Extreme Speed Motorsports is running a new and promising driver lineup in its No. 30 Ligier JS P2 Nissan in the FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji this weekend, as Antonio Giovinazzi reckons he, Sean Gelael and Giedo Van der Garde should be able to aim for a podium finish in the remaining three races.
Following the their home round at Circuit of The Americas, Scott Sharp, Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek announced they would be stepping aside for a new lineup backed by Jagonya Ayam, KFC’s Indonesian branch.
Both Gelael and Giovinazzi currently compete in the GP2 Series with the support of Jagonya Ayam, with the latter leading the championship by seven points with only the Abu Dhabi round remaining.
“We have a long break in the GP2 schedule between the races in Sepang and Abu Dhabi, so we thought it was a good idea to come here with ESM, which is a really good team,” Giovinazzi told Sportscar365.
“I’m really happy to be here and it will be good training as well for Abu Dhabi.”
The duo already has LMP2 experience, winning the two Asian Le Mans Series rounds they entered with the Eurasia Motorsport Oreca 03R last winter, and starting of the European season with an entry in the ELMS opener in an SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan.
The Ligier JS P2 will be the third LMP2 chassis Giovinazzi and Gelael will get to experience.
“It’s a different style of racing, but we really enjoy endurance racing,” Giovinazzi said.
Together with ex-Formula One driver and current G-Drive ace Giedo Van Der Garde, the No. 30 entry will be one to watch despite their rookie status.
“Sean [Geleal] is a really good silver. The lineup looks quite good, but we don’t know the track and not that much about the car,” Giovinazzi said.
“We didn’t really get the chance to prepare ourselves, as we didn’t have much time since GP2 at Sepang. We had a meeting with the team to find a good way to come here somewhat prepared.”
Despite the short build up, the ambitions to do well are clearly there.
“We have three races in front of us and our target is to be on the podium or at least the top-five,” he said. “Here at Fuji we need to learn as much as possible and be ready for the final two races.”
The 22-year-old Italian is closing in on the GP2 title and is on the lookout for where he might take his career next.
As it’s becoming ever more difficult to get a foot in the door of the F1 paddock, Giovinazzi, like many single seater aces, sees a lot of potential in prototype racing.
“LMP is one of the categories where something can happen in the future, to become a professional driver in LMP1 or still in LMP2. So in that perspective, it’s good experience for Sean and me,” he said.
Giovinazzi already has ties with Audi as he replaced Timo Scheider at Audi Team Phoenix for the Moscow DTM round last year, but the Italian wasn’t offered a seat for this season.
“If I win the championship, then we will see,” he said. “The dream of every driver is to become an F1 driver, but it’s really hard to arrive there. So my main target right now is to become a professional driver in F1, LMP1 or DTM.”
It’s not clear yet whether sponsor Jagonya Ayam sees this end-of-season campaign as a prelude to a full program next year or a return to the Asian Le Mans Series over the winter months.
“For now only these three races are confirmed,” Giovinazzi said. “After the GP2 finale at Abu Dhabi the sponsor will decide where we will race next.”