Sportscar365 is recognizing some of the top competitors and moments from 2022. Next up is the GT drivers of the year per category, as selected by website staff.
GTE – Alessandro Pier Guidi
Winning a third FIA World Endurance Championship is impressive enough on its own without having to nurture a wounded car across the line in the season finale, but such was the fashion in which Alessandro Pier Guidi achieved the landmark feat this year.
Pier Guidi and his longtime co-driver James Calado cemented their place as the GTE-Pro category’s most successful driver pairing in terms of title wins, surpassing two-time champions like Gianmaria Bruni, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.
The foundations for such success were laid with race victories at Spa-Francorchamps and Fuji. In the former, Pier Guidi remained in striking distance of the sister car with over four hours of driving in challenging conditions, allowing Calado to later capture the lead and go on to win.
Additionally, the 39-year-old took AF Corse’s sole GTE-Pro pole position of the year on home soil at Monza. He went on to lead a large chunk of the race, seemingly setting the Tifosi up for a home victory before a penalty dropped the No. 51 car to third place.
But Pier Guidi’s finest hour came during the last-ever GTE-Pro race in Bahrain. While leading the race, Calado encountered gearbox issues before handing his unwell Ferrari over to Pier Guidi who expertly nursed it home without fourth gear to secure the title.
While Pier Guidi’s involvement in the development of Ferrari’s new-for-2023 machinery meant we did not see much of him outside of the WEC, he continued to be one of the leading lights in GTE-Pro.
With a spot in the manufacturer’s Hypercar program seemingly on the horizon, the future looks bright for one of GT racing’s biggest stars.
Honorable mentions: Nick Tandy (led Corvette Racing to breakthrough class victory at Monza, took Le Mans pole) Antonio Fuoco (victory in Bahrain season finale), Gianmaria Bruni (Le Mans class winner, ELMS GTE champion)
GT3 – Raffaele Marciello
The always-fast, always spectacular Raffaele Marciello enjoyed another stellar season that furthered his claim to being the best GT3 driver on the planet.
The 28-year-old, who races under a Swiss license, was on blistering form as he helped guide Mercedes-AMG Team Akkodis ASP to glory at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
By the end of the year, Marciello was also a Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and ADAC GT Masters champion, demonstrating his pedigree behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in both long-distance and sprint races.
In addition to racking up the trophies, Marciello could always be relied upon to deliver fireworks: for example, at Brands Hatch when he almost clattered the left-side barrier after getting out of shape at the bottom of Paddock Hill. In a category where the cars are so well-planted to the track, Marciello regularly brings a flair that makes his driving stand out.
And best of all, he’s fast when he does it. Marciello still led qualifying at Brands despite his scary moment, kicking off a run of four Sprint Cup pole positions in sessions where he repeatedly beat the likes of Dries Vanthoor, Jules Gounon and Christopher Mies.
Marciello also took six fastest laps in Sprint Cup, one in Endurance Cup and four pole positions in GT Masters.
A regular fixture at the top of the timing sheets regardless of the stakes, Marciello is perhaps the benchmark driver in GT3.
Honorable mentions: Dries Vanthoor (GTWC Europe Sprint Cup champion, won Nürburgring 24, 24H Dubai), Jules Gounon (24H Spa winner, GTWC Europe Endurance Cup champion, 12H Bathurst winner), Daniel Juncadella (24H Spa winner plus titles in Endurance Cup and IGTC), Sheldon van der Linde (DTM champion), Matt Campbell (IMSA GTD Pro champion, gold at FIA Motorsport Games)
GT4 – Erwan Bastard
More than just an eye-catching name, 24-year-old Frenchman Erwan Bastard emerged as a potential future star in GT racing with an excellent season in the GT4 ranks driving for Sainteloc Junior Team.
Bastard and his American co-driver Roee Meyuhas became the first Silver Cup pairing to win both the GT4 European Series and the FFSA French GT Championship in the same year.
