Michael Avenatti turned up at Paul Ricard this week to achieve a number of firsts, with the GB Autosport team principal closing in on his highly anticipated debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Avenatti, a regular on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship scene, was joined by Porsche Supercup ace Kuba Giermaziak at the wheel of JMW Motorsport’s Ferrari F458 Italia for the two-day Prologue test, which concludes Saturday at the French circuit.
While the Prologue serves as foot-in-the-water experience, Avenatti admits it could lead to bigger things in the future, including a potential full-season FIA World Endurance Championship campaign next year.
“This is our first entree into the FIA WEC,” Avenatti told Sportscar365. “We’ve had an interest in coming over and checking it out and learning about it.
“Obviously it’s pretty impressive when you come over here and see what they’ve put together. It’s also great to come over and race in Europe.
“I’ve never been to the circuit before, never had any experience with the team and the 458. So it’s a lot to digest at one time.”
Avenatti gained considerable mileage in the British squad’s Prancing Horse, which stayed over from the European Le Mans Series test earlier in the week, alongside Giermaziak, who recently took part in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring with GB Autosport.
While a deal has yet to be finalized, Avanetti said the chances of seeing him and the Polish driving standout with JMW for Le Mans is “north of 75 percent,” with other post-Le Mans FIA WEC races also a possibility.
“We’re taking a serious look at running Le Mans with the team and possibly doing something later in the season beyond Le Mans and maybe next year,” he said.
“Whatever effort we undertake in connection with the WEC, Cole [Scrogham, GB Autosport team manager] as well as Mario Prezel, our engineer.
“Those guys are top notch, so we’d have them working [within the team].”
It would mark the second consecutive year the Jim McWhirter-owned JMW team has partnered with an American contingent, after Flying Lizard Motorsports team principal Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly teamed with Abdulaziz Al Faisal in the GTE-Am class entry last year.
Avenatti, who will also take part in three Mobil 1 Porsche Supercup races this year, is excited to be exploring the European racing scene and has praised the FIA WEC after getting his first impressions this weekend.
“It’s very impressive,” he said. “I think the way they run their organization, the quality of the tracks, just everything about it. It’s pretty difficult to argue with the facilities and the paddock and the the organization. It’s a different level.”
On the U.S. front, Avenatti confirmed the team’s commitment to the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup with its Porsche 911 GT America, which will see the Tully’s “Coffee Rocket” in action next at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in June.
Additional races outside of NAEC are possible, including likely outings at Road America and Virginia International Raceway.
Avenatti said a deal for Le Mans should be finalized within the next 30 days.