One of motorsport’s greatest legends has returned to the wheel this weekend at Interlagos, as Emerson Fittipaldi prepares for his FIA World Endurance Championship debut in Sunday’s Six Hours of Sao Paulo.
The two-time Formula One World Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner was a late addition to the grid after striking a deal with AF Corse to drive the team’s No. 61 Ferrari 458 Italia alongside Alessandro Pier Guidi and American Jeff Segal.
Fittipaldi, 67, who retired from top-level competition in 1996, said got the itch to make his racing comeback after testing OAK Racing’s Morgan-Judd during last year’s FIA WEC event at Interlagos.
“Last year Jacques [Nicolet] from OAK Racing called me and I did a test,” Fittipaldi told Sportscar365. “They said why not Interlagos? But then [I realized] the GT would be easier than the prototype. It’s a new challenge. I like it and I’m having a lot of fun.”
While a deal to drive an OAK-entered Morgan-Judd in this year’s race failed to materialize, Emmo is savoring the opportunity with AF Corse as he drives a Ferrari for the first time in his illustrious career.
Fittipaldi turned his first laps in the Prancing Horse in Friday’s opening practice, setting times within two seconds of co-driver Pier Guidi while being one of the quickest Bronze-rated drivers in the GTE-Am class.
“The car is good,” Fittipaldi said. “It’s a very nice car to drive with a very nice balance. It’s a big challenge to get the rhythm back and try to run as close as possible to their times.
“If I can be a second and a half closer to their time, I’d be very happy.”
While having recently tested a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in preparation for his comeback race, Fittipaldi said he already feels the most comfortable at the wheel of the 458.
“Both Jeff and Alessandro’s position [in the car] is perfect for me,” Fittipaldi said. “Even in the seat, we’re the same height. I feel like I’m home again. The car is great.
“We are looking for a podium. I think we’re going to work very hard to get a podium.”
As for his future, Fittipaldi, who also serves as the promoter for this weekend’s event, hasn’t ruled out competing in additional races, should this weekend go to plan.
“It depends on how I’m going to feel during the race,” he said. “So far, I’m feeling very happy.
“I’m very happy with my speed that I’m gaining now. I’m hoping I can continue to gain some more speed. But I’m very excited for the weekend.”