Sam Bird says he has “no worries” about jumping into the Ferrari’s GTE-Pro driver lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans despite his last race with the manufacturer coming almost one year ago.
Formula E star Bird is making his first GT racing appearance with Ferrari’s factory setup since the same event last year. He is contesting Le Mans as a late stand-in for Davide Rigon, who was withdrawn from the race on a doctor’s recommendation last week.
Rigon was involved in a huge four-car crash at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa three weeks ago and required a brief visit to hospital, where he received a back brace support.
Bird is teaming up with full-season FIA World Endurance Championship drivers Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra in the No. 52 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, which led Free Practice 1.
The Brit told Sportscar365 he was “delighted” to answer Ferrari’s call for a late replacement and also indicated that he’s confident at being able to get dialed in quickly.
“Obviously I wasn’t planned to do anything this year, as the lineups were already done,” said Bird.
“But after the incident that Davide had at Spa, I got the phone call from Ferrari which I was delighted to accept.
“I’m sad for Davide, as he’s such an important part of the Ferrari family. He’s been involved for so long. It’s disappointing to not have him here with us, to fight with him and have him try to win this race.
“Every year that I’ve done it with Ferrari I’ve been with Davide, so from our side of the garage we say ‘get well soon’ and we can’t wait to have him back.
“From a selfish perspective though, I’m delighted to be back involved and in the frame, and to see what I can do this year.”
Bird said that Ferrari called him “a couple of hours” after the accident at Spa, however he did not have time to sample a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo until FP1 on Wednesday afternoon, in part due to a clash between last weekend’s test day and the Berlin E-Prix.
Despite that, he feels as though he’s able to plug straight into the car and the AF Corse Ferrari operation almost one year on from his last outing with the team at Le Mans alongside Rigon and Molina.
One benefit is that Bird is driving for the GTE-Pro entry in which he contested three WEC seasons and five Le Mans editions.
“It was pretty evident that Ferrari were thinking Davide might not be ready,” said Bird.
“That’s when I knew there were going to be talks. It all depended on how he was feeling and if he needed to recover from an injury.
“I haven’t been able to [go testing] because of other commitments but I know the team inside out, back to front.
“I know this car very well. I’ve worked a lot with Miguel, and it’s always good to have that consistency. So I’ve got no worries that I can jump in this car and it’ll be fine.
“Ferrari are showing a large amount of faith in me, in that I’m doing the same amount of work as the others. I’m pretty sure they think that I can just jump in and do the job that is required.”
Bird added that he always thought he would return to the wheel of a Ferrari GT car despite no longer being a member of its works driver roster since the start of this year.
“I didn’t expect it to be my last Le Mans with Ferrari as such,” he suggested.
“It’s a case of them being full this year and they had commitments in something else.
“But I’m still close with everybody at Ferrari and speak to them on a regular basis.
“It’s not that the door is closed: it’s just a door where the rooms are full right now. We’ll see in the future.”