Andrea Caldarelli described Orange 1 FFF Racing Team’s resounding victory at the Nürburgring as a “big relief” after “always missing something” in the three previous Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup races this year.
Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Mirko Bortolotti dominated Sunday’s three-hour race in Germany with their No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which started from pole after the Italian combination topped qualifying for the third time in four events.
Their final result came after being unable to fully capitalize on their Lamborghini’s flying single-lap pace at Monza, Paul Ricard and the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
Monza saw an electrical issue force the No. 63 car to retire early on, while a sudden pace drop resulted in FFF losing a five-hour lead in the last stint of the Paul Ricard 1000km.
Caldarelli, Mapelli and Bortolotti then ran near the front in the opening quarter of the Spa blue riband fixture last month, but encountered three drive-through penalties for pit speeding and incident responsibility which set them back in eighth at the finish.
“I would say we were trying to bring the luck back to us,” Caldarelli told Sportscar365.
“We always had the pace and were mega in qualifying, but we were always missing something in the races.
“It’s really a big relief. Starting from pole and finishing with a strong win is definitely what we needed after Spa.
“At Monza we were leading until a failure. The same happened at Paul Ricard in the last hour. This time it worked: we did a good strategy to keep the [new] tires until the last stint.
“We learned from the mistakes of last year, when I did the last stint but I was on old tires and it didn’t pay off. It was a good call.”
Bortolotti added that the latter stages of the race were tough due to dust and debris making their way onto the circuit, but he was able to keep the Lamborghini running well to hold off the second-placed AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in the final stint.
“I tried to manage it as best as possible,” he said. “The whole track was dirty at the end and everything came into the cockpit.
“But it’s fantastic and great to be back on top. We managed to turn a third pole into a win: finally the time arrived.”
FFF Racing Team did not emerge as one of the front-runners at the Nürburgring until Sunday when its crew set the fastest three-driver average time in qualifying.
Caldarelli suggested that the team was unsure where it would stack up after Saturday’s practice sessions that both ended in one-two placings for Mercedes-AMG entries.
“In GT World Challenge the practice sessions are always a bit of a question mark because you don’t know what the others are doing with tires and so on,” he said.
“We noticed there was a big degradation coming from the tires, so we didn’t really know where we were until qualifying this morning.
“Then for the race, we knew we had a decent car in terms of balance but we didn’t know if we were quick or not compared to the others. So it was all a question mark until qualifying and the race.”
The win elevates Caldarelli, Mapelli and Bortolotti to third in the Endurance Cup drivers’ championship, with a 17-point gap to leaders Alessandro Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Come Ledogar from Ferrari.
Caldarelli, who is also FFF’s team principal, indicated that the Chinese-flagged squad is taking a “realistic” approach towards a potential second title push for its No. 63 car after Mapelli and Caldarelli won the Endurance Cup at the team’s first attempt in 2019.
“After Spa we were not really thinking about the championship anymore,” said the Lamborghini Squadra Corse official driver.
“We knew it was going to be difficult. We came here just with the mindset to do well without thinking about the points.
“I think now it’s a bit better than after Spa, so then we’re going to go to Barcelona still with just the focus on doing a solid job.
“It’s always good to bring home a title, but we have to be realistic that it’s tight and the others will be there in terms of pace. It’s going to be difficult.”