2017 FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro drivers champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guide were present on the opening day of the 2018 Autosport Show and gave their thoughts on their championship-winning season and the current state of sportscar racing.
Both Calado and Pier Guidi were immensely proud to have won the championship for AF Ferrari and AF Corse.
“It’s a great feeling to be World Champions,” said Peir Guidi. “To be world champion with Ferrari, it’s amazing. For an Italian driver even more. The GT Pro class is, I think, the best class at the moment in the WEC. It’s really amazing to be world champion”
James Calado was keen to explain how difficult their championship battle had been.
“It’s the World Endurance Championship,” said Calado. “The word ‘endurance’ is in there but it’s not an endurance race any more – it’s a flat-out sprint for six hours. Even the Le Mans 24 Hours is just completely flat-out and with one mistake you can fall right down the field. In general GTE Pro especially is extremely competitive. We had a very tight year. It wasn’t easy to win the world title this year. It went down to seven points in the end against our other rival manufacturers.”
“The championship is super-competitive. We had a great line-up of drivers and manufacturers in the championship. It’s only on the up and to be honest, it’s really difficult and very competitive. It’s really nice to get some proper racing in there.”
Calado explained that GTE racing has evolved considerably over the past few years.
“It’s changed a lot. You’ve got reliable cars. Obviously they do break down from time to time but, like I said, it’s flat out. You’ve got to be doing qualifying laps pretty much all the time – it’s that competitive. It’s makes it really enjoyable. Obviously it’s very tiring especially the Le Mans 24 Hours. We had a really bad race. We didn’t finish that one so we lost double points in that one so we had to climb and fight our way back all the way up to the end of the season where, luckily, we won.”
Calado was asked whether the rivalry with the sister car could have affected the outcome of the Championship.
“Between us as a team at Ferrari, we’ve got a great relationship,” said Calado. “There’s no rivalry like you get in Formula 1. We work together to get the best results possible. Ferrari won the manufacturers championship this year. We won the teams championship as well as the drivers title.”
“In Bahrain it was very close We had a good lead. We wanted to win but, to be honest, I just wanted to save the car so we just let the other car by. We crossed the line together so it was a very good year in general for Ferrari and we’re looking forward to this year’s battle again.”
Alessandro Pier Guide considered the Circuit of The Americas as the turning point for his and James Calado’s campaign.
“I think the best moment was Austin and it was the key to the championship.” Said Pier Guidi. “it was (the key to) winning the championship because after Le Mans we were down with the points then we had to recover. We won the race and we came back running for the title and that really was the key and the best moment of the season.”
“The whole year in general was obviously an amazing year but I think crossing the line in Bahrain to become world champions (was the best moment) – the emotion was surreal,” said James Calado. “Seeing all the guys in the team who worked so hard all year….. Obviously Alessandro as my new team-mate this year and we had a great year together so we’re really looking forward to this year’s WEC super season. We’re also joined up together at the Daytona 24 Hours at the end of this month.”
Calado is looking forward to the Rolex 24 at Daytna but does not under-estimate the challenge of the high banks of the International Speedway.
“It’s tough, especially coming off the banking because your right mirror’s completely blocked. You’re relying on your spotters and when you’re in in the night and it’s cold it’s really easy to make a mistake. It’s not as if you’re going slowly – you’re doing the just short of 200 miles an hour on those banks. So it’s tough. It’s quite a simple track. Obviously quite a lot of straight-line stuff. At the same time quite challenging with everyone so close. It comes down to the last hour normally where there’s a huge fight. Last year we were there and we’re looking forward to going back.”
Alessandro Pier Guidi once to win the FIA WEC title again in 2018 but there is another challenge that he wants to take overcome – Le Mans.
“Yes for sure, we are fighting again for the title but we’re looking to get a better result at Le Mans,” said Pier Guidi. “We will have two times to fight this year because in the WEC super season there are two 24 hours of Le Mans. It’s a great race and I would like to be at least on the podium. So let’s see for next year. We are in a good team – the world champion team. The world champion manufacturer and we will try to be here again next year but I know many things in the WEC will be more difficult so let’s try again.”
The 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship opens at Spa-Francorchamps on May 5.