Calado expresses Ferrari Le Mans fragility fears

Ferrari factory driver James Calado says the Italian manufacturer will have to adopt a more conservative approach to reliability in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours than last year.

Calado expresses Ferrari Le Mans fragility fears

Calado, who is sharing the #51 Ferrari with regular FIA World Endurance Championship co-driver Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra, pinpointed the strength of the 488 GTE’s splitter as a particular area of concern after a problematic test day earlier this month.

Both factory AF Corse-run Ferraris were however within half a second of the GTE Pro class benchmark set by Corvette driver Mike Rockenfeller.

Calado told Motorsport.com: “We’re definitely more confident and we’ve looked at where we were not so good last year and taking a bit of a different approach into this year’s race.

“One thing that was slightly worrying from the test is that our splitters are quite weak. We broke two during the test. So reliability is probably our biggest issue.

“It’s down to us to try and stay off the kerbs a bit more. We’ve modified the struts to make it slightly stronger, but in the last few years we’ve always had damage – suspension, splitter, car #71 last year had [a damaged] splitter. We just need a bit of a different approach.”

He added: “Last year we were so depressed because we knew we had no chance, so we just did everything we could [to push hard]. We were over the limit sometimes.

“This year’s a completely different story. We’ve got a chance, so we’ve got other things to think about besides being fast or slow.”

Top speed is an area where Ferrari has struggled throughout the 2018/19 WEC season, but the 488 GTE was given a small weight break and extra turbo boost in the Balance of Performance issued in the run-up to test day.

While the two works Ferraris were both within 1km/h of the fastest GTE Pro car in the test, Calado suspects this was down to other teams running unusually high downforce levels.

“Our top speed is not too bad,” he said. “But we were running the downforce we’ll run in the race and a lot of teams were running more downforce to hide their speed.

“We were struggling in the Porsche Curves but that was because we weren’t running so much downforce. We’ll see where everyone is, we won’t know until the race begins really.”

Calado also said he welcomed this week’s weather forecast, which suggests both qualifying days could be affected by rain, and predicts relatively cool temperatures at the weekend.

“In the test we used the softest tyre in the hot conditions and it was still the best,” he said. “So the cooler conditions will help the soft tyre.

“I think we’ve got a strong car, especially when it’s cool. If it rains, look at Daytona [the Rolex 24], Spa [the most recent WEC round] – the car performs well in the rain.

“No matter the conditions we have a decent package to do the job.”

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Daniel Serra

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Daniel Serra

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

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