The last four years have seen Giacomo Mattioli’s Scuderia Corsa team quickly establish itself as one of the preeminent Ferrari sports car teams in North America, if not the entire world of sports car racing.
A GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT driver’s championship in 2013 was the starting point with Alessandro Balzan, meanwhile last year, Scuderia Corsa’s driving pair of Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler captured the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Daytona title, and Bell, Sweedler and Jeff Segal banked a GTE-Am class podium in the team’s debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Flash forward to 2016 and Mattioli isn’t slowing down. If anything, the team is building an even bigger program with a full-season GTD effort, a Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup GT Le Mans entry, a second 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance, at least one GTA car in Pirelli World Challenge and several Ferrari Challenge cars.
As Mattioli explained, the building process is key for the entirety of the Scuderia Corsa brand within sports car racing.
“We have been, since the beginning, a platform of multiple programs,” Mattioli told Sportscar365.
“From the moment where started Scuderia Corsa we had (Ferrari) Challenge experience, then GT, then endurance, and last year we expanded even more with PWC.
“Yes, it is challenging for sure. But there’s a lot of passion, organization and a lot of hard work that goes into it.
“What we have as an advantage is the brand we represent, Ferrari. Our goal, our job is to put in place the goals and opportunities to experience this passion and brand. That’s the idea. But it takes a long amount of hours to work.”
On that front there have been a number of changes for 2016 owing to shifts in the marketplace.
Bell and Sweedler switched to O’Gara Motorsport’s new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 car, while Balzan returns after a one-year hiatus and has Christina Nielsen as a new co-driver.
The young Dane shifts from TRG-AMR to Scuderia Corsa in the first of an expected multi-year program, Mattioli said.
The GTLM Patron Endurance Cup program gives Scuderia Corsa a U.S. place to race a GTE-spec Ferrari 488 GTE, after dipping its toes in the water at Le Mans last year with the previous generation F458 Italia.
“As we open a new cycle in the 488, we felt we were ready to do the last step in the ladder of the GT world, with having a GTLM program as well,” Mattioli explained.
“That’s why we purchased a 488 GTE for GTLM. And we’re looking forward to develop the last step on the next three four years for the life cycle of this vehicle.”
The 488 GTE, driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, Daniel Serra, Alexandre Premat and Memo Rojas for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, will be the team’s only new car.
A delay in building and receiving the team’s 488 GT3 – not a homologation delay as initially disclosed – is the reason why its GTD full-season challenger isn’t at Daytona, replaced instead by the venerable 458 Italia GT3 for one last race.
“It’s always a little bit of a rush for Rolex, Daytona, in January,” Mattioli said. “And the car will be ready for Sebring and with a lot of testing done.
“Here, priority has been given to the GTLM. We think it’s good to have one new car in the team, and to have the second new car for the next race.”
There’s also an increased managerial structure to complement Mattioli’s leadership at the top.
New managing director Eric Bachelart now joins sporting director Stefan Johansson and technical director Roberto Amorosi.
Johansson and Bachelart raced against each other in IndyCar in the 1990s and have both owned their own teams. As both are highly regarded in the paddock, Scuderia Corsa has done well to get them all under one roof.
“We’ve stepped it up on every level,” Johansson told Sportscar365. “Adding an LM car is a big huge leap forward, and with more Challenge cars, we recognized that we need to add more to the management.
“I’ve known Eric for years. We used to race against each other in IndyCar, and then ran separate teams. I respect everything he’s done and the way he does things.”
Bachelart was equally complimentary about both Mattioli and Johansson’s way of operating.
“Stefan called me. I’ve been in racing all my life and I was missing it a bit after my program with Conquest (Racing) stopped,” Bachelart told Sportscar365.
“This is all still very new to me but I observed the team before I made any decision. I knew Stefan was involved and Giacomo has done so much for both cars. It’s a great opportunity, and it gets me back as well.”
There’s several lineup decisions to be made for some of Scuderia Corsa’s biggest races the rest of the year.
The GTLM lineup for Daytona is set, as is the GTD lineup with Jeff Segal and Robert Renauer joining Balzan and Nielsen for the Rolex 24. Sebring’s GTD lineup isn’t yet confirmed.
Meanwhile Bell and Sweedler will return for a GTE-Am class one-off at Le Mans with the F458 Italia, and Segal is expected to join them once again following Sweedler’s reclassification back from Silver to Bronze rating following an appeal.
The focus, though, in the WeatherTech Championship is seeing Nielsen capture the title she just missed out on to Bell and Sweedler last year. Mattioli thinks it can happen.
“We’re in the best position possible to defend the championship with her,” he said.
“We’re coming off a very good weekend, first real testing and getting everyone together. Everything is clicking very nicely. We have a big year ahead.”