After being one of the surprise stories of 2015, Rinaldi Racing is back in the Blancpain GT Series with the same crew and drivers, but with a new car.
The pairing of Norbert Siedler and Marco Seefried proved to be a strong one in the bright green Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, although it was in the Endurance configuration together with Rinat Salikhov that the team just barely missed out on the win in last year’s season-opener at Monza.
“I’ve worked with Rinaldi since 2007,” Seefried told Sportscar365. “The people were surprised when they saw the number of the staff, because it’s really a small team compared to WRT or HTP.
“Our crew here on our car is just two mechanics, a tire guy, Michele himself and a fifth person, plus the same people for the Black Pearl entry.”
Team boss Michele Rinaldi also owns a shop for street legal cars and already has a long history with Porsche.
“The name Rinaldi has Italian roots and in Germany everybody was already running Porsches, but no Ferraris, so Michele went for it,” Seefried said.
“It’s a small but efficient team, and you shouldn’t forget that during the week the guys just work in the road car shop. It’s a 24/7 job for them.”
As the 2015 season went on, the Ferrari emerged as a title contender in the Sprint Series, though ultimately it was still a showdown between WRT and HTP.
“Some said the BoP favored us, but I wouldn’t say so. In the end every car had a track that suited it best and for us that was Misano,” Seefried said.
“We were really proud to be in a position to fight for the championship at Zandvoort, even if it was more of a theoretical chance.”
The team made good progress throughout the 2015 season, especially improving on pitstop times, a crucial element in the Sprint races.
The Misano opener showed the team is now second-to-none when it comes to tire changes, with the Rinaldi crew putting in the fastest time of the weekend during the Main Race.
“For this season the competition is even stronger,” Seefried said. “We’re still operating on a small budget, we’ve had a lack of testing so far and we’re still waiting for the new 488 GT3.
“We should get a little support from Ferrari. They already have a lot of data on the car and it’s also in their interest to have a good car in Blancpain Sprint.
“I already raced against the car in Sebring and Daytona and right out of the box the 488 got a pole position and a win.
“I think the car has a big potential, but you still need to understand it and it has a lot more possibilities for adjustments than the 458.”
While Seefried and Siedler will race the 488 GT3 in the Sprint Cup, the duo will remain with the 458 Italia GT for Endurance as Rinaldi has entered the new car in the Am Cup in the five-round championship.
“Right now it’s too hard to say where we’ll end up. We try to be consistent, but if there is a chance for victory we’ll go for it,” Seefried said.
“If we are able to fight for the Sprint championship again, then it will be way more difficult than last year. There are so much more really professional teams now here.
“I think we have a really good amateur in Rinat for Endurance, but because the regulations force us to start in the Pro Cup there are some lineups that we simply can’t beat.
“Maybe we can hand out a lucky punch sometimes. The 458 is a very strong car at Monza when it comes to top speed, so it might be possible to do sometime similar like last year.”
Blancpain GT isn’t Seefried’s only focus in 2016 though, as the German has another busy program ahead of him this year, including a factory supported attack on the Nürburgring 24 with an HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“It’s always a challenge for me to adapt all the time,” Seefried said.
“The Audi is mid-engined with Continental Tires in IMSA; the Porsche is rear-engined with Dunlop tires in ELMS; the Ferrari is mid-engined with Pirelli tires in Blancpain GT and on the Nürburgring the front-engined Mercedes is on Michelin tires.
“I think this gives me the ability to be adaptive, but the last couple of tenths are hard to find if you fight against guys who always use the same package.”