Gabriel Casagrande hopes he’ll be able to add more IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races to his schedule after this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which he is contesting with Risi Competizione.
Casagrande, who took the Stock Car Pro Series title in his native Brazil in 2021, is joining Davide Rigon and compatriot Daniel Serra aboard the No. 62 Ferrari 296 GT3 in the Florida enduro.
It marks opportunity for international racing for Casagrande, who has spent the vast majority of his career competing in Brazilian stock cars.
After appearing in Formula Renault in Europe in 2012, he returned to Brazil and almost exclusively raced there.
A notable exception came in 2014, when he joined Performance Tech Motorsports at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, driving an Oreca FLM09 in the Prototype Challenge class.
“It’s my first experience with the team, with this car,” Casagrande told Sportscar365.
“My first race at Sebring and I am so excited to be here. It’s quite nice, because I have not been racing outside Brazil for almost ten years. It’s quite nice and I am thankful for Risi to have me here.”
Casagrande has previous history with Ferrari factory ace Serra.
The two were rivals battling for the Stock Car Pro Series title in 2021, which ultimately went the former’s way while Serra finished runner-up in the championship standings.
“Daniel is a longtime friend,” Casagrande said. “Well, we can call him a friend because we are competing against each other in Brazil.
“So here he’s my friend. Davide I just met and the guys are really helping me. So I am really happy to be here and looking forward to being in the race.”
Casagrande explained that there was an ambition to take part in more IMSA races after his 2014 Daytona outing, but that it had been difficult for him to find the necessary funding.
He added that the 2021 title paved the way for him to compete in North America, labeling it a ‘right place, right time’ situation.
“If you asked if I wanted to be here before, of course I wanted it but I had no money, so it’s hard to be here,” Casagrande said.
“Especially because our currency in Brazil is not so good so it’s hard for us. I have a lot of sponsors there, but they don’t want to be outside of our country.
“So I was just waiting for an invitation. When I became champion in 2021, things became more clear for me and I got this invitation from Risi.”
Casagrande added that he hoped to add more North American races to his schedule in the future, but stressed that it would be important to not sacrifice his ongoing commitments in the Stock Car Pro Series.
“I hope to be here. You’ll have to ask Giuseppe Risi,” Casagrande joked. “My goal here is to be racing again outside of Brazil.
“Of course I have to be in the Stock Car Series because I have a lot of sponsor there which trust my job, so I couldn’t just give up the stock cars.
“But I want to be here as many times as I can. It’s more a team decision.”
Driving Ferrari 296 GT3 “Like a Spaceship”
Casagrande also commented on the Ferrari 296 GT3 he will be driving during this weekend’s 12-hour race, stating it is a significantly different driving experience compared to the machinery he is used to racing in Brazil.
“Davide and Daniel, they are two of the most experienced guys in this car and I’m not,” he said.
“For me, it’s like a spaceship compared to what I drive in Brazil. I’m really happy to be driving this car.
“The car felt good for me. They are complaining about it to make the car setup better. But for me it was really good.”
He added that the American style of racing has taken some adaptation but that his level of readiness should be boosted by a significant level of preparation. He also took in advice from Serra.
“It’s really different compared to what we do in Brazil,” Casagrande said. “The race tracks are different. The way they work is different, so I had to learn all about it and watch it.
“I watched many things to learn it but I think I’ll only learn doing it. So it’s good to be here but it’s quite the same for everybody.
“Everybody who’s doing it for the first time has the same problems as me. So it won’t be easy, but we’re prepared to do it.”