Andrea Mladosic is the global coordinator of Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli, one of the largest and longest-established single-make championships in the world.
Since its 1993 foundation, the format has proliferated to feature three regional competitions in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, plus one national series in the UK and an end-of-year world final.
Mladosic became head of Ferrari Challenge in 2004 and has overseen the introduction of three new racing car models as well as a substantial growth in entry numbers.
For 2020, Ferrari updated its 488 Challenge racer with an Evo kit, signaling the arrival of the series’ most sophisticated machine to date.
How has Ferrari Challenge grown since you took charge of the program?
“The numbers now are absolutely amazing. 2004 was 16 years ago, so it was a prehistoric era compared to today. We were using the 360, and then a couple of years later we launched the 430, followed by the 458 and 488.
“We still had an Italian series then, which merged with the European series immediately after the economic crisis of 2008-2009.
“In the meantime, I also started working on the North American series and then we launched the Asia-Pacific series in 2011. We just started a UK series last year.
“Right now, things are growing every year. We are very happy and absolutely satisfied. Especially this season’s numbers have been amazing and have beaten our best expectations.”
Can you describe the relationship between Ferrari Challenge and Pirelli?
“Pirelli was the partner of Ferrari Challenge since the very beginning in 1993.
“The fact that the official name of the series is Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli shows this relationship. Pirelli was and is an amazing partner; it’s not just a sponsor.
“During the life cycle of each car, we introduce different tires. Considering that a life cycle of a Challenge car lasts six or seven years, during this period, we can have two or even three Evo versions of the tires specially developed for the model.
“We are constantly developing tires and working in a fantastic way with Pirelli.”
Ferrari has introduced the 488 Challenge Evo for 2020. What’s changed from the previous 488 model?
“Every time it’s becoming more and more difficult to introduce an Evo because the cars are amazing even in their native models.
“I think the Evo kit manages several drivers’ requests that have been made in the past three years. Everybody is allowed to make suggestions, so we tried to make the Evo kit to match the drivers’ needs.
“The majority of the improvements are aerodynamic with a new addition from an aesthetic point of view.
“It looks more and more like a racing car than the previous version, especially in the cockpit with the addition of the GT-like wheel. Our drivers will for sure enjoy this product.”
And what has the interest been like?
“The majority have bought the original car three years ago so about 60 or 65 percent of total drivers have preferred to buy the Evo kit only and upgrade their car with it.
“New drivers and some of the old drivers have preferred to buy the car new because it’s in their mind that a new car is fresh for them.
“We have 58 entries for Europe right now and we are still two months in advance of the start of the season. I’m pretty sure we will match the 60 cars of last year. It’s an important number.
What interaction is there between Ferrari’s Competizione GT division (the main inter-marque race program) and the Ferrari Challenge series?
“In the last four years, we started having a GT driver at every single round of the Ferrari Challenge to act as a testimonial and special advisor in race control.
“All of our drivers see and are able to talk about rules and driving styles with an official Ferrari racing driver.
“For our drivers, it will be a fantastic experience to see Nicklas Nielsen, a guy they were racing with two years ago, acting as a special advisor.”
Considering Nielsen’s rise from Ferrari Challenge Europe and global champion in 2018 to factory status in 2020, do you see the series as a useful ground for nurturing young talent?
“To be straight and clear, this was more important in the past because in the world of racing you had fewer choices and opportunities.
“Still, Ferrari Challenge benefits from the fact that it’s been organized by the factory. Another huge benefit is the visibility it has from a media and TV point of view.
“It gives the driver a huge return on visibility, not just for them but for sponsors.
“In the last six or seven years we have seen a lot of Pirelli class drivers – so our Pro-Am class – exiting the Challenge to start their career in GT racing.
“We have people like Stefano Gai, Daniele Di Amato, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan. All these people entered the Challenge for one or two seasons and then started their careers.”
Why did Ferrari decide to start a national series in the UK last year?
“First, the UK market, from a commercial point of view, is the largest commercial market for Ferrari after the U.S.
“The second reason is that there is a huge motorsport culture. Thirdly, there is a huge customer base with a lot of Ferrari customers who become drivers and are really passionate about racing.
“And fourth, there is quite an important selection of circuits like Snetterton, Donington, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, so it’s quite easy to make the calendar
“Also, Britain is an island, and when they raced in the European series UK customers had a higher cost in terms of logistics, not just for themselves but for the teams following them.”
Are there any plans to open up a championship in a new market?
“There are plans, but let’s see what will happen. Seeing the success that the UK had, it helps to give us the way.
“I don’t think in the upcoming years there is any other part of the world where we can think about starting a new continental series.
“But for sure there are still maybe one or two interesting opportunities for a national series out there.”