DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The allure of the Rolex 24 At Daytona has Giacomo Mattioli eager to return each year and this year is no exception.
The Scuderia Corsa team owner thinks this may be the team’s best shot yet of landing the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 in victory lane at the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona, which opens the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The team retains its 2019 GT Daytona IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup lineup of full-timers Cooper MacNeil and Toni Vilander, alongside Jeff Westphal. However, next week’s twice-around-the-clock event marks the return of Alessandro Balzan to the driver’s seat. The Italian was sidelined for a year for medical reasons but remained as part of the team throughout last season in a non-racing capacity.
“I think it’s exciting, I think it’s emotional,” said Mattioli of Balzan’s return. “He’s pumped up. He’s in the best shape of his life. He’s motivated and it’s exciting to welcome him back in the driver’s seat. He brings a lot of experience and speed to the lineup, which is probably the best lineup we’ve ever had for Daytona, so we’re excited.”
Scuderia Corsa’s résumé is undoubtedly impressive – two WeatherTech Championship GTD titles; the 2016 GTE-Am victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; and wins at three of the four IMSA endurance races: the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, and the Motul Petit Le Mans.
But it’s the Rolex 24 At Daytona that eludes the team. Should they finally triumph, the victory would rank “right at the top” for Mattioli.
“Right on top, absolutely,” Mattioli said. “I think this is the major accomplishment and major title that we’re missing. It would sit right with the win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. Daytona is such a special place. It’s my favorite 24-hour.
“You feel connected to the car for the entire 24 hours as opposed to Le Mans where you are in the garage and the laps are long. It feels a little more disconnected with the car. Daytona, you see the car every minute or second, coming down the banking, etc. It’s intense and a great event that we look forward to every year.”
The Rolex 24 weekend will be doubly busy for Scuderia Corsa, as the Ferrari Challenge North America series will hold a doubleheader to open its season at the World Center of Racing. A handful of Ferrari dealerships that partner with Scuderia Corsa have entered cars for next weekend’s races and will lean on the experience of the WeatherTech Championship program.
“It speaks volumes that the team can perform multiple programs on the same weekend,” said Mattioli. “We’ve done it in the past and at one point, we ran three cars in the 24 Hours. The challenges are with the different paddocks and the races on Friday.
“But Daytona is a beautiful venue and a fantastic experience for our drivers because they get to mix and match with the IMSA pro drivers and experience the 24 Hours. It’s always much appreciated by the Challenge drivers. I think Daytona adds a lot to the Ferrari Challenge program.”
It’s also a firsthand glance at Ferrari’s ladder system and Mattioli’s involvement at both ends of the spectrum. Mattioli sees a bigger picture by welcoming people into the racing environment and coaching them through the ranks.
“It offers the Challenge driver the ultimate step into the motorsport arena that we can take them to the endurance GT championship,” he said. “This has been possible with the support of Ferrari and the support system that we have. I think it’s valuable, and we’ve seen people develop through the ranks and the ladder system. I think it benefits the entire motorsport.”