Bastard’s notable drives in the Audi R8 LMS GT4 included twice building 10-second leads in a safety car-affected race at Hockenheim where he also took pole, and making the race-deciding overtake at Spa-Francorchamps.
Those performances and more convinced Sainteloc to give him a shot in a GT3 Audi at the end of the year.
Despite being thrown into the deep end as part of a factory-supported Audi Sport Team entry for the Gulf 12 Hours, Bastard proved a reliable pair of hands and achieved an overall podium alongside Patric Niederhauser and Christopher Haase.
Further trust will be placed in Bastard next year when the engineering student takes on a full season of Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS.
His recent performances in the GT4 ranks suggest that he can soak up the pressure of that challenge.
Honorable mentions: Stevan McAleer (dominated Pirelli GT4 America, IMSA race winner), Trent Hindman (IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge GS champion), Roee Meyuhas (GT4 European Series, FFSA French GT champion), Lluc Ibanez (GT4 Europe runner-up)
GT500 – Bertrand Baguette
After eight seasons with Honda, Baguette opened a new chapter of his long sports car racing career with Nissan and proved an instant hit with a title-winning campaign.
The 36-year-old Belgian and his Impul co-driver Kazuki Hiramine won the GT500 championship in Japan’s Super GT series, staving off several other strong pairings.
Baguette’s move to Nissan coincided with the Yokohama-based manufacturer’s rollout of the new Z GT500 car which blitzed the competition from Honda and Toyota.
The new signing slotted neatly into his new environment, even if it took a few rounds to get Impul’s championship bid rolling.
After a second-place finish at Fuji, the breakthrough occurred in the fifth round at Suzuka where an inspired pit stop call during a safety car facilitated a last-to-first victory.
Baguette and Hiramine remained front runners throughout the second half of the campaign and ultimately managed to secure the title at Motegi, where Baguette produced an excellent opening stint to hold third before Hiramine brought the title home.
Honorable mentions: Kazuki Hiramine (first-time GT500 champion), Katsumasa Chiyo (two race wins and 2nd in standings), Naoki Yamamoto (key driver for Honda, 3rd in points), Sena Sakaguchi (three pole positions for Toyota)
Best Bronze – Ben Keating
For three years, Ben Keating needed to live with an empty spot in his trophy cabinet after his Ford GT was disqualified from the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2019.
This year, the Texan finally claimed that elusive GTE-Am class win, banishing his French demons at last. On top of that, Keating used the Le Mans victory to kickstart a championship campaign that culminated with a world title under the floodlights in Bahrain.
In the six-race FIA World Endurance Championship, the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE failed to reach the podium twice: once because of Henrique Chaves’ spectacular, barrel-roll crash at Monza and a second time when it finished fourth at the title decider.
Against that, it tallied victories at Le Mans and Fuji, while finishing second place in the first two races in the U.S. and Belgium. Keating was instrumental in all of those. However, it was in qualifying where his individual qualities were often most clearly visible.
The opening two rounds of the season were particular highlights: at Sebring, he outpaced fellow Aston Martin man Paul Dalla Lana by 1.3 seconds and qualified ahead of both GTE-Pro Ferraris. At Spa, the gap was even greater at a scarcely believable 1.5 seconds.
As the season progressed and Iron Dames’ Sarah Bovy began to pick up steam in qualifying with poles at Monza and Bahrain, it was Keating who pushed the Belgian hardest on both occasions.
Simply put, Keating was the class of the GTE-Am field in 2022. He’s been rewarded with a dream drive as part of Corvette Racing’s GTE-Am effort next year in what will likely be his WEC swan song. He will no doubt be the Bronze to beat in 2023.
Honorable mentions: Ian Loggie (British GT champion), Brendan Iribe (captured the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup and GTWC Europe Endurance Gold Cup titles on two continents during the same weekend), Sarah Bovy (class winner in ELMS and 24H Spa, polesitter in WEC), Kenny Habul (Bathurst 12H overall winner, IGTC Pro-Am champion)