One of the new faces in the world championship and one of the drivers currently in the limelight at the wheel of the AF Corse 488 GTE in the LMGTE Am class. We are talking about Alessio Rovera, born in Varese in 1995, one of the protagonists of the 2021 season, fresh off the back of a runner-up spot in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours, defending the colours of AF Corse alongside Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini and John Wartique in Pro-Am class. The 2020 Italian GT Endurance champion received an "eleventh hour" call-up from the Piacenza-based team, who found him ready for the most important GT3 race of the year, and all this in the lead-up to the most eagerly awaited race of the year, the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Your first Spa 24 Hours, your maiden race in the GT World Challenge Europe and immediately you were on the podium.
“I’m very pleased, it was a very tough 24 Hours but to get a podium on my debut is an excellent result. We could have even won the race were it not for a bit of bad luck but, overall, I am happy.”
How do you find the level of this championship? In particular, the Pro-Am class seems really competitive.
“Yes, I can vouch for that, there are a lot of very strong cars and drivers and, indeed, the gaps are really narrow. You can't get anything wrong, you have to be good in traffic and have a good strategy. As in all endurance races, you also need a bit of luck.”
How did you get on with the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 as you usually drive a GTE?
“They are two different driving styles. With the GTE you can make more use of the aerodynamic grip and also the grip of the Michelin tyres, while with the GT3, the driving is more technical and you have to use the brakes a lot. But you get used to it straight away. Besides, I had already had a chance to race in the Italian GT with the GT3 so I didn't have any major issues.”
After your success in single-seaters, you switched to closed-wheels, driving cars that are very different from Ferraris in terms of weight distribution. Did you expect to adapt so quickly to the Maranello cars? How did you have to adapt your driving style?
“I’ve taken part in three Carrera Cup championships and they’ve served me well because it’s a very difficult car to drive, with no electronic aids such as traction control, ABS, etc. It’s also rear-engined. All this has allowed me to adapt well to Ferrari-style driving: I haven’t had any kind of issues with this transition, also because the Ferrari is better suited to my way of driving.”
This year has been a very satisfying one in the WEC season and you are one of the drivers who has been in the spotlight. Did you expect to make such a positive impact in the world championship?
“I don't think so. I always try my hardest and, I have to say, I feel more confident in the GTE than in the GT3. Also, having Nicklas Nielsen as a team-mate is a great incentive because he is a top level driver and trying to get as close as possible to him helps keep me at my best. Nicklas, for his part, shares all his experience with me and that makes things even easier for me. We’re doing great things and we have been so far the fastest Pro Am crew. We were unlucky in Portimão, that’s true, but we are still in the middle of the championship and we are in second, two points behind. So everything is still up for grabs.”
You are in the lead-up to your first 24 Hours of Le Mans: how do you imagine it and what are your expectations?
“I will be a rookie, but in 2017 I participated in a support event with Porsche and that should help a little: it will be my first time in this competition, but at least I already know the circuit, which I like. On that occasion I managed to get onto the podium, an indescribable situation, an incredible scene. This time I will try to make it onto the top step!”
Is it a track suited to your driving style?
“The circuit itself is not so spectacular, there are better tracks like Spa. But we're talking about Le Mans: a track with an allure and a history that makes it the best in the world. And then we should bear in mind that the final sector has corners of over 200 km/h and with these cars with a high aerodynamic downforce it’s sure to be amazing. We will have to do a lot of driving as there are only three of us: Nicklas, François Perrodo and me.”
You are also involved in the European Le Mans Series, a season that saw you miss the first round. But in Austria you got off to a fine start and the championship is still wide open.
“Exactly. Unfortunately we had to skip the first race, but in spite of this we are still third in the standings as we have been getting very good results. We have always been on the podium, winning our first race. I have to say that François has improved a lot, he's someone who gives his all and having such boldness makes things easier. And then we have Emmanuel Collard with us, who we all know: he's a very experienced driver who makes himself available to the team and that makes everything a lot more simple.”