After two seasons in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Giancarlo Fisichella will make the switch to U.S. racing full-time this year in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The 41-year-old Ferrari factory driver has been placed with Risi Competizione’s GT Le Mans class program, teaming with Matteo Malucelli in the Houston-based squad’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT car.
For Fisichella, who is coming off two class victories and runner-up status in the FIA WEC last year with AF Corse, the Italian is looking forward to a new chapter in his career.
“I had a good time [in the WEC],” Fisichella told Sportscar365. “We won the championship the last couple of years and we won the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“A couple of months ago when the Ferrari people asked me about 2014, the possibility to do WEC or TUSC. I took some time to make a decision but at the end I wanted to try a new experience.”
The 2014 season will mark a number of firsts for the former Ferrari F1 driver, who made only four previous starts with Risi, including last year’s Rolex 24 in a GT3-based 458. The majority of the tracks will be brand-new for him.
Another change comes with the level of competition. While having faced the mights of factory entries from Porsche and Aston Martin last year, Fisichella believes the fight for GTLM honors in the TUDOR Championship will be at a different scale.
“There is a very good challenge, maybe even more than a WEC season,” he said. “In WEC, there were just two Ferraris, two Porsches and two Aston Martins. They were very strong but it’s nice when you have at least [ten] cars in the class.”
That’s particularly the case in this weekend’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, where he and Malucelli will team with Gianmaria Bruni and Olivier Beretta in the No. 62 entry, one of eleven cars set to do battle, ten of them being factory or works-supported efforts.
“It’s going to be tough,” Fisichella said. “There’s Viper, Corvette, BMW, Porsche are very competitive. It’s going to be important to get to the end of the race, make the right pit stops and make good decisions when there’s yellow flags whether to come in or not.
“It’s important to be there in the last hour with the other guys and to try to win the race.”
While the team elected to skip the Roar Before the Rolex 24, Fisichella got laps in the GTE-spec Ferrari during the IMSA-sanctioned Daytona test in November, which saw the Prancing Horse in a slightly different aero configuration.
In addition to his new full-season commitment in America, Fisichella said he expects to return to Le Mans, likely again with AF Corse as a third driver for one of its two FIA WEC entries.
There are more than 40 drivers from the FIA WEC in action this weekend. ACO President Pierre Fillon will have the honor of waving the starting flag at 2:10 p.m. on Saturday to get the around-the-clock endurance classic underway.