The year 2020 was unusual but, at the same time, one to remember for Chris Froggatt who, together with Eddie Cheever and Sky Tempesta Racing, won the overall title and the Sprint Cup in the Pro-Am class of the GT World Challenge Europe. The British driver triumphed in one of the most challenging and most hard-fought championships in the GT3 world despite making his debut in the racing world only a few years ago. In an environment known thanks to Eddie Cheever, he matured very quickly after taking his first steps in the Ferrari Challenge. After a season where Froggatt was involved in both real and virtual races, having competed with the Prancing Horse in the SRO ESport championship races, the 26-year-old Briton spoke to us about the year of his first title.
The 1000 km of Paul Ricard concluded a virtually perfect season for Sky Tempesta Racing and, of course, for you and Eddie Cheever. Did you expect this ahead of the first race of the GT World Challenge?
“Yes, I am very happy with the results of the season for both us as drivers and the team. Going into the first race of the season I don’t think we necessarily thoughts we would be as strong as we were at Imola. Of course there was a big break from racing due to Covid-19 but I think this strong initial performance was a testament to all of our continued training, whether physical fitness or countless hours on this simulator”.
Overall Pro-Am class champions and Sprint Cup winners. Two different titles that you worked hard for. What does it mean to you to have achieved these goals?
“To have taken these two titles this year in such a competitive championship really is a dream, it’s a testament to all of the hard work put in by every single member of the team throughout the year. We came into this year even hungrier than last year, following a 3rd place championship finish, and we were able to perform consistently and competitively to achieve the titles”.
Which race was best, which the most difficult, and in which did you realise that this was going to be your year?
“For me all three of these are covered by the Spa 24 hours. I really believe that this is the toughest GT3 race in the world. A grid of over 50 ultra-competitive cars, racing for 24 hours through the typically changeable weather conditions it’s crazy. This being my second 24 hour race and second consecutive year competing I felt a lot more prepared. But there were times when mentally I really had to push myself to perform at the level required”.
How did you feel when you crossed the finish line at Barcelona?
“Pretty emotional, especially after the first race of the weekend. The pressure was pretty high, in the second race Eddie was also spun around at the start and it was a game of catch up. When I finally got into the car, I pushed as hard as I could every single lap having to catch and overtake the race leaders. Achieving this on the final lap with 4 corners to go was such an amazing feeling. The most special thing about this championship title for me was winning it with Eddie who really has been so critical in my career, doing this together was priceless”.
No doubt about it, you have developed a lot this season. To what do you owe this substantial improvement?
“Well I think I am always growing, since I had no prior experience with karting before I started Challenge in 2017 I think I learn something every time I get in the car. Hopefully this continues for many years!”
How do you feel behind the wheel of the new 488 GT3 Evo 2020?
“The 2020 Evo car is a nice step on from the 2019 car, the aero balance feels more positive. It has to be said that it feels very special to be racing a Ferrari and representing the brand in international racing”.
You and Eddie Cheever started to team up last year, competing in the International GT Open. What do you think your strengths are?
“We have been working together since 2017, when the opportunity came for Eddie and I to share a car last year it was the right step. Having him as a benchmark in the car has really helped my development. What are my strengths, good question, I think I can adapt very well in stressful situations and can be pretty consistently quick”.
When longer format races were held, you were joined by Jonathan Hui and Giancarlo Fisichella, with excellent results as we saw with the podium at the recent 24 Hours of Spa. How does your working method change, and how important is it to have the experience of a driver like Fisichella?
“For the team, having Fisichella in the car was invaluable. His experience meant he was the perfect addition to the line up, he was the guy you could put in the car at any time with any situation and know he would perform as well as anyone else on track. Of course with the longer races the mindset switches slightly, you have to consider that the car (mechanically) needs to last for several hours and any unscheduled stops will cost you more time than you’ve gained by making mistakes/ pushing the car too hard”.
Sky Tempesta Racing is a relatively new team, and yet it has already demonstrated its excellent preparation, organisation and expertise. What’s the secret?
“We pride ourselves on looking into extracting the most out of every process. The inaugural year in GT (2019) was a steep learning curve for the team; straight after the season ended we sat down with everyone involved to find ways where we could do a better job. This was an all-encompassing effort, ranging from driver performance, race strategy all the way through to fan interaction and media production. We are fortunate to have a team of people who are full of ideas and willing to find ways to constantly improve themselves. Most of all everyone is passionate and enjoys contributing to the success of the team”.
You also took part in the two Road to Le Mans races with Jonathan Hui. Can you tell us about that experience?
“This started off as a learning activity, a way of gaining experience on the Le man circuit. But of course we are racing drivers, competition is in our nature. After the first race Jon and I saw that a podium finish was achievable, we pushed ourselves further in race two and we were able to walk away from our Le Mans training weekend with a podium, an amazing result”.
What does the 24 Hours of Le Mans represent for a GT driver?
“I think Le Mans means everything for a GT Driver, the whole event, experience and prestige that comes with it can’t compare to any other race. This race is certainly one we hope to see Sky Tempesta Racing at soon, it would be a dream come true”.
Which driver has inspired you in general, and who is your inspiration for the world of GT racing?
“I don’t really aspire to be like anyone, I just want to make my own mark on the sport in my own way”.
How important was the Ferrari Challenge in your training to become a successful GT racing driver?
“For me, Ferrari Challenge was the perfect stepping stone into GT racing. The same make / car nature of the championship meant that I could lean the fundamentals of race craft along with learning some of the best European circuits, preparing me perfectly for a step into the GT3 car”.
The 2020 season has been very special for you, and we have seen you competing on many fronts, including the virtual one. What role do simulators play in preparing you for races?
“I am a huge fan of the simulator. I think it really helps build your ability to focus for greater periods of time. During lockdown I spent countless hours keeping myself fresh waiting for the season to re start and I would attribute some of my initial performance to this”.