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FFF Working Towards Le Mans Invite Goal

Orange 1 FFF Racing Team aiming for Le Mans; could enter Le Mans Cup or Asian LMS…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Orange 1 FFF Racing Team could mount a program in Michelin Le Mans Cup or Asian Le Mans Series with the aim of receiving an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Italian-based, Chinese-entered team expanded into the Blancpain GT Series this year after previous success in Asia.

It has provisionally claimed the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe title and could also take championships in the Endurance Cup and overall standings at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend.

Team owner/driver Andrea Caldarelli has already confirmed plans to complete the full Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season in 2020 but an additional program to get to Le Mans could now also be on the cards.

An Asian LMS entry with Hiroshi Hamaguchi, which was the initial plan, has become less likely in recent weeks owing to a family commitment for the Japanese driver which could force him to miss the final two rounds of the 2019-20 season.

“At the moment, we are still in standby for his personal commitment,” Caldarelli told Sportscar365.

“There was a very big intention for that, we really had some good interest to do that, but if he cannot commit to do it, we are not going to do it. We are waiting for his personal decision.

“We have a deadline of the middle of October so we still have a couple of weeks. I know he is working on it because he really wants to do it.”

Hamaguchi and Phil Keen won the Pro-Am drivers’ title in GT World Challenge Europe this year, driving one of FFF’s three Lamborghinis in the sprint series.

If an Asian LMS program isn’t possible, Caldarelli wants to target the Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2020, which he now sees as a more viable route to Le Mans.

“For Michelin Cup, there is a good percentage [chance] that we can do it, and that’s also another way to get into Le Mans, and that is something more realistic,” he said.

“We have some interest for next year as well, without losing our commitment with the SRO, so a parallel program. We are studying to enter there.”

FFF wouldn’t be able to use a Lamborghini at Le Mans, as the Italian manufacturer doesn’t build cars to GTE regulations, although Caldarelli says it would still use a Huracan GT3 Evo in a Le Mans Cup or Asian LMS program.

“While we are racing in GT3, we are committed to Lamborghini, and we would definitely be with a Lambo car,” he said. 

If it won an invite to Le Mans, FFF would then have to use another manufacturer, which he hinted could be Porsche as a fellow Volkswagen Group brand.

“Most probably a manufacturer that would be in the Volkswagen Group, as we are a big group, but that’s in my mind,” Caldarelli explained.

“You never know, maybe with Aston, with Ferrari. With Ferrari, I see it quite difficult with Italian competition, but let’s see.”

Last-Minute Barcelona Driver Changes “Stressful”

Caldarelli admitted that a number of driver changes for FFF’s three cars at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend have been difficult ahead of an important championship-deciding event.

Caldarelli himself and teammate Marco Mapelli will be joined by Albert Costa, replacing Dennis Lind, who has been taken ill.

Elsewhere at the team, Giacomo Altoe is in for Franck Perera, whose ADAC GT Masters commitments with Grasser Racing Team are taking priority, while Andrea Amici fills Diego Menchaca’s seat owing to sponsorship difficulties for the Mexican.

“Talking about my car, Albert is a great driver,” Caldarelli said.

“We really respect him and we’re very happy to welcome him, especially on his home track, but it is difficult to change the lineup when there is such a delicate, sensitive weekend.

“It’s very stressful. I think me, Marco and our engineer, we are such a strong core of the car so we can definitely rely on Albert even if he doesn’t know the team or anybody.”

Costa and Altoe both competed at Barcelona last weekend in the International GT Open weekend. The pair currently lead the series’ standings for Emil Frey Racing.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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