AF Corse enjoys hiking in endurance races

The storied Ferrari team has been a regular contender for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup for nearly a decade.

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Ten years ago, AF Corse’s journey into American sports car racing took off with a very—and highly unlikely—American driver.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip has teamed up with Rob Kauffman, Travis Pastrana and Rui Aguas for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Ferrari 458 Italia crafted by AF Corse, the legendary Italian racing team.

The unlikely pairing of different types of races from different continents led to something much more enduring. Since that race, AF Corse has regularly competed in endurance races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Our story in the United States begins at that time,” AF Corse Director Didi Katsago recalls. “From that moment on, we fell in love with American-style racing, and we’ve continued to do so.”

This wasn’t the team’s first foray into American sports car racing, though. Months ago, AF Corse won the Grand Touring (GT) class at Motul Petit Le Mans with Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer at the 458 Italia. But Daytona’s adventure with Waltrip was the race that got the most attention in the US

The Rolex 24’s result wasn’t a stunning result – 25th in the GT, and 35th overall – but the introduction of Daytona has led to AF Corse’s ongoing annual quest for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which continues next week with the 25th annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road. Atlanta.

The four Michelin Endurance Cup races – the Rolex 24, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring from Advance Auto Parts, the Sahlin Six Hours of The Glen and Petit Le Mans – hold the status of AF Corse and other competing European teams. Other European teams – including High Class Racing, Cetilar Racing and Racing Team Nederland – also regularly compete in the four races.

“We found the American races to be very interesting, special and different from what we are used to,” Katsago said. “We run anything, basically, but any time we’re in the States we want to be on those tracks and in those races.”

One of these races is next for AF Corse. On October 1, the team will present the #21 Ferrari 488 GT3 with drivers Tony Villander, Simone Mann and Luis Perez Kompanec. The car finished third at Sebring, fourth at Daytona and second in the Michelin Endurance Cup standings before the end of the season.

AF Corse competes globally in a variety of series and categories, including the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship (WEC), European Le Mans Series and GT World Challenge. Cazzago said the team initially needed time to adjust to IMSA rules, but as Petit’s 2011 win showed, it didn’t take long to get used to.

“Once you understand how it works, it is very beneficial for every team,” Katsago said. “With the full yellow and the pass system used in the US, the car can always be back in the game, which is good for the fans and the fans and also for the team itself. Anything can happen in endurance racing.”

Founded in 1995 by former driver Amato Ferrari, AF Corse has won championships in numerous racing series, including WEC, FIA GT2, FIA GT3 and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). Cazzago said Ferrari’s US market value – and the team’s commitment to endurance racing – would keep the organization in the WeatherTech Championship in 2023, possibly on a larger scale.

“The spirit of AF Corse has always been endurance racing, and the history of AF Corse has always been long-distance racing,” said Katsago. We don’t want to leave the US market or IMSA. I think we will be present with more than one car from Daytona (in January) onwards. Let’s see what happens.”

Kazago said the relationship between the European teams and IMSA benefits both.

“We have a very good relationship with IMSA,” he said. “We are always very welcome. We are Italian. We are very friendly, and we found a very special family at IMSA.”

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