After scoring a podium finish in the opening race of 2015 at Silverstone AF Corse drivers Davide Rigon and James Calado claimed second place at the 24 Heures du Mans and, along with Olivier Beretta, were also the top WEC LMGTE Pro class finishers. They are now just 4 points behind their Ferrari teammates Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander in the GTE World Endurance Cup standings after three rounds of the World Endurance Championship.
We caught up with the Anglo Italian duo to reflect on their success at Le Mans and their thoughts on the rest of the season.
Q: Le Mans was a good result for you, AF Corse and Ferrari with maximum points as the top WEC competitor in the LMGTE Pro class. However, was it a disappointment not to finish on the top step of the podium or was the Corvette too strong?
James Calado (JC): Firstly 2nd and 3rd for us was a great result, we scored maximum points for the team and I don’t think we can be disappointed for that. Obviously winning Le Mans is something special and we showed we had the speed, consistency and team work to do it. Unfortunately both cars had reliability issues, something that’s out of our control. You can never say ‘what if’ especially at Le Mans but I will always work to improve and hopefully we can get the result we really want in the future.
Davide Rigon (DR): Yes, for us really a good result but we’ve got to consider that without the car issue we would have been very close if not in front of the Corvette. Our pace on the last part of the race was better than them and I think we showed what the potential was.
Q. Ferrari is looking for a fourth GTE Manufacturers world title in 2015. With Le Mans providing double points, with you scoring 50 points instead of the normal 25 for a race win, how important is it to finish well at Le Mans as part of the overall WEC?
JC: I think the question says it all. Le Mans is double points and extremely important for the championship. We learnt from 2014 that it’s important to finish. Scoring the maximum points was the target. We achieved it and now we need to work harder to extend our gap. We can’t forget that we still have five races to go. That’s 130 points available. I trust in my team mate Davide and everyone working for us that we have what it takes to challenge for the world championship.
DR: Sure that was fantastic, myself, James, Oliver and all the AF Corse team and Ferrari worked very hard to prepare this race. There are still a lot of races to go and our competitors are very strong, so we’ve got to push very hard in all the next races and try to win also one of next events, that would be our first in this category.
Q: Ford is returning in 2016 as a works entry and it is 50 years since the epic battles between the American manufacturer and Ferrari. Did you go and have a look at the Ford GT while you were at Le Mans and what are your thoughts on Ford’s return to endurance racing?
JC: It’s great to see new manufacturers joining the championship. Ford has great history just like all of our competitors and it’s great to see them back. The car looks very unique and I think they will be a strong team for 2016. Of course though, I am Ferrari’s biggest fan and we are currently developing our new 488 GTB. This is a whole new project for Ferrari, back to turbo power. I’m sure the car from the box will be quicker than our current 458 and this is extremely exciting.
DR: To be honest I just see the same picture, for me is very good that a big manufacturer like them is coming to race us. We are happy to face new challenges, anyway the target does not change: we only want to win. There’s also a new internal challenge for us that is the new car, the 488 GTB, that will be debuting in GTE (and GT3) version next year. There’s a lot of work to do but it’s great to embrace a completely new project that involves the return to turbo engines.
Q: The next race is at the Nürburgring at the end of August which is a new race on the WEC calendar. When was the last time you raced at the Nürburgring and what are your thoughts on this race track? Will the Ferrari be able to fend off the challenge from Aston Martin and Porsche?
JC: Next race is the 6 Hours of Nurburgring and it’s a track both me and Davide know well. The last time I was competing here was in GP2 in 2013 where I had two second place finishes. It tends to be a low grip track but has some very challenging corners, especially in the second sector.
DR: My last time at the ring was two years ago, on a GT Ferrari, and I really like this circuit! As always we will be very close to Aston and Porsche, but we really want to win this time.
Q: Looking ahead to the long-haul races, which is your favourite track of the four the WEC will be visiting?
JC: One race I’m looking forward to most is Fuji. The track is fantastic, not only the corners but the place itself. The fans are great, extremely passionate. I saw lots of Ferrari fans last year! The aim is to be one step higher than 2014 and go for the win.
DR: I prefer Bahrain and in second place I put Austin. Very nice tracks to drive but also the weather is often very good.