AF Corse Set for Four-Car Ferrari 488 GTE Effort

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

AF Corse is set to return to a four-car operation in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year, with the addition of a second season-long GTE-Am entry, alongside its two factory Ferrari 488 GTEs in the GTE-Pro class. (En Français)

The Italian squad has confirmed a pair of GTE-Am entries, one for the previously announced Clearwater Racing effort with Matt Griffin, Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa and a second Ferrari 488 GTE for a driver pairing moving up from the European Le Mans Series.

Speaking with Endurance-Info, team boss Amato Ferrari said that Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci plan to compete on the world’s stage in a Vista Jet-backed Ferrari.

A third GTE-Am entry is expected for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, under the DH Racing banner via the Chinese team’s automatic invite from the 2015/17 Asian Le Mans Series.

Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard, who along with Rui Aguas took AF Corse to the 2016 GTE-Am title, will move to LMP2 in a TDS Racing-entered Oreca 07 Gibson.

AF Corse’s GTE-Pro driver lineup, meanwhile, remains undetermined in the wake of Gianmaria Bruni’s potential switch to Porsche.

James Calado, Sam Bird and Davide Rigon, however, are all expected back, with a number of drivers rumored to potentially fill the fourth full-season seat, should Bruni not return.

“I’m first trying to set up the programs, then we put the names of the drivers on the cars,” Ferrari told Endurance-Info during last weekend’s Asian Le Mans Series round in Buriram.

Ferrari said they are planning at least five Ferrari 488 GT3 cars for the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, including entries under the Kaspersky and SMP Racing banners, along with up to two 488 GTE cars in the European Le Mans Series.

The team’s two-car commitment for the WEC GTE-Am class comes as a significant boost to the depleted category, which up until last week only had a single confirmed entry in Paul Dalla Lana’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

It’s understood Proton Competition is also planning a return with at least one Porsche 911 RSR, with the status of Larbre Competition unknown.

9 Comments

  1. AudiTT

    January 11, 2017 at 11:28 am

    GTE-Am grid numbers are near impossible to predict. You have a large pool of chassis, which can be supplied and loaned, an almost limitless supply of gentleman drivers with sponsors/funding (for the right program), and series organisers doing work behind the scenes making connections.

    Same goes for the ELMS, there could be six or sixteen in the GTE(Am) class. We won’t know until the press conference.

  2. CookieMonsterFL

    January 11, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Huh, seems its really expensive to run an Am season in the GTE field, considering there are far greener pastures with less money in IMSA. Sure, it meets the requirements for a global marketing strategy for specific sponsors, but thats all. Your strategy has to be focused and successful to work it seems in WEC, and the fact that the lowest category still requires really expensive and ultimately few choice cars comes as at a cost to team turn out.

    Why aren’t we asking why IMSA’s own GTE-Am category is seeing record car counts and excited and interested privateer teams and manufacturers? They aren’t doing anything worse or revolutionary, IMO…

    • Dan

      January 11, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Because imsa doesn’t have a GTE am. It has GT3. It also just let two full fledged factory teams into a class that was supposed to be for privateers which plenty of people aren’t happy about ask Will Turner or Alex Job.

      • Matt

        January 11, 2017 at 7:48 pm

        There have been factory teams involved in GT3 for years and years, nothing new there.

        • GTurner38

          January 11, 2017 at 9:00 pm

          There are factory teams in Blancpain because there is a pro category, but GTD is specifically supposed be pro-am.

    • AudiTT

      January 11, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Why would you think someone from Europe, Asia etc. wishes to race 10-12 times per year in the US?

      WEC is a more manageable schedule, guarantees a Le Mans entry, and I believe requires a similar budget to IMSA. IMSA’s endurance rounds are a huge commitment, plus Le Mans and the Test Day added to the mix.

  3. Jason

    January 11, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I think GTE Am has run its course perhaps? From the context of the WEC. Not Le Mans as many teams find that class as a way to get an entry.

    • Tonie

      January 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that it was up to the teams to decide in which category they want to enter if they have an invite? Which makes the AM category popular at Le Mans, because you have a bigger chance for succes. As was LMP2, but supply of the new chassis might be limited for this years Le Mans.

      Anyway, very happy that Ferrari wil provide some action in the AM category. Rumor has it that Al Qubaisi also wants to field an Aston Martin this season, so with a single Proton car and I do expect the Corvette back, that will make six cars. So at least there is more involved than just getting the 70% to be on the podium:)

      Not sure if using GT3 cars for the the AM category is a good solution. With the current system, teams like Aston Martin have the option to develop something for one season and sell it for another. I think their budget is not as big as Ford’s or Porsche’s, so that might push them away from the PRO category.

      • GTurner38

        January 11, 2017 at 9:05 pm

        If you get an automatic invite, it is for a specific class. It’s why KCMG entered an prototype at Le Mans in addition to their season long GTE entry last year. Of course you have your choice of class if you are don’t have an automatic entry and are applying for an invitation.

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