Miguel Molina says his new factory deal with Ferrari is a “big step forward” for his career, as the Spaniard embarks on a busy dual-series campaign in the FIA World Endurance Championship and Blancpain GT Series.
Ferrari confirmed the 28-year-old ex-Audi DTM driver as one of its new factory aces for the upcoming season, together with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Alex Riberas.
“The negotiations went very quick, as I knew I was going to leave Audi at the end of the year,” Molina told Sportscar365.
“Becoming a factory driver for Ferrari is a really big step forward for me, because it was always my aim to race at Le Mans.”
Molina was dropped from Audi’s DTM lineup, following a series-wide reduction to six cars per manufacturer and was one of several drivers that took part in the shootout for Gianmaria Bruni’s full-season seat in AF Corse’s GTE-Pro effort.
“After Audi stopped the LMP1 program and all the changes that followed, it was difficult for me to continue because my contract expired at the end of 2016,” he said.
“I only would have stayed with Audi if I would have been able to continue in DTM.
“There were plenty Audi drivers with a contract for 2017, so it was clear they had to switch LMP1 drivers in the DTM and GT programs.”
Molina made his WEC debut last weekend, competing with the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE he shares with Francesco Castellacci and Thomas Flohr.
He nearly pulled off the GTE-Am class victory, if for not a final-lap collision with Pedro Lamy while battling for the lead that regelated the AF Corse-run entry to a non-classified result.
“It was a late call to participate here and it’s great that Ferrari immediately puts so much trust in me,” Molina said prior to the race.
“I don’t have that much experience yet, so we’ll see were we are after the first couple of races. For me it doesn’t matter if I’m racing in Am or Pro. It’s important for me to gain a lot of experience this year.”
Molina will move over to the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans, completing AF Corse’s lineup in the No. 71 car alongside Davide Rigon and Sam Bird.
While a replacement for Molina in the GTE-Am class entry has not yet been announced, it’s likely to be another Ferrari factory driver.
“It’s clear that the main goal for this year is Le Mans with the No. 71 car, that’s a big responsibility,” Molina said. “That’s a big step forward and it will be very good to at least have a few races to prepare for Le Mans.”
He admitted he has had very little seat time to prepare and adjust to the new car and life in sports car racing.
“I only had four days of testing with the GTE this winter,” he said. “That’s not a lot of mileage, but from the beginning I could feel the car is really easy to driver compared to what I was used to, especially to the Audi GT3.
“For sure, it’s really a different type of racing here. You don’t have to do stupid things here because the race is really long.”
The former Audi star has also been confirmed for a full season of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup with SMP Racing, sharing the Pro Cup-entered No. 72 Ferrari 488 GT3 with Rigon and Victor Shaytar.
Unlike his GTE commitments, this will give him the opportunity to compete for the overall win.
“Blancpain GT is also a very demanding championship, but we have a very strong lineup,” Molina said. “It will be a big challenge to fight for the overall title.”
While the GT3 and GTE specification of the 488 are very similar, Molina added that the main challenge is adjusting to the tires.
“In WEC the tires are made for the car and that’s really nice,” he said. “The Pirelli tires in Blancpain GT aren’t bad, but it’s just not the same.”
At the moment Molina doesn’t have any additional outings planned for the current season besides his Blancpain GT and WEC commitments.
“It’s already a big program with 14 races, especially with the 24 of Spa and Le Mans in there,” he added.