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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Giacomo Altoe

This week’s Paddock Pass Q&A with Lamborghini factory driver Giacomo Altoe…

Photo: Lamborghini

Giacomo Altoe became a Lamborghini factory driver last year at the age of 19 and has since become an established fixture in the manufacturer’s GT3 customer team lineups.

This season the Italian made his Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS debut with TR3 Racing, and is balancing that gig with a GTWC Europe Endurance Cup campaign at Emil Frey Racing with which he won the GT Open title in 2019.

In this Pirelli Paddock Pass Q&A, Altoe discusses his induction to American motorsport, his early transition from touring cars to GTs and his future career ambitions.

How have you been finding your discovery of GTWC America?

“Everything is different in the U.S. I’m trying to learn as fast as possible, because we don’t have a lot of track time. Most of the time I have to learn a new track on every race weekend during Free Practice.

“I have to do everything together and quickly. But I think this has helped me a bit to adapt to new challenges.

“I’m getting more flexible and I really like it. The tracks are really nice, with no track limits. I think it’s good for my career and my experience.

“I know the car really well, so I’m trying to learn the tracks and everything. But at the same time, I’m trying to help the engineers, the team and the gentlemen to learn the car and the setup. It’s quite challenging but I like it.”

Is 2021 more challenging for you than your first year as a Lamborghini factory driver, when you concentrated on European championships?

“It is, because every team has their own philosophy on setup and everything.

“I’m jumping from one car to the other and I have to adapt on the first two or three laps, because they are different. But I think also it’s helping me to get more experience and get a different vision.

“Last year doing Sprint and Endurance with Emil Frey, it was good to be always involved with the same engineers and teammates.

“TR3 still have to learn because it’s their first season with the Lambo: they have always been with Ferrari. They are trying and doing everything to get on the level.

“We are making good steps forward every race weekend.”

What has been your favorite track to drive in the U.S. so far?

“COTA has been really nice but it’s the most European track in America!

“At Virginia I did just one test day but then I had a race weekend clash with the Nürburgring 24.

“I really liked Road America: the track is so cool. It’s not easy to overtake, but the layout is really good.”

Have you experienced much of a culture shock coming over to race in a new country?

“I am struggling to find some healthy food! Even the salads are really heavy with all the dressings, but I’m on a diet so I’m trying to be really professional on the food side.

“Everything is different around the paddock and during the races. I’m getting there and I like it, so I would like to spend some [more] time in the U.S.

“I’m looking forward and working for it. I think there could be a good chance to be there also next year.”

Over in Europe, you had a strong recent result at the Nürburgring but the big 24-hour race at Spa continues to elude you. How did that event play out for your crew this year?

“We had two zero-point races [at Monza and Paul Ricard] so our focus was fully on Spa.

“During the two test days we had two heavy crashes that compromised our running time. This was bad for us: the second one was a big hit so the chassis was broken.

“Norbert [Siedler] unluckily was still feeling a bit dizzy after the crash, so he decided not to come to the race weekend. So we called Franck [Perera] to come with us, but we knew each other from last year so that was fine.

“And then in the race we all know what happened. It was an unlucky situation that they came together. We couldn’t express our potential. We were there and aiming for the top 10.

“I have done Spa four times already and it’s not so nice to say that I have never finished one. We are looking forward to doing a good result there! It’s one of the best races in the world so I’m always looking forward to it.”

Your racing career started in TCR, before you discovered Lamborghini Super Trofeo and progressed to GT3. How did the transition occur?

“In TCR my first season went pretty well, so I had some good contacts and opportunities to go ahead in the next season there. But then I always wanted to be in GTs, especially GT3s.

“That was my target and it was just a matter of time. Talking to Marco Antonelli who I knew from before, he said that maybe he had a seat that I should try.

“I live at the Adria race track, so he was coming there with his team for testing.

“I went straight away to the first Middle East [Super Trofeo] race. I didn’t know the car or the track, but got a pole position. From there, I thought maybe there was a good opportunity.

“I knew the team and liked the car, and then the [2018] season came out winning Super Trofeo and GT3: I thank Marco Antonelli a lot for bringing me into this world and following me really closely, working on my driving style to adapt from TCR to GT.”

What does your Lamborghini factory role entail away from your programs in GTWC?

“First of all it’s a dream. My life now is everything focused on being a factory driver for Lamborghini.

“When I’m not on track I’m always working closely with the factory, doing days with the road cars, press days, the academy and working on training myself as well.”

As a 20-year-old GT3 factory driver, what are your racing ambitions for the future?

“My dream was to be in GT and I achieved it. And now I am aiming for more.

“I really love endurance racing so I’m always looking forward to races like WEC and 24 Hours of Le Mans. This would be my dream of a lifetime. To be in the top category would be even better.

“I have tested a bit with LMP3 but never in the other categories, so it would be a dream. I’m working on it and I would like to do it one day.”

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