In the world of motorsports, Ferrari is king. With an amazing legacy of winning, the folks behind the prancing horse badge are always in the spotlight.
“Growing up in Italy, it’s your dream to race for Ferrari” Alessandro Balzan, of team Scuderia Corsa said on the sidelines of Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport). Balzan along with teammate Jeff Westphal pilot the Number 63 Ferrari 458 Italia and are racing in the IMSA TUDOR United Sports Car Championship. We had the chance to chat with both Ferrari drivers following qualifying to pick their brains about representing one of the most recognizable racing brands in the world.
You might think it’s impossible to be the next Ferrari driver, but these two have been through the driver selection process and it looks like there’s a formula in place in order to drive for the famous Italian brand. Here’s their advice:
How to Get Your Foot In The Door
It helps to be a Ferrari customer. Westphal and Balzan both teach in Ferrari’s racing experience programs and have seen customers progress from being a participant in the racing schools to pro-amateur racer.
“There’s a number of skills that translate into a strong racer including discipline and patience,” says Westphal. “But one of the hardest for some people to grasp is that you have to become a student – you have to be willing to learn and listen and understand that it takes time and practice.”
From there, customers can choose to take part in the Ferrari Challenge, a series open to customers and people with deep pockets. It’s expensive, but gives anyone the chance to participate with a race-ready car. Currently the series uses the Ferrari 458 Challenge cars, which cost around $300,000.
Want to take your competition to the next level? From the Ferrari Challenge you can jump into the next tier of motorsports: Pro-Am (which stands for pro-amataeur). At this point, the competition isn’t just Ferrari customers, but legitimate race car drivers in all makes and models. In order to succeed here, it takes a great deal of commitment, money and teamwork with engineers and technicians. Show your worth at this level and it could be the big-leagues calling you up next.
The Scuderia Corsa Drivers
Having won the Porsche Carrera Cup Italy for three consecutive years (2009-2012), it’s clear that Balzan is among the top racers in his country. The move to drive a Ferrari seems like a natural fit. His first season in a 458 Italia saw him win the Ferrari Challenge Europe in 2012, and Balzan followed that up with a 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT championship.
Although the chance to drive for the world-recognized Ferrari brand is a dream come true, he points out that not everyone gets the chance.
“Sure you have to be fast to be considered a Ferrari driver, but off the track you have to be a professional too,” he said. Balzan also points out that there’s a lot expected of you while racing for the top team from Italy. “When people look for your results [as a Ferrari driver] they don’t start in the middle of the list. They start at the top.”
On the other hand, Westphal’s career started with open-wheel F2000 race cars, where he excelled. Now at the helm of the #63 Ferrari 458 Italia, he considers this to be the highest point in his motorsports career. “My espresso intake has tripled since joining the team,” he said smiling. He echoes his teammates thoughts about what Ferrari looks for.
“They don’t just look for speed, but also consider your approach to motorsport as well.” He also cautions that there’s no special perks to the job like a free Ferrari to fool around in.
Back at the Track
Returning to team Scuderia Corsa’s efforts at Mosport, the pair qualified in 11th place while driving the track for the first time. Notably, their best lap was just seven-tenths of a second slower than the first place car. The following day, race-day, started off very well with Westphal starting the race. He managed to advance several positions but an incident with some slower, lapped traffic caused the car to head back to the pits. The Scuderia Corsa crew would work hard to return the Ferrari to the race and was classified in seventeeth position.
The team heads to Indianapolis next, where they are looking for a strong comeback on the exciting Indy road course.