Jean Alesi at Fiorano testing an AF Corse Ferrari F430 GTC – Click above for high-res image gallery
There are plenty of racing series around the world that attract big names from Formula One. Le Mans endurance sportscar racing ranks high among them, but the former F1 pilots usually go to the top-tier LMP1 class. Sometimes the GT1 class draws some big names, but this year it's the GT2 category that's drawing two drivers familiar to F1 fans: Giancarlo Fisichella and Jean Alesi.
After 14 years on the grid with six different teams, Fisichella was called up to Ferrari to fill in for Felipe Massa last season. He's been kept on as a test and reserve driver for the Scuderia this year, and though had hoped to secure a race seat (with Ferrari's blessing) for another F1 team this season, none proved anxious to sign an aging driver who could be called back to Maranello at a moment's notice. Instead, he'll be contesting the full Le Mans Series calendar in Europe behind the wheel of a Ferrari F430 GTC for AF Corse, a team which shares close relations with both Ferrari and Maserati. After a career devoted to formula racing (with a couple of seasons in touring cars), the foray into sportscar racing will be a novelty for Fisico.
Joining him in the cockpit will be none other than Jean Alesi, who tested for AF Corse back in October. The former grand prix winner was always a favorite among the tifosi, and since retiring from Formula One has tried his hand at stock cars in Asia and touring cars in Germany.
Alesi and Fisichella will be supported by Toni Vilander, the Finnish driver who took the FIA GT2 titles in 2007 and 2008. AF Corse will field two additional F430 GTCs in the Le Mans Series, one driven by Gianmaria Bruni (another former F1 driver, GP2 race winner and Le Mans class winner) and FIA GT2 class winner Jaime Melo, and another by the returning race-winning Argentine pairing of Luis Perez Companc and Matias Russo. Details in the press release after the jump.
AF Corse presenting 2010 programme. Fisichella and Alesi on the track with F430 GTC
Maranello, 3 February 2010 – Today the AF Corse team presented its motorsport programme for 2010, concentrated on its participation in the international Le Mans Series. Like over the last years the team from Piacenza will use the F430 GTC, the Berlinetta from the Prancing Horse, which has been extremely successful in the world of Granturismo competitions.
This year Amato Ferrari chose a group of very interesting drivers. Next to the successful 'veterans' Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander there will be two new drivers from Argentina, Luis Perez Companc and Matias Russo, and a Brazilian, who is already well known in the world of GT motorsports, Jaime Melo. But there are two more names, well known to the fans of Ferrari: Giancarlo Fisichella and Jean Alesi.
Three cars will be started into the LMS: one driven by the two Ferraristi and supported by Vilander, one by the two Argentinians and one by Melo and Bruni.
So Fisichella will not only be the third driver of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, but also make an experience in the world of Granturismo racing, something he was still missing in his CV. "I'm very happy that I can participate in the AF Corse's programme and I hope that I can give back the trust they have in me," the Roman driver said. "Obviously I would have taken the opportunity to race in the Formula, if it had been under the right circumstances, but it didn't happen. I'm happy to be part of the Ferrari family as a third driver. I can't wait to test the F430 GTC to get ready for the debut at Paul Ricard on 11 April."
"Coming back to racing in a Ferrari after many years is not just a great pleasure, but especially a great honour," Jean Alesi said. "I can't wait to get behind the wheel of a car I already tested in Fiorano a couple of months ago. I want to thank Amato Ferrari for the opportunity and I hope I can deliver some great show to our fans."