James Calado is confident of Kaspersky Motorsport’s chances for this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, with Ferrari arguably holding its best shot of victory in more than a decade, after a strong start to the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season.
With AF Corse fielding three Ferrari 488 GT3s in the Pro Cup, two of which are under the Kaspersky and SMP Racing banners, the Italian manufacturer seeks its first overall win in the race since 2004, when BMS Scuderia Italia took a Prodrive-built Ferrari 550 Maranello to top honors.
Kaspersky’s lineup of Giancarlo Fisichella, Marco Cioci and James Calado has been tipped as one of the pre-race favorites, despite having a mixed start to Endurance Cup season, highlighted by a fourth place finish at Monza.
“Over the first two races we’ve struggled a bit, specifically our Kaspersky Ferrari had some problems,” Calado told Sportscar365.
“We’ve probably got one of the best lineups on the grid, but in terms of performance we just weren’t there.
“Since the first time I drove the car at Monza I felt something was a bit strange. We weren’t quite on the pace compared to the other Ferraris.
“It wasn’t until Paul Ricard they discovered cracks in the chassis. They welded it back together and straight away we found a bit of performance, but it probably still wasn’t completely perfect.”
The team debuted a new chassis at the Spa test day earlier this month, in an effort to eliminate any uncertainties ahead of the race.
“We also have a new engine, gearbox and suspension for this race, so there are no excuses,” he said.
“It’s my first 24-hour race at Spa, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Ferrari proved to be on the pace once again at Paul Ricard with at second place finish for the No. 72 SMP Racing entry, although the Kaspersky entry was forced to retire with engine failure.
With Paul Ricard and Spa being categorized in the same category of Balance of Performance, the 28-year-old Brit has a positive outlook for the race.
“We’re more confident for Spa. As long as the BoP is acceptable we have a really good chance,” Calado said. “I don’t see why we couldn’t be fighting at the front, but it’s got to be fair in the first place.
“If Lamborghini keeps on winning almost every single race, than it will be very difficult.”
Calado isn’t the only person in the paddock who has taken notice of the pace of the No. 63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, which has won three out of the six rounds so far.
“We just have to keep the car clean,” he said. “From what I’ve learned in Blancpain, any damage to a GT3 car can really affect the performance.
“We’ve got a good chance to win. All three of us are equal on pace. It’s not so much about speed, but about consistency and experience.”
While Ferrari’s last overall victory at Spa already dates back nearly 15 years, a win at Spa would also be the first 24-hour race win for the new-generation 488, in either GTE or GT3 specification.
The Ferrari factory driver is convinced he can also rely on AF Corse’s vast experience and the car’s proven track record in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as the two platform share a lot of common components
“In terms of reliability it is exactly the same, so that shouldn’t be an issue at Spa,” he said.
“AF Corse runs three Pro Cup entries, but we just do our own job and focus on ourselves. Obviously, if we’re really in a situation we can look at the data of the other cars.”