Photos courtesy Ferrari NA
Giacomo Mattioli's Scuderia Corsa Ferrari program was the newest Grand-Am entrant in the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca paddock last year, placing fourth on their debut with drivers Alessandro Balzan and Olivier Beretta. One year later, the Beverly Hills-based team is celebrating an anniversary at Monterey, and with the lead in the Rolex GT championship standings and a win at the most recent round in Kansas to its credit, the team has quickly elevated itself within the Grand-Am paddock within an incredibly short period of time.
From the outside, Mattioli's team looks almost unchanged for this year's visit to Monterey, but with a year of growing and learning under their tent, not to mention the addition of former Rolex GT champion Leh Keen (ABOVE, with Mattioli) to the driver lineup, the No. 63 Ferrari F458 has become a surprise championship threat during its first full season of competition.
“We have a good package in terms of cars, obviously, drivers, and the team has done a very good job in adapting to the series,” Mattioli told RACER. “We are still learning the ropes, and I think that's the biggest challenge because we had zero experience on this track when we arrived last year. We've gone to all the tracks that we've never been to before, and this has made our season very tough. Our drivers have done great, Alessandro Balzan has done a very good job and adapted very well. It has not been easy this year, but I am very happy with the developments we are making.”
The Scuderia Corsa team might be new, but as president of Ferrari Beverly Hills and Ferrari Silicon Valley, Mattioli's has maintained a long and presence in North American sports car racing, starting with IMSA and continuing with the American Le Mans Series as both dealerships have been a part of efforts involving the Prancing Horse.
“I've always wanted to do a team of our own, so we were waiting for Ferrari to commit to a dedicated American program since the time of the [IMSA WSC] Ferrari 333,” Mattioli explained. “Once they decided to make the F458 capable to enter Grand-Am, we committed our resources and we've accelerated things quite a bit to be where we are today. This has become a fantastic way to represent Ferrari and to promote our businesses. The timing is very good for us being in Grand-Am right now.”
With two rounds left in the 2013 Rolex Series championship and a slim one-point lead in the Drivers' and Team's standings, Balzan, Keen and the entire Scuderia Corsa team will find out just how far they've progressed in the past year. Consistency has been their greatest asset, but many of the teams they're trying to keep behind them have far more experience in delivering under pressure.
“That will be a great test for us, but I think we have a good opportunity to win this championship,” Mattioli affirmed. “When we came in this year the goal was to have Ferrari to win the Manufacturers Championship, and we also have the lead there (by 11 points over Porsche). And with how things developed, it turned out we actually have a chance to win the other two championships, which is amazing for such a new team like ours. So we're going to go for it, obviously. We're excited for this opportunity.”
The team can be counted on to return in 2014 when Grand-Am becomes the United SportsCar Racing series, and if Mattioli and his business partner Art Zafiropoulo can make the finances work, expanding to a second full-time entry could take place.
“As far as the future goes, we're committed to the series, we're committed to racing with Grand-Am, and we'd like to have two cars in the program,” said Mattioli. “We had a warm welcome from the racing community as far as people wanted to join the team and race with us. So I'm pretty confident we're going to do the second car for next year for the full season.”