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GT World Challenge Europe

Rinaldi Exploring LMP3 Options Amid GT3 Difficulty

Rinaldi working on expansion into LMP3 alongside Ferrari GT3 programs in 2020…

Photo: Jules Benichou/SRO

Experienced Ferrari outfit Rinaldi Racing is exploring options in the LMP3 category for next year in response to changes in GT3 customer demand.

The German team is expected to continue its involvement in GT World Challenge Europe in some capacity but is also planning to venture into prototypes.

Team boss Michele Rinaldi told Sportscar365 that the loss of some GT3 customers to other manufacturers has forced the team to seek a new business approach.

“We lost some customers this year, that changed brands,” he explained.

“For me, the Ferrari is the best car and I am loyal to the brand. But based in Germany, the German brands are doing a great job at the moment with their strategy. Those customers have a lot of budget.

“At the moment, for gentleman drivers like my customers, it makes the best package, no question. It makes no sense to be the fifth or sixth team behind Mercedes and Audi.

“We will stay with Wochenspiegel [Team Monschau], but it’s not clear what championship we will run. It will be nice to do the 24-hour race the Nürburgring again as it’s my home track.

“But maybe it’s an idea to switch to LMP3 cars to start a new way of doing business on the side of the Ferrari projects.”

Rinaldi explained that the ever-increasing level of competition in GT World Challenge Europe is persuading his team to broaden its customer base.

The team contested the series this year with its Pro-Am lineup of David Perel and Rinat Salikhov and also entered three cars into Endurance Cup.

“I think that we have to do something different,” admitted Rinaldi, who added that he is confident Salikhov will return for a full-season program next year.

“My job is to ensure that gentleman drivers have fun. The [cost of] GT3 is going up with the brands and the factories. So what can I do with gentleman drivers?

“It’s getting really hard in SRO Europe. If you have a new gentleman customer, if you bring him straight into the series he will struggle. I cannot bring him into GT Masters or VLN because they are becoming really tough [championships].

“I was really surprised that my gentleman drivers liked the LMP3 car because it is more difficult to drive. We tested cars from Norma and Ligier, but we are not yet clear on which one we will do something with.”

The team sampled the current-gen Norma M30 Nissan and Ligier JS P3 Nissan, although these will be replaced by updated models for the category’s 2020 rules refresh.

“We tested the old spec just to understand that my drivers can manage the car and get a feel for it,” said Rinaldi. “Now we wait to test the new ones and to decide on what we do.

“For me, this is also a new business, so we will see if people want to do more track days or racing.

“The Ultimate Cup in France is a nice package because on one weekend you have two types of races with LMP3 and GT3. We could maybe join them.

“The level is not so high, and I have to search for this kind of thing for my customers to make them happy.”

Decision Yet to be Made on Ferrari Evo

Rinaldi will reserve judgment on whether to convert its existing Ferrari 488 GT3s into the new Evo specification which is being introduced next year.

Ferrari launched the upgrade package last month but its pricing structure has yet to be disclosed by the Italian manufacturer.

“At the moment for me it’s not 100 percent clear what it means,” said Rinaldi. “We will see and we will check what is the benefit of this kit to the customers.

“Ferrari have to do a job for us, and if we can get the kit, we know what the benefits are, and then we can decide for ourselves [if we use it].”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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