Driver Samantha Tan competed in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli North America in the 2022 season, claiming one win, two podiums and as many pole positions in the Trofeo Pirelli Am in just four races. For the 2023 season, the 25-year-old Canadian moved into the world of European racing, competing in the GT World Challenge Europe - Endurance Cup.
After the first two outings of the season with the 488 GT3 Evo 2020, she debuted the new Ferrari 296 GT3 with her team ST Racing with Rinaldi at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. This is the car in which she will line up for the last two rounds of the season, at the Nürburgring and Barcelona, on the final weekend of July and 1 October respectively.
Tan, you raced the 296 GT3 for the first time at Spa: what were your first impressions?
The very first time I drove it was during the official test day: the car is incredible, which I realised from the very first laps. I think the 296 GT3 is a huge leap forward compared to the winning 488 GT3 Evo 2020; it’s easier to drive, it has more downforce, and on a track like Spa, for example at Eau Rouge and Blanchimont, you realise how stable it is even at high speeds.
What are your goals for this season in GT WC Europe?
This year I made my debut in the Endurance Cup, which is not an easy series at all, especially when you consider the number of entries – at the Spa race, for example, there were over 70. We are on the grid in the Pro-Am class, we did very well at Paul Ricard, getting a fantastic second place. The aim is to finish the championship in the top three in the class, although, of course, the desire is always to win, but we know how difficult that is. (In the run-up to the race in Germany in the Pro-Am class drivers' standings, Tan, along with teammates Isac Tutumlu Lopez and Jon Miller, is seventh, nine points off the virtual podium).
What do you think of the Nürburgring and Barcelona circuits?
I’ll see the Nürburgring twice this year, but it’s the first time I’ve raced in the NLS series on the North Ring. So, I’m very curious and looking forward to trying my hand at the GP circuit that hosts the GT WC Europe. It will be more complicated than in Barcelona, where I’ve already raced in a 24 Hours that I won in 2021 feeling pretty comfortable. I think it will be a little easier for me to return to that track for the season finale.
What are the main differences between the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo, which you used in the single-marque series last year, and the 296 GT3?
The first racing car I ever got into was the 458 Challenge, which I tried out when I was 14 for a hot lap in Canada. Last year I had the opportunity to race on that track, in Montréal, in the Ferrari Challenge North America: it was a big thrill. As for the single-marque championship, I became the first female driver to take pole position and win in the Trofeo Pirelli Am later that year and it was an unforgettable experience, as was the podium at Daytona in the second round of the season, when I finished runner-up in Race-1 (Tan’s track record in the Ferrari Challenge North America includes two pole positions and a win at COTA, as well as a second podium at Daytona, Ed). The 488 Challenge Evo is a great car, and I would even say easy to drive, as it is geared towards clients. Whereas the 296 GT3 is undoubtedly more “extreme”, with much more downforce and is very stable even on the fastest and most demanding corners.
There are big differences between American and European motorsport: where do you prefer to race?
I have competed in many races in America, but whenever I can, I come willingly to Europe, where the races fascinate me a lot, both for the large number of crews entered and for the high level of competition.