Former Force India test driver and GP2 title challenger James Calado is ready for his first season in the World Endurance Championship with Ferrari works team AF Corse after failing to secure a single seater drive.
Calado has, like many drivers, sought refuge in the WEC as an alternative to Formula 1. Mark Webber has joined Porsche’s LMP1 programme for 2014 after retiring from F1, whilst Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld are two other drivers to have found success in the championship. Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi spent a year with AF Corse in the WEC last year before returning to F1, and Calado has arrived as his replacement.
“It’s fantastic to be a Ferrari driver,” Calado explained at the WEC launch event at Kensington Palace yesterday. “I was struggling to find myself a seat in single seaters. Got to be honest, it’s a tough times in single seaters at the moment, so it was a perfect opportunity to land this seat.”
Calado has become the first British driver to race for a works Ferrari team since Eddie Irvine back in 1999, and he is brimming with enthusiasm for the hugely popular World Endurance Championship.
“It’s very professional,” he said. “I’m new to the championship, and just looking forward to getting race. With the testing I’ve done, it’s fantastic, it’s good to see so many fans, so many passionate people. I think it’s going to be a close year judging what it was like last year.”
One of the biggest challenges that Calado – who finished third in last year’s GP2 championship – faces is a race that last longer than one hour. Most races in the WEC at six hours long, barring the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans which takes place in June this year.
“That’s one thing actually that I need to get used to is that I’ve got to look after the car and make sure it can last a distance because I’m only used to maximum 45 minute races, one hour races,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been practising in testing. I’ve got fantastic teammates behind me, the world champion from last year [Gianmaria Bruni], so learning a lot from him.
“Like I said, can’t wait to get racing. I feel very privileged to be driving for Ferrari.”
The World Endurance Championship gets underway at Silverstone on the 20th April. For tickets, visit www.fiawec.com.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic.