Matteo Cairoli says he’s excited for his foray into endurance racing, as the Porsche Supercup ace embarks on a dual-season campaign in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series.
The 21-year-old Italian, who is part of Porsche’s crop of new “Young Professional” drivers, has been placed with Proton Competition in both championships this year.
It comes after spending the past two years as a Porsche Junior in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, where he narrowly missed out on the title to Sven Mueller due to a mechanical issue in the season-ending round at Circuit of The Americas.
“I’m approaching a new and different world, because I was used to sprint races,” Cairoli told Sportscar365. “It’s going to be a new competition for me.
“I already did some endurance racing, but not a full season like the WEC, which is the absolute pinnacle.”
Cairoli made his GT racing debut in last year’s European Le Mans Series round at the Red Bull Ring, impressively putting Proton’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on pole in his very first race.
He’s since taken part in a handful of enduros since, including the 24-hour races in Dubai and Daytona.
While the discipline is still new for him, Cairoli has proven to be a quick learner and credits the Christian Ried-led Proton squad for helping him get up to speed in the world of endurance racing.
“Proton Competition is a really good team,” he said. “I really enjoy working with them every single minute. It’s really like a family.
“It’s a new world, but I think I can learn even more than with the sprint races.
“Learning how to manage the tires, going through the traffic is really important, even if you are the slowest class on track. It’s really important to manage these difficult situations.”
Last month’s season openers at Silverstone saw a strong start to both of Cairoli’s campaigns, with a runner-up finish in the ELMS race and a third place class result in six-hour WEC round.
While having to jump between two different cars in two different paddocks, Cairoli said he enjoyed it, particularly as it was a good way to quickly gain experience with the GTE-spec Porsche.
“I like endurance racing; I can drive more than in sprint races and I can learn different situations like driving in the night, through the traffic, managing the tires,” he said.
“I already had the chance to try the WEC experience in 2015 as a spectator. I was really close to the GT and LMP1 team, so I could see how they operate.
“It’s a privilege to be here and to race again with this team.”
With race wins and titles in both series being Cairoli’s targets, Porsche’s highly touted rising star is hoping to one day become the manufacturer’s second Italian factory driver, following in the footsteps of the recent signing of two-time WEC champion Gimmi Bruni.
Bruni, who became Italy’s first Porsche works driver, will make his debut with the CORE autosport-run Porsche GT Team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in July, followed by a likely move to its WEC program next year.
Cairoli feels the addition of Bruni to the factory roster will pay dividends.
“I just need to learn from Gimmi,” he said. “In my opinion he’s the strongest GT driver in the world, in terms of experience and performance. It’s an honor to be close to him and I hope one day we can race together.”