Just a few months ago, Dane Cameron wasn’t expecting to be taking part in the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach, let alone be at the wheel of a Ferrari F458 Italia GTE car.
But a series of events and circumstances has led to the 25-year-old California native landing a top drive with Risi Competizione for the third round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Cameron has joined Ferrari factory driver Giancarlo Fisichella for today’s 100-minute sprint race, replacing Matteo Malucelli, who was suspended by IMSA for one event following his actions in last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Combined with the fact that Turner Motorsport’s BMW Z4 GT3 is not in action this weekend, with it being a Prototype and GTLM-only race, the stars aligned for one of sports car’s rising talents to make his highly anticipated debut in the factory-backed class.
“For me, it’s just to make the most of this opportunity,” Cameron told Sportscar365. “Getting into the GTLM category is a very difficult place to break into.
“GTLM is the class. Just look at the drivers that are stacked in these cars. It’s really incredible. As a young sports car driver, these are the guys that you want to be rated on the same level.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and such a tough category to break into, to have an opportunity to race here. Now that there’s only one championship, it’s even more difficult to get these opportunities.”
Cameron got his first laps in the Ferrari during a brief shakedown at Houston Motorsports Park earlier this week, before joining Fisichella, who has 229 Grand Prix starts and three years of FIA WEC experience to his credit, for Practice on Friday.
“It’s a great organization with all of the tools there to learn everything I need to,” Cameron said. “Giancarlo has been a big help to teach me the ways of how this car ticks. The LM category is quite a bit different from everything else I’ve been in so far.
“I haven’t driven a mid-engined GT car before. There’s just so many little intricacies to the car. [Giancarlo] has so much experience with it and has been a great guy to work with and so easy going.
“It’s been really good fun and something I never imagined that as a kid, watching him in F1 on TV, would get to share a car with him one day. That’s very cool.”
Cameron and Fisichella will be rolling off from seventh on the GTLM grid today, as they look to give the Houston-based team its first finish of the season after a disastrous start to 2014, that’s been marred by heavy accidents.
The former Star Mazda champion is mindful of his task, and that’s to bring the Prancing Horse home in one piece, while putting up a competitive fight to the likes of the factory entries.
“It was very generous of Mr. Risi to allow someone with so little GTLM experience to be in his car this weekend. I’m very grateful for that,” Cameron said.
“I’m just trying to do everything correctly and learn as much as I can and try to integrate myself into the team as much as I can and be a team player and try to get the best result we can while maybe being a little safe… Hopefully we can end on a nice, strong note.”
As for his plans beyond Long Beach, it’s unclear where Cameron will end up.
Malucelli will be allowed to return to series competition for the next round but his status with the Giuseppe Risi-owned organization is unknown.
Cameron, meanwhile, is signed for the season with Turner Motorsport, although its GTD program remains in flux.
Turner took part in the Pirelli World Challenge season-opener with one of its BMW Z4 GT3 cars, with Cameron behind the wheel, but the team did not make the trip out to Long Beach for the second round of the PWC season.
With the GTLM and GTD classes running separate two-hour races at the next TUDOR Championship round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Cameron could technically drive in both, although it’s unclear if either team would permit that.
“I’m just very happy to have had this opportunity from Mr. Risi to be a part of his team this weekend and try to make the most of it,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes from there on any front.”