Since taking second place in his first season of motorsport in the 2014 Italian Formula 4 Championship, Mattia Drudi has had to wait seven long years for his first championship title. That came last week at Monza when a gamble of slick tyres on a wet track gave him victory and the title in the Campionato Italiano Gran Turismo Endurance.

ITALIAN GT MONZA: 2021 SEASON | QUALIFYING REPORT | LIVESTREAM | RACE REPORT | GALLERY | INTERVIEW MATTIA DRUDI

Being a champion in multiple kart series in 2009 and 2011, the 23-year-old driver from Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic coast, Drudi came close in 2015 and 2016 in the Porsche Carrera Cup Italia before picking up third place in the Silver Cup category of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe in 2019.

But it was back on home territory where the young Italian found his first major success.

“Doing many races with Audi at international level helps me so much,” said Drudi.

“With the experience I have accumulated over the last three years, I have also managed to give more to the team and my teammates Riccardo [Agostini] and especially to Lorenzo [Ferrari] who still has much to learn having only recently started racing in GT3.

“The Italian GT championship for me, being Italian, has a lot of meaning compared to the other international championships and after coming very close last year, I’m very happy to win it this year.

“I am also very happy for the team having won both the GT Sprint and Endurance drivers and teams championships.”

Having got the opportunity to race for Audi Sport Italia in 2018, it was the start of a works career with Audi. Drudi is happy to be able to repay the team for their commitment to him.

“I am very grateful to the team that gave me the opportunity to debut as an unofficial Audi driver in 2018 with two races in the Italian GT championship. What followed was the possibility of going to do a rookie test in the DTM and the start of a career as an Audi sport driver.

“So I’m very happy to have won my first title with Audi in the team with which I began.”

As with all championships, consistency is key and unable to sustain the good start in the four-race short 2020 championship meant the team missed out on that year’s title. But the experience helped Audi Sport Italia to make the difference in 2021.

“This year we were helped by the experience we had in the past season and last year we honestly were also a little unlucky,” Drudi explained.

“In the race at Vallelunga we retired after only three laps due to a technical problem, without that we would surely have won the championship.

“In Imola, a race that I skipped, my teammates finished in seventh position, where the success penalties from the previous race at Mugello really cost us some important points.

“This year has been helped because Riccardo and I are more comfortable together now in our second consecutive year as teammates. For the team, having two drivers that have raced together for two years, combined with a lot of hard work and a lot of tests made the difference.

“Also the fact of having two cars has helped a lot, you can try many more solutions.”

Despite their success domestically, Audi Sport Italia rarely races outside of Italy but according to Drudi that in no way hinders their professionalism.

“Audi Sport Italia is a team that has a lot of experience. In recent years they’ve only raced in the Italian GT Championship but in the past they have also won in championships like Superturismo with great drivers Rinaldi Capello and Emanuele Pirro.

“The whole team has a lot of experience and works hard so honestly it is very difficult to compare teams that run in different championships, but the Audi Sport Italia level of professionalism is very high.

“The team works very well, there is a very constructive spirit that makes you continuously improve.”

Looking back at the final race in Monza, it looked like a real gamble to stay on slick in the final 20 minutes of the race. With the championship in the balance it was quick thinking and an early strategy call from the team that secured the title.

“We saw immediately that even with the slick tyres we were very competitive,” said Drudi.

“Compared to the Ferrari and the Lamborghini that were in front, we were gaining 3-4 seconds a lap in the dry.

“After we overtook the Ferrari, all our competitors stopped for tyres, so the team chose to stop the sister  car to see how the car behaved with the rain. From the data they could see that we were running with similar times and only losing 2 seconds a lap. With an advantage of almost 30 seconds, we decided to stay on the track with the slicks and manage the last 20 minutes of the race.

“In the end everything worked. It was a risk but it was the only way to win the race and the championship. I also think the experience gained in 23 races during the season driving the R8 and my knowledge of the Monza track helped me. If we had raced on other tracks like Mugello or Imola, we would have lost much more time due to the rain.

“I risked a lot, I was driving on the limit, but it was a risk that the team and I had to take if we wanted to win and in the end it paid off. In the last laps the rain got heavier but the track was different between the various sectors: in the sector between Lesmo and Ascari the conditions remained constant, while from the Parabolica to the Roggia it was raining more, so I lost time.

“From inside the car, the final laps passed very quickly because I was concentrated on driving and finding the limit of the car in the wet.

“During the last lap I had two cars in front but I did not want to take dangerous risks so I stayed behind, losing 8 seconds but knowing I had 15 seconds of advantage over Di Folco.”

With the season in Italy over and his name immortalised as national GT champion, the waiting is now for Audi’s 2022 program for Drudi to see if he can defend his title.

“I cannot give an answer yet: Audi Sport decides its programs at the beginning of the year and on the basis of that you must also take into account all the different schedule between the various championships.

“As the current champion I would definitely like to defend the title, but it is still too soon to say anything about it.”

Jurek Biegus and Miguel Bosch contributed to this article.

 
 

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