After utilizing its tried-and-trusted Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, Scuderia Corsa is set for the competition debut of the new 488 GT3 car in this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Christina Nielsen, Jeff Segal and 2013 GRAND-AM GT class champion Alessandro Balzan will pilot the turbocharged Prancing Horse, following a successful test at Sebring last mont that saw the car top the time charts in GT Daytona.
Sportscar365 caught up with the now U.S.-based Balzan to get his thoughts on the car and their expectations for the Florida endurance classic.
How did the Sebring test go with the new 488 GT3?
“It was a big surprise because when you take a car to Sebring it’s always a big question mark.
“I was surprised because we took out the car and didn’t have any issues for the two days. That’s what you need to be a little more comfortable in the car.
“The car’s setup was good right away but the biggest issue has been to match the driving position between me, Christina and Jeff. But I’d have to say that I was surprised from that point of view because it was much better than what I thought.
“It was like we already drove the car. It wasn’t the same handling as the 458 because there’s [been a lot of improvements] but the way of driving the car is very similar.
“We have a little bit more downforce compared to before. The car really runs well.”
Has it been a big adjustment moving to the turbo engine?
“I was scared about turbo lag and everything but with the electronics you have today in GT3 cars is amazing. You can set up the throttle use. It’s like you’re driving a car like it’s a N/A engine.
“With the turbo, you can feel it has more torque but it’s very easy to manage.”
Is there any lessons from the new 488 GTE that can transfer to the 488 GT3 car for its debut race?
“It’s a good question. Now the GTE and GT3, like all the other manufacturers, the two cars have a lot of similar things. I think for us it was very good that the team was working on the GTE car at Daytona.
“We already have quite a good amount of information and data that we can worth with.”
What are your expectations for this weekend?
“It’s always the same for Sebring. Even if you have an old car you know really well, Sebring is always a question mark. We were P2 in 2014 [until] we had a very stupid electronic issue.
“We’re not scared because the car is new. We have a very fresh car.
“I think the most challenging thing is traffic. You’ve seen it this year at Daytona, with the GTLM cars, we are staying with those guys on the straight for a long time and they are challenging us on the corners to overtake.
“We will see in Sebring but I’m expecting a lot of challenges with traffic for the race.”
How pleased are you to be returning to U.S. racing full-time?
“I always loved to race in the U.S. and have finally got the chance to do it again.
“I decided to move and I’m now living [in Las Vegas] full-time. I will do all of the IMSA races with Scuderia Corsa as well as coaching Martin Fuentes in Pirelli World Challenge.
“It means 22 or 23 racing weekends, so I said to myself, ‘Time to move to the U.S.!'”