The North American leg of Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli will again return to the rolling hills of Monterey California and the Laguna Seca circuit for the third round of the North American championship. However, unlike the Challenge rounds thus far, this is Ferrari Racing Days, the annual opportunity for Ferrari Challenge pilots and the epic cars of the XX Program and F1 Clienti to share the circuit for one incredible weekend of Ferrari.
For the Ferrari Challenge pilots, however, the focus remains on their championship aspirations. After two weekends and four races of action, the outlines of the championship are beginning to take shape.
Trofeo Pirelli. Cooper MacNeil (Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari of Westlake) and Benjamin Hites (The Collection) have spent the first two races trading blows at the very top of the Trofeo Pirelli category. After a last lap pass in Race 1 at Circuit of the Americas, Cooper came storming back and took a dominant win in Race 2. The young Chilean, however, responded in kind at Sebring International Raceway where Ben took pole position, fastest lap and the win in Race 1 at Sebring International Raceway. A bobble in Race 2 meant Ben finished in third and thus is seven points behind Cooper. The battle for the third position in Trofeo Pirelli has been a battle of two newcomers, Thomas Tippl (Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari of Beverly Hills) and Martin Burrowes (Ferrari of Ft. Lauderdale). Thomas Tippl, fresh off the back of his outstanding rookie season in 2018 has certainly found the speed to compete at the sharp end of the field. Martin Burrowes, in the mean time took two solid third place finishes at COTA, but struggled at Sebring. He will certainly look to bounce back at more familiar territory.
Tofeo Pirelli AM. Ziad Ghandour (Boardwalk Ferrari) has shown himself to be a driver who only gets stronger as the weekend goes on, finishing third in Race 1 at both COTA and Sebring and then going on to take the win in Race 2, both times taking pole position and fast lap in the process. His consistency in Race 2 has put him in good stead in the championship, ahead of his nearest rival, Barry Zekelman (Ferrari of Ontario) by 20 points. Barry had a difficult Race 1 at Sebring, which allowed Brent Holden (Ferrari of Newport Beach) to close the gap, and is now only five points behind the Canadian driver, though he will not participate in the Laguna Seca weekend.
Coppa Shell. Danny Baker (Ferrari of Palm Beach) leads the Coppa Shell category on the back of three consecutive race wins to open the 2019 season. The battle at the front, however, has been close fought with newcomer Mark Issa (Ferrari of Atlanta) finishing second twice at COTA. At Sebring, the two alternated finishes with Issa the worse for wear during race 1 before Danny had his share of issues in race 2. That gave Dale Katechis (Miller Motorcars) the opening he needed to close the gap with two 2nd place finishes at Sebring. They will be joined, however, by class newcomer Brian Davis (Ferrari of Palm Beach). Brian demonstrated some serious pace and consistency in the opening two weekends, earning four wins on the trot. As a result of analysis carried out by Ferrari Challenge sanctioning body IMSA, he and his 88 points are being moved up to Coppa Shell which should allow him to inherit the lead of that championship. Only time will tell if he will be able to maintain his run of success against stiffer competition.
Coppa Shell AM. Eric Marston (Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari of Westlake) will assume the lead of the Coppa Shell AM category after Brian Davis’ promotion. Consistency has been the hallmark of Eric’s season thus far, with two fourth places at Sebring and one podium in race 2 at COTA. He has a ten point margin over Gianni Grilli (Ferrari of Quebec) and Lisa Clark (Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari of Beverly Hills) who are both tied at 34 points apiece. While Gianni has been slightly more consistent, a crash in race 2 for Lisa surely tempered her otherwise excellent and podium finishing weekend at Sebring.
Schedule. Ferrari Challenge competitors will have a private test day to hone their set ups and regain familiarity with the Laguna Seca circuit on Thursday before taking to the track for official practice on Friday. Qualifying will begin on Saturday and Sunday at 9:00am in the local time zone followed by racing action starting at 1:05pm on Saturday and 12:30pm on Sunday.