Despite limited testing and an all-new series for the team, R. Ferri Motorsports took an impressive second in the GT-A category and fourth and fifth overall in their Pirelli World Challenge debut.
“We would have liked a better finish from the weekend, but overall I am very pleased with the performance of our team,” said Remo Ferri, team principle. “Nick had a very strong race and I’m happy for his podium finish. Our cars performed well. We will tweak them for Long Beach and I’m confident that we will have an even better result for our next race”.
While not new to professional motorsports, 2014 presents a landmark year for the Toronto-based team. Having entered the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex SportsCar Series (now IMSA) in a partnership with another organization, 2014 will signify the team’s first year as a completely independent team at a top professional level. The team also supports a number of entries in the Ferrari Challenge North America.
Having only three days of testing prior to heading to the tricky streets of St. Petersburg, the team brought their No. 61 Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia of Anthony Lazzaro and their No. 16 Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia of Nick Mancuso ready for battle. Unsure of just how the car would fair against a very deep contingent of cars, the team was off to a great start in Friday practice when both drivers would set times within the top five.
With the very experienced Lazzaro qualifying on the front row, and Mancuso only one second behind to take sixth, a rained-out Saturday race would mean both drivers would have Sunday morning’s event to discover what their cars had for the field.
With the series-signature standing start looming on everyone’s mind, the team had some trepidation heading into the event as their cars were not equipped with any sort of launch-control device. Many of the other marques feature such systems which enable a car to maximize its ability to accelerate from a standstill, meaning both R. Ferri drivers took the green light focused on getting the most out of their machines.
For Lazzaro, who had driven a number of standing starts en route to his Toyota Atlantic championship in 1999, a perfect start would enable him to take the lead heading into the first turn.
Running a strong series of laps, the Ferrari’s ultimate pace showed comfortably, however, a mild understeer combined with contact in GTS traffic would damage the car slightly allowing the Charleston native to bring the car home, but ultimately in fourth overall.
“As a team we learned a lot,” said Lazzaro. “We were decent throughout the weekend and getting such a great start was the highlight of my race. With Nick finishing right behind me I think the team made a great showing. I know what Remo Ferri is building, and the future is very bright indeed.”
For Nick Mancuso competing in the GT-A category, a classification designated for drivers who do not make a full-time living in motorsports, great driving was highlighted by a second place in his class.
After ending Friday practice in fourth overall and first in class, the Chicago native would start from the third row on Sunday with the knowledge of a strong possibility for victory in GT-A.
Despite lacking a launch-control system, Mancuso also made a great start when the green light flashed jumping to third in the first turn and engaging in a number of great battles as the race soldiered on. As things began to settle in, the fight for third overall between Mancuso and the No. 21 Audi R8 LMS ultra of Andrew Palmer would end up becoming the fight for the GT-A category victory with the Ferrari’s straight-line speed being matched by the braking and cornering of the Audi.
After several back and forth battles, tire wear for the No. 16 would push Mancuso into a conservative final few laps eventually settling for second in class and fifth overall.
“If this is our starting point I think we’re in pretty good shape, we’re only going to get faster!” said Mancuso. “I have to say a huge thanks to the R.Ferri Motorsports guys, it’s truly incredible what Remo has put together in such a short time. Friday night these guys were at the track until 2am and back working on the cars at 6am for qualifying. Clearly they want to win as bad as I do so I’m sure good things will come this season.”
With little time off, the entire Pirelli World Challenge championship will be back in action next weekend on the other side of the continent at the famed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Practice will begin on Friday, April 11, with the race taking place on Sunday, April 13.
Television coverage for this weekend’s race can be found on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, April 6, at 5:30PM ET.