France’s Paul Ricard circuit is set to host round two of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, which will see four cars and seven official drivers take the start for the Maranello manufacturer. The SRO-promoted series will be back in the spotlight for the 1000 Km race held at Le Castellet, a 5.7-kilometre track that has been part of the European championship calendar since 2012, in an event that will see a 57-strong grid, including two 296 GT3s and two 488 GT3 Evo 2020. The six-hour race will get underway in the evening with the green flag scheduled for Saturday 3 at 6 p.m.
Pro Class. After the opening round at Monza last April, the category featuring only crews of professional drivers at Paul Ricard is set to include two AF Corse - Francorchamps Motors-run Ferrari 296 GT3s, courtesy of the official Prancing Horse drivers.
Alessio Rovera, Robert Shwartzman and Nicklas Nielsen will once again share the number 51 car as they go in search of redemption after the seventh place finish at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. Rovera and Nielsen, after having collected numerous international triumphs aboard Maranello GTs and LMP2 prototypes, have been protagonists in the GT WC Europe this current season alongside Shwartzman, making his debut in endurance racing and also involved as a Reserve Driver for Scuderia Ferrari in F1 this season; the driver, born in 1999, has already had a chance to try out the series-derived car across the Alps earlier during pre-season testing.
AF Corse - Francorchamps Motors will line up Daniel Serra in the number 71 296 GT3 making his championship debut: the South American, forced to miss the Italian race due to a concurrent Stock Car championship commitment in Brazil, will share the cockpit with Davide Rigon and Antonio Fuoco. For the team the aim will be to pick up points and climb the standings after the eleventh place at the 3 Hours of Monza.
After their commitment at Paul Ricard, the five official drivers will move on to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the fourth round of the FIA WEC, where Nielsen and Fuoco will be at the start in the Ferrari 499P Hypercar in the top class, while Rovera, Serra and Rigon will return to action with the 488 GTE in the LMGTE Am class.
Other classes. Two 488 GT3 Evo 2020s will round out the quartet of Ferrari entries in the French event in the categories dedicated to both professional and gentlemen crews. In the Bronze class the AF Corse team will be at the starting line with Louis and Jef Machiels, sharing the number 52 car alongside official driver Andrea Bertolini. In the Pro-Am class ST Racing with Rinaldi will entrust the number 38 488 GT3 Evo 2020 to Spanish driver Isaac Tutumlu, Canadian Samantha Tan and American Jon Miller.
The calendar. The GT World Challenge Europe consists of ten rounds, five of which are included in the Endurance Cup; after Monza and Paul Ricard, the season will stop off in Belgium for the most highly anticipated event, the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (1-2 July), before travelling to the Nürburgring (30 July) and Barcelona (1 October).
Alessio Rovera, 296 GT3 #51: “We have just come from the testing at Spa and I am satisfied with the work done, whereas we had raced at Le Castellet almost three months ago and so the development of the 296 GT3 hadn’t yet reached the level of today. That's why it's very difficult to predict how well we are going to perform; we'll find out on Friday in the first tests. In any case, although it is not one of my favourite tracks, our car should adapt well to the characteristics of the French track and I think we will be more competitive than in the first round. The level is always high in the GT World Challenge, there are many variables involved and we will be determined to do well in the face of some very stiff competition.”
Nicklas Nielsen, 296 GT3 #51: “The first race at Monza was not an easy one for us even though, after a complicated qualifying session, we made some progress during the 3 Hour, the season opener, getting a decent result at the finish. In terms of performance in Italy the 296 GT3 held up well, especially in the overall balance, so I am sure we are on the right track. Now it's time for the race at Paul Ricard, where Ferrari cars have generally been competitive. We are confident and ready to have a good race.”
Davide Rigon, 296 GT3 #71: “In the weeks between Monza and Paul Ricard we have had a chance to prepare ourselves in the best possible way and to further refine the set-up of our 296 GT3. The car is very fast in ‘clean air’, we know, while in Italy it suffered especially in traffic due to the BoP, which hampered it too much in the opening round of the championship.”
Daniel Serra, 296 GT3 #71: “The goal is to fight for the win. We had a good test day in Spa recently, I think we are moving in the right direction. I’m happy to finally start my GT WC Europe season. Paul Ricard is a good track, not the nicest track to race honestly in my opinion. I prefer more ‘old school’ tracks with less run off areas and less track limits potential issues”.