Races

Meet Ferrari's WEC racing champs

Meet Ferrari's WEC racing champs

We meet Ferrari's James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who are the reigning World Endurance Championship victors
Words

Words: Richard Aucock

Ferrari AF Corse racing drivers James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi are World Champions for Ferrari. Last year, they won the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship for LM GTE Pro racers, and for the 2018/19 Super Season, are the drivers to beat in their distinctive red and blue #51 488 GTE. At the Silverstone round of the historic Super Season, James and Alessandro caught up with The Official Ferrari Magazine to speak about their triumph.

We first asked just what it felt like to win the title – and quickly discovered the drivers are still a little speechless at their success. “For around 10 seconds after crossing the line in Bahrain, the emotion was… well, second only to my daughter being born,” said 29-year-old British driver James. “Even now, it’s still just incredible – what an achievement it was, particularly as we didn’t have a very good Le Mans in 2017.” Extra points are awarded for the Le Mans 24 Hours event, he explained, meaning success there can be pivotal in winning a title.

It made the AF Corse drivers’ job for the rest of the season even harder, “but we kept our heads down and kept the consistent results coming… to finally do it, for Ferrari, was a dream come true.” Alessandro, 34, nodded in agreement. “For me personally, it was incredible… I’m Italian – driving for Ferrari is a dream that goes back to childhood. I’m really proud to be here and drive for Ferrari… indeed, to be World Champion for Ferrari.” James may be British but he’s fully infused with the Ferrari spirit, too. “It all started when I was karting – I always drove for Italian teams.

As a British racer, the Italian culture is so different, so I was lucky to get the majority of my experience with Italians when I was younger. Coming through Ferrari, therefore, wasn’t completely different – it was like going back to the karting days, just in a race car, and a more professional area of the sport.” James then shares a few secrets with us. “For my first birthday, there’s a picture of me sat in a little Ferrari car – it was clearly special to me even then.

The two racers get on really well, which is a huge benefit in the heat of competition

Later, in my early racing days, I was once supported by another team that wasn’t Ferrari – but whenever I went around the boss’s house and played the PlayStation, I always chose the Ferrari…” It’s a magical car company, “not just at the racetrack but at the factory too. It’s a different atmosphere to anywhere else you’ve ever been”. This season is proving more difficult, says Alessandro. “It’s not really our fault – it’s down to the Balance Of Power (BOP), which is meant to equalise competition between teams.

We have worked well and made improvements, but there is a limit to what you can do. At the moment, the balance isn’t quite right but we still have the will and anything can happen in a six-hour race. “Hopefully in the future, the BOP will come back to us.” James backs his team-mate up. “Here, at Silverstone, a podium would be like winning the lottery – it’s not to say our car isn’t good, because it feels amazing in the corners. We’ve really improved it during the offseason, improved the tyres… the only restriction is purely BOP-based.

James and Alessandro: back to the top step of the podium for the World Champions

We lose in the straights, and we’re a little heavy. It’s small differences that add to a big lap time difference, but we still hope things will improve through the season. “It’s frustrating, but that’s motorsport…” But James added that anything can happen in motorsport, and proof of the team’s fighting spirit came just days later. After they spoke to TOFM, the drivers continued preparations for the 6 Hours of Silverstone, and in a hard-fought race, they came through to take the victory. The two racers battled hard in the following round, the 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan.

With four rounds to go, they like third in the championship, just a few points off second place. The team is now well placed to fight in the remaining races, including another double-points round at Le Mans in 2019 – and, says Alessandro, the memories of last season will help them carry on driving hard. “We work together, we stay together, even when it’s not easy, and work the same direction.” Everyone now eagerly watches to see if the young and passionate duo can follow up their 2017 success with another World Championship for Ferrari.
 

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