Given the right circumstances, Ozz Negri believes the debuting Squadra Corse Garage Italia team has the ingredients to fight at the front of the GT Daytona class field in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Negri makes his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship return this weekend in an all-new effort featuring Ferrari Challenge driver Francesco Piovanetti and 2016 Le Mans GTE-Pro class winner Daniel Serra in an AF Corse-run Ferrari 488 GT3.
While part of a planned three-race program that will include outings at Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Negri said he’s excited for this weekend and the potential long-term prospects it could bring.
In an encouraging start, Serra put the car third on the GTD time sheets in Friday’s opening day of practice.
“A race car is a race car and you drive as much as it will give to you,” Negri told Sportscar365. “We tested here a month ago and it all went super well.
“We have Daniel Serra with us, who is a really good, strong driver.
“Francesco, it’s his first professional race. He’s on a very steep learning curve with all the gadgets and everything the car has, as well as [dealing] with traffic.
“It’a a lot for a guy like him but he’s really doing a good job. He went out [on Friday morning] and did exactly what we asked him to do.”
Negri, who began coaching Piovanetti last year in Ferrari Challenge, said he’s been impressed with the Bronze-rated driver’s progress, although is under no illusion on the objective this weekend.
“It’s Francesco’s first [professional] race and it’s his deal. We’re here for him,” he said.
“Hopefully, if the yellows fall in the right time, we have something to fight with. I’m pretty confident in that.
“If things go well and we expand [the program], that would be great. Let’s see. One step at a time.”
“Super Strange” to be Not Be Driving with MSR
Negri admitted he had a strange feeling walking into the paddock earlier this weekend, knowing he wouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car prepared by longtime team owner Michael Shank.
Having driven for the Ohio-based squad since 2003, Negri is not part of MSR’s lineup this year, leaving the Brazilian to look for new opportunities.
“When I got here, the first thing I did was walked to Shank and hugged everybody,” Negri said. “I wanted to do it before we even started the weekend.
“But it’s super strange as I’ve been with Shank for so many years.
“It’s whole a group of new guys [to me] and you have to get used to them and know everyone.”
The Ronnie Vogel-led team is utilizing operational support from AF Corse for its WeatherTech Championship campaign, with TR3 Racing currently running its Pirelli World Challenge entry for Martin Fuentes.