Callum Ilott felt his sports car racing debut with the Iron Lynx Ferrari team in the 3 Hours of Monza was a “baptism of fire” as he battled mixed conditions in an unpredictable race.
Ilott, who was last year’s FIA Formula 2 runner-up, finished fourth alongside Davide Rigon and Antonio Fuoco in the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup opener at the top of a full-season campaign for the trio.
Iron Lynx’s two factory-supported Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020s were early adopters of slick tires after the entire field switched to wets for rainfall during the opening hour.
Ilott started out on wets but returned to slicks after a few laps during a Full Course Yellow period for Team WRT’s Audi stopping with a puncture. He charged up to third on the drying track as the conditions morphed to suit his car over those that stayed on wets.
The Brit then handed over to Fuoco for the final hour, which included a safety car restart and a dramatic chase for the final podium spot that ultimately went to Emil Frey Racing.
“I really struggled at the beginning because I didn’t have the temperature, I didn’t have the grip and I didn’t have the confidence because I’ve never driven in the wet in this car,” Ilott told Sportscar365.
“So I took it really easy. Nicklas [Nielsen] pulled a bit of time on me, and after four or five laps I was up to the same speed as him. This was when the team asked me the question: would you like to go to slicks? To which I said, not exactly… but f*** it.
“Ascari and Parabolica were a lot drier than the rest of the track, so there was potential depending on how quickly it dried.
“It was really difficult at the start because it was a safety car. I went and made it as aggressive as a I could without risking anything.
“Then it started to dry out and that’s when I really started to gain on the others, three seconds quicker than anyone in the last sector. I had to be really sensible as well, because the others were always in the traction zones getting back past me.
“We went from P20 at the time to P3 before boxing. The handover to Antonio was fine. Actually towards the end of my stint it started to rain again. I turned the wipers back on.
“I was still half a second or a second quicker, but it became really difficult to keep it on-track because every lap was a bit different here and there.
“For me, it was a baptism of fire. I had one of the most difficult stints you can have for a first time, when it was meant to be the easy stint. But I got on with it and did a good job.
“There are still some things to work on, but it was overall a really positive weekend.”
Ilott added that he hadn’t experienced a race like that “in a long time” and described his battles with multiple cars in the mixed conditions as a highlight of his GT3 debut.
“We had all conditions, going from P8 to P20 and to then coming back,” he said.
“I overtook five cars in the last corner in one go, and then they passed me back again in the first section and then you do it back again. It was incredible, some of the racing we had and the experience as it was.
“At the end of the day, P4 and P5 is great points for the team. Maybe we’re a bit unhappy that we missed out on a podium, but for me it was a great experience and learning curve.”