After getting a taste of success with a third place finish last year, Scuderia Corsa is set for a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as one of the select IMSA-based teams making the trek across the pond for the twice-around-the-clock French endurance classic.
Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal — all rookies in the race last year — have been reunited with the Giacomo Mattioli-owned team, in a near identical-effort that will see the all-American trio aim for the top step of the GTE-Am class podium with its Ferrari F458 Italia GT.
“I had heard from so many drivers who had been to Le Mans that it’s like nothing else, you can’t even describe it,” Sweedler told Sportscar365.
“And now, after being there, it’s more than they could have articulated, how amazing it is. It is a special experience.
“It’s hallowed ground, and just the fans and the atmosphere and the quality of the show that is put on is second-to-none, frankly.
“For us, being all-American, that’s very special. Being reunited with Giacomo is very special.”
Sweedler, who is again the driving force behind Scuderia Corsa’s Le Mans effort, has returned to the team that took he and longtime co-driver Bell to the IMSA GT Daytona title in 2015.
While they’ve gone their separate ways in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year, team principal Mattioli said a chance of a Le Mans repeat was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“From the beginning we were very clear that we were going to do Le Mans together,” Mattioli told Sportscar365. “He has the car, we can support him so there was no doubts.
“As it turned out, we won the championship last year and at that time we knew we were going to go separate ways.
“But there have been no issues whatsoever. I think we’re going to race for many years with Bill, one way or another.”
Sweedler believes the chemistry between the three drivers, as well the experience from last year, will pay dividends.
“Going back to Le Mans, we’re going to be ready for what the experience is,” he said.
“Last year, it was true baptism by fire, and it was difficult. This year, knowing what to expect will be half the battle.”
As was the case last year, Mattioli’s California-based team will again be joining forces with two trusted European partners for its Le Mans effort.
Both Kessel Racing and Michelotto will be providing operational and logistical support, combined with existing Scuderia Corsa crew, including technical director Roberto Amorosi.
“That marriage was perfect, frankly,” Sweedler said. “We took a lot of the team members from Scuderia Corsa; it was the best of the best.
“[Kessel] has fantastic experience on European tracks, a ton of experience at Le Mans, so like I said it was the perfect marriage putting the two together.
“Most important, the Michelotto team… Christiano [Michelotto] has been an avid supporter and has always been there when we’ve needed something rushed.
“The Michelotto group is one of the best that we’ve ever experienced with any manufacturer, and Townsend and I feel like we’ve dealt with every manufacturer in the paddock now.”
Another renewed partnership comes in the form of tires, with Michelin again serving as a technical partner, one year after working together for the first time.
Scuderia Corsa has enjoyed an increased involvement with the French tire manufacturer since, through its new GT Le Mans program in the WeatherTech Championship with the new Ferrari 488 GTE car.
The team recently scored pole in the highly competitive class at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Mattioli believes the relationship on the GTLM side will benefit their Le Mans GTE-Am effort this year.
“The Michelin experience gets better and better,” he said. “Having raced with another brand [in IMSA, in GTD], and going [to Le Mans] last year, it was new for everyone.
“With the GTLM [in IMSA part-time competition this year], we have the experience with the Michelin guys and have the same tire engineer that will come over and follow us in Le Mans.
“I think that partnership is stronger and will be very beneficial.”
With a stacked GTE-Am class field of 13 entries, nearly half of those being full-season FIA World Endurance Championship entrants, Sweedler, Mattioli and the entire team realize the level of competition they’ll be up against again.
But in having a year’s worth of experience under their belts, Sweedler feels anything less than a podium would be a disappointment.
“At Le Mans, it’s all about understanding what you’re going be to doing,” Sweedler said.
“Because when you’re there and when you’re experiencing it, you’re in awe of the amount of processing that has to take place. And now at least we have an understanding of what the expectations are.”
Mattioli added: “We’re confident. We feel like we paid our dues and did very well last year. We’re definitely very motivated this year. We want to improve.”