Alex Fontana’s return to Emil Frey Racing has been a resounding success. With three titles in the Silver Cup and even an outright race win in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe, his first full season in the series could hardly have gone any better.
For the 29-year-old it was his first season back at Emil Frey Racing since campaigning the Endurance portion of the Blancpain GT Series back in 2018 when he gave the team’s long-running Jaguar a fitting farewell with his first of now four Silver Cup championship victories.
Alongside fellow Swiss racers Rolf Ineichen and Ricardo Feller, the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 pilot scored five class wins and one overall win to bring Fontana the Silver Cup titles in Sprint, Endurance and the combined championship.
“I’m really, really happy because it was a tough season,” Alex Fontana says.
“But if before the season they would have told me we were getting three titles as a Swiss line-up in a Swiss team and also an overall podium in Endurance and an overall win in Sprint as a Silver Cup… It was really unexpected, let’s say!
“We managed with up and downs but still despite that put it all together and I think in the end we made fewer mistakes than anybody else. It’s a really tough championship, the competition was really high in our class, and it was fun to fight with our class and sometimes to fight for the overall as well.”
Asked if this was along with his most successful also his proudest moment in motorsports, Fontana hesitates, pointing at the many other beautiful moments he experienced.
“There are many things that made my career enjoyable, for example the Lotus Formula 1 test and the European Formula 3 Open title, the Formula E debut and also the titles in GT World Challenge for sure, the title in China in GT4 – so altogether I think it made the experience really enjoyable and I was happy to come back to Emil Frey after successful 2018 season with the Jaguar before I went to Asia mostly.
“In the end, yeah, I would say that given the overall win in Sprint Cup and the overall Endurance podium in Monza, it was the highest peak.
“This was the first season that I did the full championship because I never did more than six GT races per year, usually. Now I did ten and I can feel happy that it was much better for me in terms of driving. Of course, I sometimes fight with people who do thirty races per year for the past six years so obviously even ten races is not as much as the factory drivers, but I think that I improved even on this season so I can be happy.”
When Fontana was announced aboard the #14 Lambo at the start of the year, he joined a line-up of fellow Silver-rated drivers Rolf Ineichen and Ricardo Feller with whom racing amongst the full Pro cars was possible.
“It all came together when they were already discussing a Silver Cup car, when the idea was to do a Silver Cup car. With the interest of Rolf, I suppose they thought that maybe a Swiss line-up was a good idea and since there was Ricardo as a Silver, they had a chance to have a third competitive car.
“The team knew me from before, they knew I was consistent and, yes, maybe I don’t drive as much as other drivers, but when you give me a job I do it and I would say this is what put us all together. “Everyone was doing their job properly and eventually we had a successful event. I knew the mechanics and engineers already and this helped for sure.
“We helped the team secure good championship points as a team overall thanks to the fact that sometimes when the other Pro cars had an issue, or they were further back, we still managing to go and score points overall and this made the big difference for the team. It is so competitive in the Silver Cup that if you have a line-up that manages to be on top sometimes overall, in the top 10, top 15, then it means you can score well in the Silver Cup, get a title, maybe get some prize money and also get some points for the overall championship as a Pro car.
“It is really a thin line, doesn’t always work out because the level is super high, but if you don’t make mistakes and you play it right, it can be possible.”
Yet, the season finale was far from Emil Frey Racing’s strongest performance in 2021, finishing twentieth overall and seventh in class. An almost insurmountable points advantage, however, meant the Swiss had nothing to fear just as long as they kept it on the road – which they did.
“[The race was] not amazing, let’s say, but it was still a good starting position: fifteenth overall and fourth in class, it was possible to do well. We wanted to have a nice race and put in some consistent laps together and obviously after 15 minutes we got a puncture, we could not avoid it, it was carbon debris from another car so there was nothing we could do about.
“From there, we didn’t have safety cars when we needed, but then we got them when the leader was in front of us so it didn’t really help us out. But, maybe, in the past we got lucky on some other occasions, and this is a championship where many things can happen and it doesn’t always fall your way. At the end of the day we can be happy for what we achieved. The race was not as we wanted but we’ve also seen that the pace of the three drivers was competitive enough to be top 10 overall so I think this was a good achievement.
“In the end, who ends up with the most points deserves the title in any class in any championship. Even though you wish always to finish by winning, at the end it is about what you did all the rest of the season, it’s a full year of achievements and hard work from everybody. Even though one race does not go as you want, if you are still on top it means that what you did before and you did for the full season, it’s that what counts. Winning one race is one thing but winning a championship is another. Sometimes things don’t go to plan but at the end of the day if you have the most points it still works.”
Three championship titles in a single season, another one three years ago with the Jaguar, so that will be back with Emil Frey Racing next year… Right?
“Haha, right,” Fontana laughs.
“As you very well know, this sport is a bit complicated at times. At this point it’s not really my decision, it depends on if the team will have the opportunity to run again a certain number of cars, it depends where they are going to run them and what are their plans in general with the line-up.
“I think I did my job and I can only be thankful to Emil Frey for letting me drive and letting me drive the for the first time the full season of GT World Challenge which I never did. Therefore, I can be happy and if they want me to come back, I will come back, but at the same time there is a world full of opportunities so if it’s not going to be here because they have other plans, then I will have to find something else. But I will be happy to be back in GT World Challenge.
“A lot of people told me, for sure you’re going to drive next year because you have the titles, but actually not really, so I guess it will have to be a surprise during the winter break and see some opportunities come up.”
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