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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Eddie Cheever

This week’s Paddock Pass with GTWC Europe Pro-Am champion Eddie Cheever III…

Photo: Ferrari

After contesting a few International GT Open races in 2019, Eddie Cheever and Sky-Tempesta Racing’s Chris Froggatt furthered their driving partnership with a dual program in this year’s GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance and Sprint Cups.

The Silver-Bronze duo enjoyed a decorated campaign that saw them clinch the Sprint Cup Pro-Am class title with five victories and finish second in the Endurance Cup standings with Jonathan Hui en route to winning the GTWC Europe overall Pro-Am championship.

In this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass, Cheever – the son of Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Sr – discusses his association with Froggatt and Sky-Tempesta, some highlights from the past season in the team’s Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 and much more.

How did you get involved with the Sky-Tempesta Racing team?

“I have been working with Chris from the very first day that he started racing. I’m a Ferrari instructor and he started coming into the world of racing because of Ferrari. That was in 2016.

“Our friendship started from there and I followed him step-by-step, from winning Ferrari Challenge and then to GTs. We started in GT last year and he did a season in Endurance Cup.

“I was his instructor, helping him from outside the car. This year I had the opportunity to be with him in the car as well.

“When we share a car, I can help him even more. From the outside I can say, ‘you’re doing this and that’, but I can’t feel what the car is doing or if the track is changing.

“It was a great season and the team is growing really well. For sure it’s going to be even better next year.”

How has your co-driver improved since you started working with him?

“From the first time I ever saw him in a car, he was extremely fast. That was for sure not a problem, but the consistency was and we worked a lot on that.

“Now he’s one of the best Bronzes in the GT3 category, anywhere in the world. Even at the 24 Hours of Spa, with super tricky conditions in the wet, he was just so fast and consistent.

“That’s what made the big difference this year. He’s been working so much on that.”

What were some of your 2020 season highlights?

“I think one of the biggest ones was the 24 Hours of Spa.

“We probably should have won the race, but at the end we put on slick tires when it was starting to rain again with one more pit stop to go. That cost us quite a bit of time and we came second.

“Another really strong weekend was Zandvoort because it was the first time for Chris and me at that track. The conditions were super difficult, but we managed to win both races.

“In the second race, Chris started on rains, like everybody else. And then I put slicks on, and our opponents stayed on rains. Luckily it started to get drier and we won.”

How strong was the team behind the driver lineup this year?

“Everything was super well-organized. Having the support of AF Corse, an official Ferrari team, we can always look at their data if we have a problem.

“That really makes a difference when you don’t have a lot of time on-track. It’s going to be difficult to have a strong year like this again, but I think we have everything to do that.

“We changed a lot of things this year in the team. We now have one of Ferrari’s best engineers – Brice Laforge – who was with us the whole year.

“To help me on the coaching side we had Luca Persiani. He worked a long time with SMP Racing when they had the GT young driver program, and he’s one of my best friends.

“He helped a lot this year. Every little thing made a difference.”

Can you tell us a bit about your Ferrari instructor role?

“I’m part of the Scuderia de Adamich. They provide instructors for Ferrari, from all types of activities. You can go to dealerships, to Ferrari Challenge coaching, FXX programs: that’s the highest-level activity that the Corse Clienti [department] does.

“Another thing is step one of the Corso Pilota. There are five steps you can do. I also do events with Maserati and other Fiat brands, and there are activities all year round.

“Of course I love racing more than driving on normal roads and talking about cars, but it’s also very important because you never know who you might find in these courses.

“Chris and I met during one of these courses and now I’m racing with him, so it’s really important to do those. You help Ferrari as a brand, but also Ferrari helps you to find possibilities to race in future years.”

Is the plan to return to both Endurance and Sprint Cup next year?

“It’s Chris’ team, so he does what is best for him and I will always be by his side helping him as much as he can, and for Sky-Tempesta to grow even more.

“Our goal, with Chris and Jonathan Hui, is to go Le Mans as a team together and be prepared.

“It’s not just to go in circles, but to try to be competitive in Le Mans. That is the hardest race, and we still have a long way to go.”

You contested the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship with Ferrari GTE-Am squad MR Racing. Do you hope to return to the GTE fold?

“I would love to come back but I don’t have anything planned for 2021 at the moment.

“It was a super experience, learning from Olivier [Beretta] who has so much experience in everything.

“I was lucky enough to get to drive in a season where I could do Le Mans twice. That really helped for my career, because experience at Le Mans is precious.”

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