With an all-American driver lineup and enough of a solidified European presence to aid its transition to its first 24 Hours of Le Mans, Giacomo Mattioli’s Scuderia Corsa team is poised for success in the GTE-Am class this year.
While the trio of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal in the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia are all-American, they’re also Le Mans rookies.
They’ll work in tandem with a mix of American and European crew, the latter from Kessel Racing and Michelotto. The team’s pit stop practice went well on Tuesday in preparation for the rest of the week.
As a whole, Scuderia Corsa has built toward this moment for the better part of three years.
Mattioli’s team, which only made its series debut in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in late 2012 but went on to win the GT class title a year later, is now at Le Mans not even a full three years later.
Meanwhile the seeds of Bell and Sweedler’s assault on Le Mans were sown in 2012, when they paired with Dion von Moltke to win that year’s Twelve Hours of Sebring for Alex Job Racing in the American Le Mans Series GTC class.
Bell, Sweedler and Segal were three of the five drivers who won the Rolex 24 for Level 5 Motorsports in the TUDOR Championship’s GT Daytona class in 2014, and now they’ll have a shot to add one more marquee endurance race win to their resumes.
“The combination of Scuderia Corsa and the team we’ve assembled, while we are newcomers to Le Mans, each one of us, Jeff, Townsend and myself, have been in this spot before,” Sweedler told Sportscar365.
“We were newcomers at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, so we hope we can carry that luck with all the preparation, all the expertise, all the partnerships we’ve put together to make this as successful as possible.
“That’s been the motivation. Let’s get Daytona, and we’re going to Le Mans. This started three years ago.”
Mattioli, who is overseeing a dual-pronged U.S. program with both TUDOR Championship and Pirelli World Challenge entries, explained the logistics and planning process that went into making the Le Mans dream a reality.
“It’s a big endeavor. In Detroit we [had] 25 people, personnel, here between the race in TUDOR and Pirelli,” Mattioli told Sportscar365. “Then at Le Mans, [we have] 15 people.
“Obviously we have access to team personnel and equipment in Europe, we’re running the car with Michelotto, which prepared the car, gives us the engineer and the lead mechanics. Our team technical director Roberto Amorosi is in Le Mans.
“It was a challenge. I’m very confident that we’ll have a great car for Le Mans. The car has been completely rebuilt, like a brand new car. We have full support from the factory, Michelotto, so we’ll be in good shape.”
Bell, Sweedler and the GTD team’s data engineer, Colin Mason, went over to Le Mans immediately after Detroit. Mattioli said five more team members from Scuderia Corsa’s TUDOR Championship program will also be on site for the race.
In addition to the Michelotto prep work done since January, Mattioli confirmed they had rented tools and equipment from Kessel Racing.
“You need to have some insider there,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to ship the things from here.”
The car is the same chassis Bell and Sweedler drove the full 2013 ALMS, but is essentially a new car compared to two years ago.
What was a Yokohama-shod ALMS GT-spec car is now a modified, updated Ferrari running on Michelins. Sweedler joked he’s had as much seat time in the chassis since 2013 as he does in his GTD-spec 458 Italia, which is to say not much.
What Sweedler didn’t joke about was the effort Mattioli and the team assembled for this race.
“Giacomo is being very humble,” Sweedler said. “I’ve raced with a lot of what I consider the best sports car teams in the series [Job, AIM, etc.], and what he’s done in the past couple years to elevate himself to the top of the game, and how he runs and manages his team is second to none.
“Frankly the logistics of what’s going on has been unbelievable. The critical components of who we rely on will be with us at Le Mans.”
Both Bell and Sweedler have had time in the simulator (see Bell’s thoughts here) and Sweedler echoed Bell in terms of praising the ACO for the preparation it provides.
For Segal, meanwhile, Le Mans comes after running the second half of the 2014 WEC season with the 8Star Motorsports-entered, AF Corse-run, entry.
It’s an overdue race debut for the American, who is the closest thing at the moment to an American factory driver for Ferrari.
Mattioli noted where his team fits into history with other successful American teams running Ferraris.
“It’s a trajectory where now, it’s happening,” he said. “Obviously it’s a major honor to be able to represent Ferrari and North America in a big race like Le Mans.
“Ferrari has a long history, particularly from North American racing teams at Le Mans, like Chinetti and Risi Competizione. We’re so proud to represent this lineage, so hopefully we do well.”