IMSA Spotlight: Alessandro Balzan
Driver: No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3
Congratulations on winning the 2016 GT Daytona Championship! How did Petit Le Mans go for you, Christina Nielsen and Jeff Segal?
“It was really fun when you go in the car and know you can really push hard because you have nothing to lose. It’s great. The Ferrari 488 GT3 was great to drive, especially in the cold air.
“I had a [an issue] with 30 minutes to go; that was the reason I dropped to P8. Then the team said we have a yellow and let’s try to go for a top-five. Then we grabbed the podium on the last lap. It was great.
“Christina really impressed me because she drove great for three hours straight. With this track and the traffic, it was a really, really good performance. I’m very proud of her and proud to be a part of Scuderia Corsa.
“We won Sebring, we won The Glen, we the championship, and they won Le Mans in GTE-Am. I think it’s a crazy year for them and I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
This is your second major sports car championship in North America. How does the GTD title compare to your Grand-Am GT championship in 2013?
“It’s sweeter because back then I was alone winning the championship. I had Jeff Westphal, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Leh Keen helping me. With this, I’ve shared the car with Christina so I’m very happy that she’s made history, so I’m very happy I helped her with this.
“It’s also nice because it’s something to share. I’ve never won a championship together. Over my career, all of my championships have come while running alone. So this is new for me and I’m really happy.”
How has it been adapting to the Ferrari 488 GT3 car, in its first year of international competition?
“We received the car at Sebring and won straight away. The car has shown speed immediately and reliability. The Twelve Hours of Sebring is really like 48 hours in Europe.
“We never had even one little mechanical or electrical issue, not even in a single Free Practice. This shows how good the 488 is. I feel lucky to drive this car because it really suits my driving style and it’s a pleasure to drive.”
What do you think was one of the most challenging parts of the season?
“At one point of the season we were really slow on the straights and it was really hard for us to overtake. Even if we had a good performance on a lap, but when we were driving behind other cars, it was impossible to make the move without taking any risks.
“When you’re leading the championship, you don’t want to take any risks. We always collected the maximum points in some races. I remember Road America, we had the car to do P6 or P7 and we did P3. I think we really helped [win] the championship there because we finished in front of all of our competitors without having the fastest car on track.”
What would it mean to return to GTD next year, especially with the influx of manufacturers coming to the class?
“I think Daytona is really important for Ferrari in America and it’s maybe more important for me. I really want to win that race and I will do the best I can to make the 488 competitive at Daytona.
“I’ve never been on the podium there. I tasted it two or three times, so I think it’s time to bring it home next year.”