Le Mans, 18 June 2016 – As the crowds gathered during the early hours of race day for the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, so too did the procession of nearly 45 Ferrari 458 Challenge EVOs on the grid line beneath the vast grandstands and WEC garages. Supporting the French endurance classic, the Ferrari Challenge Europe saw a 40-minute race today, completed with hair-raising lead changes and intense overtaking at all corners of the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.
The race. Although the rookie and first-time pole man had a successful start when the green flag waved, Alberto Cola (Rossocorsa-Pellin Racing) was overtaken by Bjorn Grossman (Octane 126) in the first chicane. In the same location Martin Nelson (Scuderia Autoropa) and Florian Merckx (Baron Service) were involved in a collision, causing the race to go into a full-course caution. But the excitement was about to begin. Coming into the Mulsanne straight, Grossman and Puglisi were head-to-head for the lead, but Philipp Baron (Rossocorsa) was ready to overtake for his chance at the front. Although the moment may have seemed right, Baron clipped Grossman from the rear, causing Grossman to swerve out of his pace and fall back to 14th position. Baron would suffer a drive through penalty for causing the collision. Another yellow flag was waved due some action between Jan Danis (Scuderia Praha) and John Farano (Rossocorsa), leading Danis straight into the gravel trap. However, with eight minutes left to the race, the green flag wove one last time for Marcello Puglisi (Rossocorsa) to take his lead ahead of Cola and Baron.
The winners. Ultimately, Puglisi would take his first victory for the Trofeo Pirelli class in today’s race. Grossman, who found himself in the middle of the pack, accomplished a second place finish. Gostner, who clocked the fastest lap with a 4:07:442 came in third but the Ineco-MP Racing driver was later penalized and relegated to fourth place behind Alessandro Vezzoni (Rossocorsa-Pellin Racing). Sam Smeeth (Stratstone Ferrari), who found himself racing among the drivers of the Trofeo Pirelli class, finished first in his Pirelli Am class. This is the Brit’s fourth win this season. In second was Steve Wyatt (Motor Service), and Henrik Hedman (Scuderia Autoropa) stood in third place for the class. For the Coppa Shell class, Vladimir Hladik (Scuderia Praha) took home the top finish for the first time this year in the Coppa Shell class. Thomas Loefflad (StileF Squadra Corse), who currently leads the Coppa Shell championship points, finished in second while the Dutch Fons Scheltema (Kessel Racing) came in third. The next round for the 2016 season is July 29-31 in Sochi, Russia.
Le Mans, 17 June 2016 – A single point separates the forst two driver of the Ferrari Challenge Europe Trofeo Pirelli. The main class is currently a tight fight between reigning champion Bjorn Grossmann (Octane 126) and one of the best drivers in the recent history of the Challenge, Philipp Baron. The Austrian Rossocorsa driver tops the standings on 65 points after a win in Race-2 at Monza while the German reigning European champion did the double at Mugello. Both want to win Le Mans because there are double points up for grabs. Here they come in this intense double interview.
Le Mans, 16 June 2016 – The fourth round of the Ferrari Challenge Europe 2016 season opened today with 45 Ferrari 458 Challenge EVOs on the famed 13,6 km, 28-turn Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. Supporting the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, drivers representing more than 10 nations globally traveled near and far to compete amidst the fervor and glamour of the renowned race weekend.
Practice. As this is the first time since 2013 that the Ferrari Challenge raced at the circuit of Le Mans, the two 45-minute practice sessions reserved this morning were essential. Of the complete entry list, only four drivers competed here in the previous two occasions (2011 and 2013): David Gostner, Philipp Baron, Fons Scheltema and Erich Prinoth. The circuit sees long acceleration points at Mulsanne in the back straight as well a tight turns on either end. Distance-wise the track is substantial and a keen focus is necessary to be successful here.
Qualifying. Bjorn Grossman (Octane 126) saw immediate success in what was to be an hour-long qualifying session. The German in the Trofeo Pirelli class clocked the fastest time around the track within the first three laps of the session, however a caution flag caused a slow down and return to the pits for all cars. The restart proved to be a test as rookie Alberto Cola (Rossocorsa – Pellin Racing) swept the track with a 4:08:351. Christian Kinch (Gohm Motorsport) pushed hard during the afternoon qualifying session, trying to overtake Wayne Marrs (Stratstone Ferrari), and hit the wall at the last chicane. Due to the damages to the car and the safety barrier, the qualifying session was red flagged and cut short but the driver was unhurt. Cola, who begins his rookie season at Le Mans, will find himself sitting on pole position in Saturday’s race for the Trofeo Pirelli class. Sam Smeeth (Stratstone Ferrari) will lead his Trofeo Pirelli AM and Tani Hanna (Motor Service) will stand at the top of the Coppa Shell category.
Race. The 45-minute race, counting for double points because of the substantial length compared to other races, will go green on Saturday at 10:05 AM, preceding the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The French endurance classic will see eight examples of the 458 GTE and newest 488 GTE on track competing for the ultimate victory.
Le Mans, 15 June 2016 – A single point separates Baron and Grossman in one class, while Smeeth is way ahead in the other. This in a nutshell, is the position in the two Trofeo Pirelli categories of the Ferrari Challenge Europe series. This weekend sees the most anticipated race in the Challenge season along with those of the Finali Mondiali, which this year will take place in Daytona from 1 to 4 December.
