The inaugural virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans starting on Saturday 13 June, at 3 pm, will see a new quartet of drivers behind the wheel of the 488 GTE no. 52 entered by Ferrari. Three of them have never competed in the Sarthe classic, either virtually or in reality. However, the crew of Charles Leclerc, official Ferrari driver in Formula 1, Antonio Giovinazzi, in Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo, and professional sim drivers David Tonizza, reigning champion of the F1 Esport Series, and Enzo Bonito is undoubtedly among those to keep an eye on in the GTE class.
Leclerc. Born in the Principality of Monaco on 16 October 1997, Charles Leclerc started racing karts at the age of five. In 2011 he won the CIK-FIA KF3 World Cup and the CIK-FIA Academy Trophy. In 2012, he secured the WSK Championship, while the following year he was runner-up both in Europe and the Under 18 with the ART Grand Prix team. In 2014, he made his single-seater debut with Fortec Motorsport, finishing second in the Formula Renault ALPS championship. He was first among the rookies on his Formula 3 debut in 2015 with Van Amersfoort Racing, finishing fourth in the standings. In 2016, Charles joined the Ferrari Driver Academy winning the GP3 championship with ART Grand Prix. In that season he tried a Formula 1 car for the first time competing in four Friday free practice sessions with the Ferrari powered Haas and driving at Silverstone with the Scuderia. In 2017, he represented the Prema team in Formula 2, winning the series with seven stage victories. This title opened his way to Formula 1 in which he made his debut in 2018 at the wheel of the Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo Sauber, collecting 39 points. In 2019, he joined Sebastian Vettel as official driver for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow. In Bahrain, he took his maiden pole position in his second outing for the team, becoming the youngest driver in the Scuderia’s history to reach this milestone. He also broke the record for the youngest winner when he triumphed in the Belgian Grand Prix, repeating the feat a week later when he sent Ferrari fans delirious at Monza. Shortly before Christmas, Scuderia Ferrari announced the extension of his contract until the end of the 2024 season. During the lockdown, he has competed in everything from lawnmower tractors and lorries to rallycross and GT competitions. He has raced six Formula 1 Virtual GPs, winning two of them (Vietnam and China) and has mounted the podium on three further occasions.
Giovinazzi. Antonio Giovinazzi, born on 14 December 1993 in Martina Franca, began karting in 2006, the year he won the Italian National Trophy in the 60cc category along with the European one. At the age of eighteen, he switched to single-seaters, entering a few Formula Abarth races. He won six Formula Pilota China races with the Eurasia Motorsport team. In 2013, he joined European Formula 3 with Double R Racing, also taking part in the F3 Masters at Zandvoort. The following year, he drove for the British Carlin team in the same category, recording two victories and sixth place overall in the championship. In 2015 he secured six wins and finished runner-up in Formula 3 Europe. He also competed in the Russian DTM event in an Audi RS5 of Phoenix Racing. During the winter, he made his debut in endurance racing behind the wheel of an LMP2 prototype in the Asian Le Mans Series, followed the next year by a few outings in the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). His GP2 debut came in 2016 for Prema Powerteam. He bagged his first win in the GP2 category during the European Grand Prix and took second place in the overall standings with five victories, including at Monza when he started from the back of the grid. In the 2017 season, he became Scuderia Ferrari’s third driver and also made his debut in Formula 1 when, for two races, he stood in for the injured Pascal Wehrlein at the wheel of the Sauber-Ferrari. In 2018, he started the 24 Hours of Le Mans in fifth place at the wheel of the Ferrari 488 GTE of AF Corse. As the third Scuderia Ferrari driver he also took part in the Friday free practice at six Grands Prix. In 2019 and 2020, while retaining his position on the Italian team, he became a regular for Alfa Romeo Racing, alongside the Finn Kimi Raikkonen. In his first season, he notched up 14 points, with fifth place in Brazil his best result.
Tonizza. David Tonizza, born on 14 January 2002, began racing at an early age both in karts and simulators, discovering the Formula 1 game at the age of 15 and competing in his first championship that same year. In 2017, he qualified for the Pro Draft in F1 Esports finishing second in qualifying. The following year he won the AOR F1 championship with the Jean Alesi Esports Academy and was fourth in the AK Invitational on the Assetto Corsa platform. In 2019, the Ferrari Driver Academy chose him as one of the first drivers for the newborn FDA Hublot Esports Team. He marked his debut with the new team by winning his first two races, in Bahrain and China, and immediately topping the standings. The Italian then won the race in Austria and the drivers’ title. He also mounted the podium in the Esports race of the SRO Championship in Barcelona. Nicknamed “Tonzilla” courtesy of a pronunciation error by the commentator in the first race he won in London, in 2020 the FDA Hublot Esports Team had no hesitation in confirming him.
Bonito. Enzo Bonito, born on 7 June 1995, already has five seasons of high-level international competition as a sim driver under his belt, having won his first title in 2015, when he secured the Iracing GT3 championship. Three years later he triumphed in the eROC, the virtual version of the Race of Champions which ran at the same time as the actual race in Riyadh. Then in 2018, he recorded his first victory in Esports GT races held on the Assetto Corsa platform and made his debut in F1 Esports with the McLaren Shadow team. In January 2020 he was picked for the FDA Hublot Esports Team to support David Tonizza in the F1 Esports Series to help the team win the constructors’ title. In the end, the team missed out by a few points in its first season in the virtual Formula 1 championship.