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Fisichella Enjoying New GTE-Am ‘Team Leader’ Role

Giancarlo Fisichella discusses his recent switch to pro-am racing with Ferrari…

Photo: MPS Agency

Giancarlo Fisichella says he’s relishing his new position as the lead driver in one of Ferrari’s GTE-Am entries for the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The 45-year-old former grand prix star will be making his debut in the category, behind the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GTE operated by the AF Corse-run Spirit of Race squad, alongside Silver-rated Francesco Castellacci and Bronze driver Thomas Flohr, who have competed together since 2012.

The campaign will be the Italian’s first time racing in the WEC for five years, and will include his first 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance outside the all-professional GT class.

“It is a different crew – we have one Bronze, one Silver and myself,” Fisichella told Sportscar365, “But my approach is always the same: maximum attack and maximum effort.

“All together we need to work to lose as little time during the pit stops, and when the prototypes overtake us. Those are the main areas the Bronze driver needs to work on most.”

“I enjoy being a teacher. It’s my pleasure to give my teammates some advice on how improve. Seeing them happy when they improve makes me happy.”

This year will also be the first time Fisichella has signed up to a full-time drive with a Pro-Am outfit.

His only previous experiences in such a crew composition were sporadic outings in the 2016 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.

Fisichella says he’s settling in nicely to to his unofficial mentor role with Flohr, which is a far cry from the past eight years which have been spent sharing the garage with two Gold or Platinum caliber co-drivers.

“Thomas is a nice guy; he wants to learn and improve,” said Fisichella, who was with Spirit of Race for the first time at last month’s Prologue pre-season test. “We work together on data, we look at videos and see how to get better.

“He had a good test at the Prologue, especially during the night session. I think he drove very well there. He did his best lap in the night, so I was quite impressed.”

“I like the environment because this is one big family, and I know most of the mechanics already actually.

“My race engineer Luigi Urbinelli was my first engineer in 2010 when I did my first season with Toni Vilander and Jean Alesi [at AF Corse], so it’s nice to be back with him.

“It’s a great atmosphere and I have worked many years with them, so I feel comfortable going into this new season.”

Fisichella’s Pro-Am commitment extends to Blancpain GT, where he is sharing a Ferrari 488 GT3 at selected rounds of the Endurance Cup with Lorenzo Bontempelli and Alex Demirdjian.

He will also debut in the Italian GT Championship this weekend, again driving a GT3s-spec Ferrari but with former series champion Stefano Gai.

However, the WEC campaign will be his only full-season effort considering one round of the national series clashes with Le Mans in June.

Looking ahead to his GTE-Am venture, Fisichella reckons Ferrari may have its work cut out at the Six Hours of Spa next week after Porsche dominated the time sheets at the Prologue.

“We are working to find the best setup for all of us and we are going in the right direction,” he said.

“The car is improving step by step, but we were very slow in a straight line – about 10 or 12 km/h slower than Porsche and Aston Martin, which I think was a bit unfair.

“But we have a good driver lineup and I’m looking forward to scoring some good results through the season.”

Fisichella Keeping Tabs on IMSA

Despite being part of the WEC paddock for 2018-19, Fisichella has not discounted the possibility of  returning to North American competition next year.

He says the addition of a WEC event at Sebring in March, to be held on the same weekend as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours, might present an opportunity for an extra drive.

Fisichella raced at Sebring with AF Corse in 2011-12, and with Risi Competizione between 2014-17.

“It’s great to be back at Sebring with the WEC,” he said. “The day after is the 12 hours and it would be nice to drive in both categories. Let’s see if there is a chance.

“It’s going to be tough physically for sure. Sebring is a great circuit and a great race and I’m happy to be back there.

“Right now I’m quite busy this year with WEC, Italian GT and two races in Blancpain GT, so it’s enough for me. I will do the last three races of WEC in 2019 and then we will see where my program is going.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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