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Season Review

SPORTSCAR365: Team of the Year

Sportscar365 staff selects FFF Racing Team as its team of 2019 after incredible season…

Photo: FFF Racing Team

Orange 1 FFF Racing Team

In a year that saw Lamborghini customer teams secure an array of praiseworthy results in both Europe and North America, one team arguably stood out above the rest: Orange 1 FFF Racing Team. 

The Chinese-entered, Italian-run operation burst onto the European GT3 scene this year after claiming the Blancpain GT Series Asia title in 2018 and went on to take the European Blancpain GT Series paddock by storm.

Led by Lamborghini Squadra Corse factory driver Andrea Caldarelli, FFF fielded three Huracan GT3 Evos in both the Endurance and Sprint Cups, taking victories in both series en route to a massive trophy haul at the end of the season.

FFF won the combined Blancpain GT teams’ title and the Endurance honors, while only missing out to AKKA ASP on the Sprint title by a couple of points. What’s more, it powered Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli to all three drivers’ championships, making them the first to claim the trio of titles in the same year. 

Its Pro-Am pairing of Phil Keen and Hiroshi Hamaguchi scooped up the Pro-Am drivers’ and teams’ titles in the Sprint championship, too.

This run of success was predicted by few ahead of the season. Indeed, paddock discussions largely agreed that the new team, whose workshop next door to the Squadra Corse base in Sant’Agata Bolognese was set up merely weeks before the season-opener, would have little chance of unseating long-time leading Lamborghini operation Grasser Racing Team.

Nevertheless, it did just that, taking runner-up positions in three of the first four races at Monza, Brands Hatch and Silverstone before Caldarelli and Mapelli’s first victory at Misano.

The results kept coming in for FFF, which ultimately ended up in a battle with Black Falcon for dominance in Blancpain GT this year as long-time staples in the series such as Grasser and WRT faltered with a variety of difficulties.

FFF’s highlight came when it won the finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in September, wrapping up the Endurance and combined titles, despite missing its third driver Dennis Lind. International GT Open champion Albert Costa was drafted in as a last-minute replacement, but even this eleventh-hour upheaval couldn’t put off the No. 563 crew.

Caldarelli made no secret of his ambitions for growing the team and has frequently talked of plans to tackle the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli in 2020. As it stands, the team is set to take on the five-round global championship alongside a continuation of its European program next year.

Honorable Mentions: Acura Team Penske (IMSA DPi champion), Mazda Team Joest (breakthrough year with Mazda RT24-P), Team Project 1 (2018-19 WEC GTE-Am champion and current leader), TF Sport (success in WEC and Blancpain GT, won British GT3 and GT4 titles).

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