Trofeo Pirelli. The main class is currently a tight fight between reigning champion Bjorn Grossmann (Octane 126) and one of the best drivers in the recent history of the Challenge, Philipp Baron. The Austrian Rossocorsa driver tops the standings on 65 points after a win in Race-2 at Monza and two other podium finishes, but he is just a single point ahead of Grossmann. The German reigning European champion did the double at Mugello but had a tricky weekend at Monza, which explains his slight lag in the standings. Italian Ineco-MP Racing driver, David Gostner (42 points) is in third, one point in front of his compatriot Marcello Puglisi (Rossocorsa).
Advantage. Baron and Gostner enjoy the advantage of having already raced the 458 Challenge at Le Mans. Indeed, both took part in the Challenge Europe’s previous two visits to the Sarthe circuit, in 2011 and 2013, with Baron the winner in 2011.
Pirelli Am. British driver Sam Smeeth (Stratstone Ferrari) has so far dominated the Trofeo Pirelli Am season. He has won the last three races (Race-2 at Monza and the two rounds at Mugello) to surge into a 31-point lead, ahead of Martin Nelson (Scuderia Autoropa), winner in Race-1 at Monza. John Farano (Rossocorsa) is in third on 40 points. However, double points are at stake at Le Mans and a great race on French soil could reopen the battle for the title. Some of the drivers in this class have also already experienced the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe, with Jan Danis and Tommaso Rocca taking part in 2011.
Programme. Practice sessions are scheduled for Thursday followed by qualifying to decide the positions on the starting grid for Saturday’s only race. As the race is longer than usual (40 minutes) it will be worth double points. The race starts at 10:05 am and will finish just before the opening of the starting procedures for the 24 hours valid for the World Endurance Championship (WEC). In the meantime, with this video we can refresh your memory of the two spectacular races at Mugello.
Le Mans, 14 June 2016 – Experience has more influence and importance in some motor racing competitions than it has in others.This is the case for Le Mans with its historic and very extreme track, a very long city circuit with guard rails close in and thrilling corners, in which experience counts, and how. So in presenting the Coppa Shell race at the Circuit de la Sarthe we see a clear advantage for the championship’s “old hands”.
Third time. This is the Challenge’s third visit to Le Mans, the other two being 2011 and 2013. Only Erich Prinoth and Fons Scheltemahave been involved in both Coppa Shell races at this temple of motorsport. However, four other drivers took part in 2013: Rick Lovat, Tommy Lindroth, Eric Cheung and Renato Di Amato. So it is among these six competitors where we need to look for the possible favourite on Saturday.
Double points. The Le Mans round is very special. There will be a single race on Saturday (the track is then used by the 24 Hours), which lasts longer and is worth double points. Thomas Loefflad (StileF Squadra Corse) dominated three of the first four championship races and tops the rankings 33 points ahead of Prinoth (Ineco MP-Racing), the only other race winner, and 46 in front of Scheltema (Kessel Racing). Prinoth and Scheltema fill the first two spots in the Gentlemen’s Cup, with Rick Lovat (Kessel Racing) in third on 30 points.
The women. In the Ladies Cup a big battle is also anticipated between the two Gostner sisters, Manuela and Corinna, and France’sDeborah Mayer, who leads this special table and wants to do well in front of her home crowd. Qualifying is on Thursday afternoon, while the only race will start on Saturday at 10:05 am. To help you immerse yourself further in the atmosphere of the competition in this video we review the best of the second round of the season, held at Mugello.
Maranello, 13 June 2016 – Ferrari has a busy week ahead, especially its GT racing cars. All eyes are on a single venue, the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, where at the weekend Prancing Horse cars will compete in three competitions.
Challenge Europe. Forty-five Ferrari 458 Challenge EVOs will take part in the fourth round of the Ferrari Challenge Europe with all the great stars of the season on track plus a few drivers irresistibly drawn by the glamour of the Sarthe. This is the case for Australia’s Liam Talbot, a driver with some experience in GT competition who will compete for Kessel Racing, or Steve Wyatt who leads the Trofeo Pirelli APAC standings. There will also be the three women fighting for the Ladies Cup, Manuela and Corinna Gostner and France’s Deborah Mayer, racing on home turf. It will be the third time on the historic French track for the one-make championship. Four drivers were there in 2011 and 2013: David Gostner, Philipp Baron, Fons Scheltema and Erich Prinoth. Qualifying is on Thursday and the race on Saturday morning.
The 24 Hours. Qualifying for the world’s toughest race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will start on Wednesday. Eight Ferraris will line up at the start, three 488 GTEs and five 458 Italia GTEs divided into two classes, the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. Two 488 GTEs will be entered by the AF Corse team, which usually competes in the World Endurance Championship. No. 51 will be crewed by Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni and James Calado, who in France will also be joined by Alessandro Pier Guidi, while car no. 71 will be in the hands of championship leaders Sam Bird and Davide Rigon plus the highly experienced Andrea Bertolini. The third 488 will be that of Risi Competizione with Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Malucelli. Of the 458 Italias competing in the GTE-Am class we should mention the crew of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Aguas, currently second in the WEC, and that of Formula Racing where Johnny Laursen and Mikkel Mac Jansen will be joined by Christina Nielsen, a very talented woman currently leading the GT-Daytona class of the IMSA SCC championship.
GT3 Le Mans Cup. Another eight Ferraris will be on track in the “Road to Le Mans”, a race solely for GT3 cars participating in the GT3 Le Mans Cup. Four cars will compete under the banner of AF Corse, two 488 GT3s and two 458 Italia GT3s, while FF Corse team will field another 488. The remaining 458 Italias will fly the flag for Scuderia Villorba Corse, Classic and Modern Racing and Duqueine Engineering. The race takes place on Saturday at 11 am and qualifying on Thursday.