A new season of the Italian GT Championship is just around the corner. Within a few days, the Campionato Italiano Gran Turismo will roar its engines in anger for the first time in 2022 as the battle commences in Monza.
With the two 55-minute Sprint races at Monza just around the corner, the Kateyama test days held last week provided a good opportunity to catch a glimpse of the new liveries, driver line-ups and cars that will make up the 2022 Campionato Italiano Gran Turismo (see below for the photo gallery).
Italian GT’s biggest change in the regulations sees the Endurance races reduced from three to two hours. Complicating matters, two pit stops are still mandatory, but also allows for teams to still run three instead of two drivers despite the shorter race distance.
While the calendar has remained largely the same, other big changes have – of course – taken place in the driver line-ups and a flood of new teams in the GT Cup class.
Not only a brand new BMW M4 GT3 for Ceccato Racing, but a – sort of – new name as well: a renewed deal with BMW Italia has christened it BMW Italia Ceccato Racing. In a clear sign of its intentions, the team of owner Gianfranco Ceccato and run by Luigi Slongo and Roberto Ravaglia has signed German BMW works pilots Timo Glock and Jens Klingmann to share the #50 BMW M4 GT3 in the Sprint portion of the series while Stefano Comandini, Alfred Nilsson and Giuseppe Fascicolo – the latter being promoted from the team’s BMW M4 GT4 – attack the Endurance championship for Pro-Am honours.
Arch rival Audi Sport Italia is reduced to a one-car line-up having campaigned a pair of Audi R8 LMS GT3s in 2021’s running. The change follows team principal Ferdinando Geri’s move to GT World Challenge Europe team Car Collection. For the first time in its history, Audi Sport Italia enters two rookies: 28-year-old Simone Patrinicola and 17-year-old Marco Butti have been given the opportunity to hone their skills aboard the #1 Audi R8 LMS GT3.
With Audi Sport Italia down to a single car piloted by new drivers, returning Sprint and Endurance champion Riccardo Agostini has found a new home at EasyRace. The Ferrari squad didn’t stop searching for top tier pilots there: the 2019 and 2021 Italian champ is joined by 2021 GT Cup class Sprint champion Daniel Vebster. Taking over the Swede’s seat in the Ferrari 488 Challenge are Rocco Mazzola and Luigi Coluccio. Although not announced, Agostini’s Audi team mate and former Italian GT champion Vito Postiglione was seen testing the Ferrari 488 GT3 as well – likely for a possible Endurance campaign.
Scuderia Baldini was gone from Italian GT for a little while to sit out the worst of the pandemic, but since coming back in 2021 has shown to be as much of a powerhouse as ever before. The team of complete Ferrari aficionado Fabio Baldini will double its commitment to the championship with a second car. In true Baldini fashion, the lead #27 Ferrari will be raced by drivers with a Ferrari past: Stefano Gai, who won his second title in 2019 with the Roman team, is slated to share his 488 GT3 with 2013 and 2014 European Le Mans Champion Nelson Panciatici to form a clear favourite for the 2022 Sprint championship title. Stepping aboard the second Ferrari are two-time Ferrari Challenge Europe champ and Italian GT race winner Daniele Di Amato – joining from RS Racing – and José Manuel Urcera. The Argentinian is making his European debut, leaving behind a series of successes in his home country including national touring car titles.
2020 Sprint champion Vincenzo Sospiri Racing returns to Italy bringing along 2020 champ Yuki Nemoto. The Japanese shares the #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Michele Beretta and Edoardo Liberati. Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final and International GT Open champions Karol Basz and Mattia Michelotto are also back with VSR and will share the #63 with Benjamin Hites. A third Lambo, #66, is entered for Andrea Cola and the Belgian Baptiste Moulin. Due to the team’s participation in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup the team of the former Mastercard Lola F1 Team driver is committed only to the Endurance races.
Endurance championship challengers Stuart Middleton and Alberto Di Folco are back this year with Imperiale Racing, instead focusing on the Sprint series. The duo takes charge of the #6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3, while the Lithuanian Paul August goes it alone in the #9 Lambo following his debut in the final races of the 2021 Endurance championship with the same team. Taking over Endurance duties in the #6 machine is the truly international trio of Lamborghini GT3 Junior Mateo Llarena from Guatamala, Mexican Raúl Guzmán Marchina and Dutchman Daan Pijl.
No Italian GT season is complete without a presence of Ferrari stalwart AF Corse. Bringing two Ferrari 488 GT3s, Amato Ferrari has signed an all-Am line-up for the Sprint series. Alessandro Cozzi is in for a single-driver campaign, while the second car is driven by Angelo Negro and Huilin Han from China.
Having run the AKM Motorsport junior team in 2020 and ’21, Antonelli Motorsport is back under its own name. Heading the charge aboard the team’s two Mercedes-AMG GT3s are Kikko Galbiati – returning to the team with whom he rose through the ranks of motorsport – and European Le Mans Series LMGTE champion Matteo Cressoni. The duo banks on several seasons of experience in the Italian GT Championship and will be a valuable asset to their garage neighbours Emidio Pesce and Dutchman Jop Rappange – both youngsters coming in with zero GT3 experience. Galbiati will also contest the Endurance series, teaming up with German Florian Scholze.
From the small but for fans of Lamborghini famous town of Sant’Agata Bolognese comes LP Racing for its fourth season in the championship. GT3 Pro-Am runner-up in Sprint, Jonathan Cecotto, stays with the team for his third season and is joined by GT4 Pro-Am Sprint champion Mattia Di Giusto. Needless to say, LP Racing will campaign a car from its local sports car manufacturer: Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo.
