the gamut from…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:14 PM EST
As a rookie stepping into one of the top seats in Formula One, Kevin Magnussen is under no illusions about the challenge he’ll face at McLaren in 2014. The Dane seems to have the right attitude, though, as he has basically been preparing for this role for nearly 20 years. “McLaren has been part of…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
On Thursday, the Coca-Cola Company was awarded the 2013 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held in the Encore Ballroom at Wynn Las Vegas. This marked the third time Coca-Cola has achieved this award, the first time any company has won that. Since 1998, although Coca-Cola has not opted to…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Placing sixth in the…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:15 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Now comes our fifth-place…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. We’ll continue on with…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Antonio Felix da Costa has been named a Red Bull Racing reserve driver for 2014, alongside Sebastien Buemi who continues in the role for a second season. Da Costa was widely tipped to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Scuderia Toro Rosso, but the team opted for Daniil Kvyat instead. Da Costa finished third in this year’s…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Jean Todt has won re-election as FIA President to a second four-year term, with the path made slightly easier by the fact he ran unopposed. David Ward, who announced his candidacy in August, withdrew in November. Over the next four years, Todt called his outline “ambitious,” but “built on the solid foundations of reforms” from…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:54 PM EST
It was a trying Formula One season altogether for Williams, but their young driver Valtteri Bottas still managed to have some nice moments in his rookie F1 campaign, including his first points-paying finish at the United States Grand Prix. Bottas appears to have a good future ahead of him in F1 and will return to…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:09 PM EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a tie with Bill Elliott by earning his 11th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver award during today’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon in Las Vegas. Earnhardt, who finished fifth in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship, has won the award every year since the 2003 season. The…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
NASCAR CEO Brian France mentioned lots of accomplishments for his organization during the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season this morning in Las Vegas, but noted that it’s also preparing diligently for the year to come. In a wide-ranging session with reporters, France talked about the ongoing testing for the Gen-6 cars that debuted this past…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Multiple changes have been announced this morning by NASCAR regarding drivers’ eligibility for being elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Going forward, drivers that have competed for at least 10 seasons and have turned 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the year prior to the nominating year are eligible. Additionally, drivers…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:15 PM EST
We wish a happy 27th birthday today to IndyCar’s lone full-time confirmed Canadian for 2014, James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport. As Hinchcliffe ticks another year off this year, we figure it would be a good time to look back and see how he’s grown in…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
Virgin Racing has signed up with the new FIA Formula E Championship as the series’ ninth team. Alex Tai will operate the squad as team principal and the effort has the full support and backing of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. Virgin has spent some of its large sum in motorsports before, as a partner…
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