Alex Riberas says he’s ready to raise his game in the next stretch of races, as the newly minted Ferrari factory driver sets his sights on the Pirelli World Challenge GT championship.
The 23-year-old Spaniard has already gotten off to a strong start in his rookie PWC campaign with R. Ferri Motorsport, claiming a podium finish in Race 2 at St. Pete and fifth on the streets of Long Beach, two circuits Riberas previously hadn’t been to.
Returning to Virginia International Raceway, where he narrowly missed out on a podium finish in IMSA competition last year, Riberas is hopeful this weekend’s SprintX season-opener could be the start of title push in what he’s learned to be a highly competitive championship.
“[PWC] has exceeded my expectations, certainly, both in terms of our own performance and the series’ level,” Riberas told Sportscar365.
“The field is extremely competitive this year. PWC has been raising its game in the last several years and there are so many guys out there that really know what they are doing. There are many factories involved, many factory drivers as well.
“To be winning and to be doing well in this series means that you are a good driver.
“I’m ready to raise our game for the next few rounds and hopefully improve our championship position. It’s already quite good, right now third [in the championship], but we want to go for the overall win.”
The 2017 season has brought a change of scenery for Riberas, a graduate of Porsche’s single-make series who was a four-time pole winner in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last year with Alex Job Racing.
Despite he and Mario Farnbacher’s strong season in GT Daytona, that included a class win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, funding issues resulted in the demise of the program, and left Riberas searching for his next opportunity.
An end-of-year drive in the Asian Le Mans Series with the AF Corse-run DH Racing squad popped up, which put Riberas on Ferrari’s radar and ultimately led to the former Porsche junior being selected as among the Italian manufacturer’s new crop of works drivers.
Riberas said the factory deal, which has seen him placed with the Remo Ferri-owned team, has been a culmination of more than ten years in the sport as an up-and-coming driver.
“All we want to do when we are kids and growing up in the motorsport world, we just want to be professionals and make a living out of racing, and it’s very difficult,” he said.
“I was doing that already [last year with AJR], but the fact that I’m now an official factory driver for Ferrari makes everything a little more solid. If you do a good job, you’re going to keep on racing and you’re going to continue to be one of the official drivers in the future.
“From what I understand, I am one of the bets for the future inside the Ferrari group, and I’m super excited about what’s going on. I’m looking forward to doing well in the coming future.”
While sitting third in the Sprint GT championship, just 16 points away from reigning champion Alvaro Parente, Riberas enters the next four events with previous track knowledge, which could prove to be crucial.
Coupled with the addition of Kyle Marcelli to the driving squad for the SprintX rounds, it could put the lone pro class Ferrari 488 GT3 in prime position for victories.
“Last year in the U.S., I hit quite a lot of new tracks for me,” Riberas said. “It didn’t take long, but right up to now, both in St. Pete and [Long Beach], it was street circuits. One mistake in Free Practice, you hit the wall, it’s not ideal to be introduced to a series with two street tracks.
“There’s a lot of pressure. The fact that the other drivers have a lot of experience on those tracks makes it even more hard, but we were right at pace in St. Pete.
“We had a good car there. We were struggling a bit more here but I believe once we go back to the normal tracks we’re going to be the car to beat or one of the cars to beat.
“If you show up in a Ferrari you have to aim for the championship. There’s no other possibility. We are aiming at the Sprint championship, the SprintX championship, and the overall championship. That’s the only way.”