During the 49th Rolex 24 at Daytona this past January, a press conference was held announcing the return of Ferrari to Grand-Am's GT category for the 2012 season. The "godfather" of this program is Eddie Cheever, the 1988 Indianapolis 500 winner who drove in Formula 1 for many years.
Now the Ferrari 458 Italia has finally made its way to the Daytona International Speedway 3.56-mile road/oval course, using two days of testing to start initial preparations for the January race. According to Grand-Am managing director of competition Mark Raffauf, as many as six of the Ferrari 458 italia race cars could show up for the 50th iteration of the winter twice-around-the-clock classic.
With personnel from Ferrari of Ft Lauderdale (who prepped the car) and from Michelotto, Ferrari's sports car arm, on-site to watch Jaime Melo and Raphael Matos flog the car, there were opportunities to work on the chassis, engine and suspension setups for this very daunting circuit.
"This was a two-year project, and to finally be out here on the track is really great," said Ferrari of Ft Lauderdale team principal Ronnie Vogel. "So far, so good - the test is going great. Now we're going to continue to dial it in."
Ferrari have competed in all but two of the 49 Daytona classics held to date, winning overall five times among 15 class victories. The significance of the car, according to Raffauf is that, "It comes here straight from Maranello and it's also significant that this is really a Grand-Am car."
Testing continues today for the new Ferrari 458 Italia GT car. Michelotto representatives on-hand include Luigi Dindo, the lead engine engineer for the company, so one can assume this is a very important test for Ferrari and Michelotto.
© 2011 Anne Proffit