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Di Grassi Pushing for Full-Time Return to Sports Car Racing

Lucas di Grassi wants a full-time return to sportscar racing next year…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Lucas di Grassi has revealed ambitions of returning to sports car racing full-time and find a program to balance with his commitments with Audi in Formula E.

Di Grassi made his debut for Audi Sport Team Joest at Interlagos in 2012 before becoming a full-season member of its LMP1 lineup in 2014.

The Brazilian took two race wins last year, including victory in Audi’s swansong race in Bahrain alongside Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval in the No. 8 Audi R18.

Di Grassi did not pursue a full-season sports car program this year, instead preferring to focus on his commitments in Formula E with ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, which will become a works Audi operation beginning next season.

AF Corse announced at the end of March that di Grassi would be joining its No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE squad for Le Mans, and despite his inexperience in GT cars, he hopes he can gain plenty from the one-off appearance ahead of a full-season return.

“I’m very happy that Audi gave me the opportunity and Ferrari also trusts that I can do a good job with the GTE car,” di Grassi told Sportscar365.

“It will give me a good experience for the future, in terms of when I go back to LMP. If I go back, I go back to LMP1. I will not do LMP2.

“Either I will do GT in the future in endurance races or I will do LMP1, or DPi in the U.S. I don’t have much interest in doing LMP2.

“That would give me good experience if I continue with the GT in the future, or also if I move back to LMP1 or DPi in the future, I will also know how the GT feels like.

“So it will be a good complement. So that’s why I decided to do it. I have a very strong team behind me.”

Di Grassi had previously said he was unsure about balancing Formula E with WEC, but would be happy to do so in 2018 as long as there are no clashes between the championships.

One of the biggest concerns for drivers in both camps comes in the clash between the Six Hours of Nürburgring WEC race and the Formula E double-header in New York on the July 16 weekend, with di Grassi’s title rival Sebastien Buemi facing a dilemma.

“I hope there are ways to fix this clash solution that WEC does not clash with Formula E., For example, Seb is in a very difficult situation,” he said.

“It’s especially [difficult] for Seb because he is driving for two manufacturers, and manufacturers always want the priority. If you’re driving for a private team like LMP2, like Jean-Eric Vergne, it’s clear he will have Formula E as the priority.

“The point is to drive at the highest level, you have to choose one, but if there is no clash you can do both. So hopefully they can avoid this clash in the future and then I can do both championships.”

Should clashes remain between Formula E and WEC in 2018, di Grassi’s focus could turn to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the burgeoning DPi platform.

A number of new factory programs are on the horizon, including the arrival of a two-car Penske Honda effort for next year, and continued talks of possible involvement from Audi in the future.

“Another option is the U.S. DPi is going really well,” di Grassi said. “I never did Daytona, I did Sebring once and finished second in my first race as an Audi driver in 2013.

“There is Daytona, Sebring, all of the American endurance championship is also interesting. But only if the conditions are right and only if you are challenging for the victory overall.”

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.


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