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Intercontinental GT Challenge

FFF Taking More “Conservative” Approach to Third Spa Attempt

FFF learning from past 24H Spa outings to bring better race package to 2021 edition…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

Andrea Caldarelli feels that Orange1 FFF Racing Team needs to take a more “conservative” approach to this year’s TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa after the factory-supported Lamborghini squad hit penalty and accident trouble in its first two editions.

The team principal and driver of the Chinese-owned outfit, which prepares its race cars in Italy, told Sportscar365 that FFF has learned from its experiences in 2019 and 2020 and that it has taken a modified mindset into this weekend’s event as a result.

Two years ago Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Dennis Lind finished eighth at Spa for FFF but their race was impacted by three drive-through penalties for overtaking another car at the pit exit, undercutting the minimum pit stop time and causing a collision.

Despite the penalties, that solid result at Spa contributed to FFF’s breakthrough Fantaec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup championship triumph.

Last year the No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo was one of the quickest cars through the night until Lind dramatically crashed out of the lead at Raidillon. According to Caldarelli, the last two Spa editions have helped FFF to define its approach for this race.

“We knew last year that we were very quick: our pace was probably the quickest in the race,” said Caldarelli, who is now sharing the wheel with Mapelli and Mirko Bortolotti.

“In terms of lap time, we were driving 100 percent. The accident could have happened to Dennis, me or Marco. It was such a risky situation, every single lap.

“It was just lucky that Marco and me didn’t get in any trouble, but then Dennis unfortunately did. It was a very difficult situation.

“And the year before as well, we learned from that because I think we took two or three drive-throughs. It was the first year for the whole team to come here, so we didn’t really know what was happening.

“Now it’s one more year of experience, so I would say we will probably play it a bit more conservative, trying to stay there.”

Caldarelli explained that while the lead FFF Lamborghini has been competitive in its previous two Spa outings, the execution of the races did not match its pure performance.

In the last couple of years, FFF has been one of the primary candidates to deliver a first win for a non-German manufacturer at Spa since 2009.

“We approach all 24-hour races knowing that the first thing is to avoid penalties and taking risks that you would take on even a six-hour race,” said Caldarelli.

“We learned, I think, from the past that we have to be a bit conservative. The key point is to stay on the lead lap.

“We know there are a couple of things on strategy that could be done, and we are searching for that during the race.

“You can gain more if you have the right call on a pit stop instead of driving 100 percent on track. That would gain two and a half minutes for a good pit stop, instead of pushing and gaining 20 seconds.”

FFF is seeking its third straight pole position in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup, after posting the fastest three-driver average in the qualifying sessions at Monza and Paul Ricard.

Caldarelli, Mapelli and Bortolotti qualified for the Spa Super Pole shootout with the 11th fastest combined average time in qualifying on Thursday.

The team previously struggled to find an appropriate setup for qualifying, but this has been solved in 2021.

Nonetheless, Caldarelli asserts that the Monza and Paul Ricard were unexpected. Despite those results, the team’s focus in Spa qualifying has been to reach the top-20 shootout, rather than put everything into securing a third consecutive front-row start.

“I think it was a very positive start to the season,” said Caldarelli, who is seventh in the standings with Mapelli and Bortolotti after a third-place finish in the Paul Ricard 1000km.

“Of course we did only two rounds: in the end, we don’t have a lot of data. But the first two rounds were very good in terms of pace and performance in general.

“We didn’t really expect to be so competitive in qualifying, which is normally not what we focus on during our race weekends.

“I’m quite confident we have a good car, setup, team and drivers. It’s just the result of the whole package that we need to put together.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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