In collaboration with European Honda NSX GT3 distributor and developer JAS Motorsport, Nova Race is expanding its Honda NSX GT3 programme to three cars. In addition to the already ‘decent’ entries of teenagers Jacopo Guidetti and Leonardo Moncini, and GT3-Am contenders Luca Magnoni and Alberto Lippi, another very young pairing is formed with Matteo Greco and Francesco Guerra. Greco, a race winner last year with EasyRace in the Ferrari 488 GT3, joins Guerra who finished second in the 2019 GT4 championship with BMW Team Italia. On driving duties aboard one of the team’s two Mercedes-AMG GT4s are Fulvio Ferri – second with Nova Race in GT4 Pro-Am last year – and 20-year-old Bolognian Filippo Bencivenni making his championship debut. The other Mercedes sees the welcome return of Aleksander Schjerpen and Alessandro Marchetti to Nova Race. For Marchetti, it is not only a return to Italian GT, but a second chance at life as well as the Italian was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2020. Cured by the great generosity of an unknown bone marrow donor, Marchetti now wants to return the favour by promoting the Race To Donate charity. Endurance drivers for the GT4 are to be confirmed.
Autorlando is the only other team promising an entry in the dwindling GT4 class. Fielding the 2022 model Porsche 718 Cayman RS GT4, no drivers have been announced yet.
With the change in machinery in the Porsche Carrera Cup Italia from the 991 to 992 model, the GT Cup sees in influx of old-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cups helping to massively increase numbers in the class that has enjoyed modest car counts in recent years. If expectations turn out true, entries in the GT Cup will reach a staggering 25.
As a Porsche traditionalist team, Ebimotors has signed up for a two-car season. Promoting their GT4 Pro-Am champion Riccardo Pera up a rank to the GT Cup, it will be the 22-year-old’s first real challenge on Italian soil following his championship victory in last year’s depleted GT4 field. He is joined by gentleman driver and Italian GT returnee Gianlugi Piccioli. Taking their place aboard the second Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup are driver coach Davide Amaduzzi and his student, the American Jeffrey Nelson.
One of the teams making the jump from the Carrera Cup is Enrico Fulgenzi Racing. Established in 2016 by long-time Porsche Carrera Cup racer Enrico Fulgenzi, the Jesi-based team is making its first foray out of single-make racing and into Italian GT. Contracted for their debut in the national championship are Pierluigi Alessandri and Dario Baruchelli who both bring considerable experience racing in Porsches and Italian GT. The pilots for the second Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup are Emanuele Tabacchi and Gianfranco Bronzini, with a third Porsche entry in the making for the second round of Sprint races in Misano.
With Giovanni Berton and Lorenzo Bontempelli, Ukrainian squad Tsunami RT has signed two former Italian GT champs for one of its two Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup cars. Berton, GT3 champion in 2007, has been dipping in and out of Italian GT since his most successful season and was last active in the championship last year with Krypton Motorsport in the same class scoring two podium finishes. Co-driver Bontempelli has been less active in recent years, however, the 2009 GT3 champion has been keeping up by entering the occasional GT3 race in the GT World Challenge Europe and other high-level series. A more recent champion – last year’s GT Cup champion – Francesca Linossi has also joined the team to defend her 2021 Sprint title, teaming up with Vicky Piria to complete the Odesa-born, San Marino-based team’s two-car Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry.
Krypton Motorsport enters no less than three Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup cars. Forming one duo are Stefano Gattuso and Alessandro Mainetti in perfect contrast: Gattuso being the 2015 GT3 champion and Mainetti coming in with nothing more than a year of Mitjet Italia Racing Series under his belt. Giacomo Riva has been drafted to complete the Endurance line-up. Tazio Pieri will be soloing it through the 2022 season, while Ivan Costacurta and Diego Locanto complete the third car’s line-up. Locanto is also in for the Endurance series with yet to be determined co-drivers. Sicilians Giuseppe Nicolosi and Davide Di Benedetto complete the three-car Endurance armada.
Amongst the many Porsches you’d almost forget that the GT Cup is open to cars from other one-make series as well. Bringing two Ferrari 488 Challenge Evos is Best Lap with both Maurizio Pitorri and Gianluigi Simonelli continuing on from last year, with the other Ferrari raced by Giammarco Marzialetti and Giorgio Tibaldo proudly waving the flag of their Marche region. For the Endurance races, an interesting combination of 17-year-old Italian karting champion Eliseo Donno, last year’s GT Cup Endurance champ Nicholas Ristiano, and gentleman driver Manuel Menechini in his motorsports debut, has been formed.
The duos of Momo Barri and Eric Scalvini, and Luca Maria Attianese and Fidel Castillo will pilot two Lamborghini Huracán ST Evo 1s of Team Italy in the respectively Pro and Am classes of the GT Cup.
Last but certainly not least, last year’s GT Cup Endurance championship winning team SR&R brings two Ferraris. Alessandro Berton returns to the team with whom he contested the 2020 season, being joined by Samuele Buttarelli in the 488 Challenge Evo. The latter will also compete in the Endurance series alongside 17-year-old Sardinian driver Lorenzo Cossu. Taking charge of the 458 Challenge will be Emilio Rocchi and Alfredo Salerno for the Sprint races, while Jacopo Baratto, ‘Aramis’ and Salvatore Pennisi complete the 458’s Endurance line-up.
Kateyama test days gallery
Photos by Daniele Paglino.
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