Marco Mapelli came into this year’s GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season as the reigning champion alongside his Orange 1 FFF Racing Team co-driver Andrea Caldarelli.
Retirements at Imola and the Total 24 Hours of Spa – which they led for large parts – hampered their push to defend their title along with Dennis Lind, but the year concluded on a bright note with a podium result at the season-ending Paul Ricard 1000km.
Mapelli, who is a Lamborghini road car development driver as well as a factory-affiliated racer, also finished second in the GTD class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with GRT Magnus and contested several Nürburgring enduros with Konrad Motorsport.
Your GTWC Europe season ended well with third place at Paul Ricard. What was your evaluation of that event?
“I think we had the pace, especially by the end of each stint, to get the win.
“At the end, we were missing a little bit of pace straight after the pit stop which was usually where we would have been able to do an undercut or gain time using used tires, but we were not able to do this. In Paul Ricard it’s not so easy, so it was a gamble.
‘That’s where Ferrari did a very smart move to change only two tires and get the win.”
How did this year’s Endurance Cup season compare to last year?
“Obviously the competition has been raised a little bit, but honestly it was just in our hands at the beginning of the season. We were a little bit out of the pace from last year.
“But then at Spa everything was working as it was last year inside the team. At Spa, I think we were the quickest car in the middle of the race before the crash.
“For me the competition was the same as last year: Porsche maybe had two or three cars with a bit more pace, but it wasn’t anything crazy.
“We raced a lot in cold conditions. But it’s better when it’s hot for our setup, preparation of the car and tire management. We always raced in cold conditions apart from at Imola, so it was a different year.
“I think we grew as a team, but the results didn’t show this. It was really good to have the same drivers, so we knew our strengths and weaknesses.
“I like working with Andrea, and I’d like to thank him because he’s also the team principal.
“I’m really grateful to have him as a friend also, because it means that we have a good working relationship. It’s fun and we are very fair with each other. This is something that is not easy to find.
“Dennis also performed at his best, especially during the last two events. Everything is working smoothly and everyone has their own role.”
You concentrated fully on endurance racing in 2020, after contesting a sprint program in ADAC GT Masters last year. Do you hope to get back into sprint racing in the future?
“I would like to do some sprint racing again because the qualifying and race formats demand you to develop a bit more speed. But I really enjoy long-distance races.
“If I had to choose, I would always prefer to do long-distance races. The preparation of the cars for a 24-hour race and the preparation the team: I really enjoy this part of the racing.
“I really enjoyed doing Super GT [in 2018] which has sprint races but the possibilities make it feel more like an endurance race because they have tire development battles. Most of my experiences have been with tire development, so that’s what I enjoy.”
How useful is it to drive the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo on different tire compounds? You normally run on Pirellis, but also experienced other brands in IMSA and at the Nürburgring this year.
“I’ve been on lots of different tires this year and I really like to see how our car changes on the different tires, and what it requires.
“This is always useful because it gives ideas of how you can develop the car, especially with the Evo kit and so on, to make the tires and car work better.
“If you develop the car specifically for one tire, you will start to struggle, and so will our customers because they don’t have as much time to test and do that work.
“It opens a window of solutions when you have a car that works the same with every tire manufacturer.”
Maro Engel and Mercedes-AMG recently broke your series production car lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Are you aiming to take the crown back?
“I hope so! It was nice to have it for a couple of years.
“I wish we can go as soon as possible – I don’t know when – but for sure it’s always nice to go there and show how our cars perform on the Nordschleife.
“We use the Nordschleife for road car development purposes because it’s a really demanding track. A lot of the car companies are there, but for sure going there and putting a proper lap time is something different. I hope we can go back there to do it.”
Now that most of the 2020 motorsport seasons have finished, what’s in store for you over the winter period?
“I have some road car development work at the road development office, and we have some simulation jobs to do at the Lamborghini factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese.
“And on the racing side, we have some testing for next year’s preparations.
“I hope we can start to work with more progress soon because now it’s really demanding with travel, but it’s a common problem for everyone.”
Do you expect to return to GTWC Europe Endurance Cup next year?
“For sure I will be with FFF but I don’t know about the full program. I have no information on that, but what I can say is that I will be back again with FFF for next year. This is for sure.”