While the focus for many was on the fight for the GT championship, one of the overlooked storylines from this month’s Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was the performance by MOMO NGT Motorsport.
The Ferrari squad, in its first outing in the pro class, earned an impressive 1-2 finish, led by Alessandro Balzan, who claimed his first PWC victory in his series debut.
With GTA runner-up Henrique Cisneros stepping out of the cockpit for the Monterey round, it presented the opportunity for his season-long driving coach, Balzan, to make his return to U.S. racing.
“It was a last minute call,” Balzan told Sportscar365. “Since the last race at Laguna would not have effected the championship standings in GTA, MOMO and NGT decided to enter two pro cars in GT to showcase [the potential].
“I was more than happy when I got that phone call. After all, I love racing in America and I was really missing racing here. I had my first GRAND-AM pole [at Laguna Seca] in 2012.”
The 2013 GRAND-AM GT class champion joined fellow Italian, and 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona class winner Alessandro Pier Guidi in the pair of Ferraris, which saw Pier Guidi capture pole but Balzan run away from the field in the 50-minute race.
“It was an honor for me to have been able to race and win with the beautiful MOMO NGT Ferrari,” Balzan said. “I have to thank them for the opportunity.
“It was even more special as an Italian, as the perception of the MOMO-Ferrari duo is something really special.”
Balzan’s win marked a turnaround in his career, after spending two seasons racing full-time in America with Scuderia Corsa until being left without ride at the end of last year.
He was forced to shift focus back to Europe in the International GT Open series, while trying to get his foot back in the door in the U.S. by coaching the NGT drivers.
However, having gotten the taste for the sport again, Balzan is hoping to return Stateside next year, and bring his helmet with him to each race.
“The target is clear. I want to come back to the U.S.,” he said. “PWC and WeatherTech [Championship] will be the priority.
“My second target us to come and live [in America]. I’ve experienced the [PWC] season as a driver and coach and I have to say it’s a very friendly environment.”
Despite having primarily driven Ferraris in the past, Balzan is not a factory driver.
“In general, I like the PWC format,” he said. “If you don’t intend to race in long-distance race then PWC with their FIA GT3-spec cars and 50-minute sprint races is the way to go.
“The entire PWC staff are very helpful in regards to explaining their rules and regulations in a clear way. You can tell they’re committed and ready to help in any way.
“Trust me, this is unfortunately not a common thing in racing.”