Grand-Am's Rolex Series is set to receive a significant boost of international flavor and flair, with new Ferrari 458 Italia GTs joining the Rolex Series' production-based GT class later this season.
While Ferrari has had a steady presence in Grand-Am since the sanctioning body's 2000 inception, this model will be the first built specifically for the Rolex Series by the manufacturer. The 458 Italia GT has been approved for Rolex Series competition; dates and sites for test sessions are still being determined, as are race entries.
"Grand-Am has the best sports car racing in North American and increasingly, the world is taking notice," said Grand-Am president Tom Bledsoe. "The Ferrari brand has a rich history in Grand-Am. This development will take that history to another level."
Ferrari announced its new Grand-Am involvement on Friday morning, in conjunction with its unveiling of the new Ferrari F150 Formula 1 car.
"Ferrari's racing spirit has always sprung not just from Formula 1 but also from the road-going sports cars competing in the Grand Touring category," said Antonello Coletta, head of the Ferrari Corse Clienti Department. "We have scored significant wins in both the Italian and European series...this year comes the added task of tackling the Grand-Am series, with the aim of expanding our challenges across the ocean, with a car that will make its appearance during the course of 2011."
Ferraris have competed in 46 of the 48 runnings of the Daytona 24 Hours. Among Ferrari's highlights at Daytona: a podium sweep in 1967; 1970, with Mario Andretti finishing third; and the six-hour race in 1972, won by Andretti and Jacky Ickx. Other Ferrari victories at Daytona came in 1963 (Pedro Rodriguez driving) and '64 (Rodriguez and Phil Hill); and 1998, with Gianpiero Moretti's famed Momo Ferrari (Moretti, Arie Luyendyk, Mauro Baldi and Didier Theys driving).
"There's a reason Daytona International Speedway has the word ‘international' in its title; when my dad Bill France built the facility in the late 1950s, he always wanted it to have a world-wide reputation," said Grand-Am co-founder Jim France. "Through the years, Ferrari has helped boost that reputation. We look forward to the day when these new Ferraris will compete in the Rolex 24 and at other Rolex Series events."
"This is great news, No. 1, because we're having an open dialogue with Ferrari," said Grand-Am managing director of competition Mark Raffauf.