WEC: AF Corse’s Calado spurred on by Ferrari’s F1 success

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The benefits of Scuderia Ferrari’s internal revolution over the winter were clear to see at last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel stormed to the team’s first Formula 1 race win in almost two years.

However, the changes at Maranello have had something of a spillover effect, with the AF Corse GT racing team preparing for the new FIA World Endurance Championship season with renewed vigor and added pressure following the team’s F1 success.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk at the launch of the 2015 WEC season in London on Thursday, AF Corse driver James Calado explained how although the changes did not directly impact the GT racing arm of Ferrari, there has been a definite shift in the atmosphere at Maranello.

“It’s all interlinked of course,” Calado said. “All of the factories are very close together, everyone knows everyone. When you see Sebastian do a fantastic job, obviously winning in Malaysia, the atmosphere has changed.

“Obviously there are a lot of changes in Ferrari at the moment, all for the good. In just the two years that I’ve been there, you see that people are happier and in a better place now.

“We’ve got a brand new factory which is absolutely superb, a fantastic facility. They are working flat out within the F1 department to try and get back to their winning ways, and I think that only gives the GT drivers and people working on the GT project more pressure to keep pushing and keep performing.

“Although we were champions last year, we want to be champions every year. That gives a good mentality to everyone involved.”

Calado made his GT racing debut in 2014 for AF Corse after spending 2013 working with Force India in F1 and racing in GP2.

Although he admits that he found it hard to adapt to endurance racing at first, he feels fired up for a better season with AF Corse in the WEC.

“I think in general it was a bit of an average year in terms of my performance,” Calado said, reflecting on 2014. “I think I underestimated the difference between single seaters and GT racing.

“It was very, very difficult to adapt not only to the car but also to endurance racing, because as a young single seater driver you always wanted to be the fastest driver at all times whenever you’re in the car, which is completely different to endurance racing.

“Winter testing has gone extremely well. We seem to have found a little bit of performance from the car. Myself and Davide [Rigon] and also the other car, we think we can get good results throughout the year.”

The low point of Calado’s 2014 season came at Le Mans, when a crash on the Thursday before the race left him with a brain haemorrhage and unable to race in the prestigious event.

However, the Briton is relishing the opportunity to get out and race at the Circuit de la Sarthe this time around as he goes in search of a class victory in GT-E Pro.

“Actually get out and not crash this time – that would be nice!” he joked. “Last year was unfortunate. To be honest, I still don’t remember what happened. I remember being on the hard tire at the time, and I just made a mistake.

“I’m only human, it happens, but it was one that cost the team scoring any points that weekend. Things happen, but you move on. It did take a bit of time to get mentally back into it again.

“But right now, like I said, testing’s gone great. I feel really relaxed and really comfortable in the car, also working with Davide and my engineers.

“I think we’re in a really good place and good shape, and let’s just hope we can get a win at Silverstone, that would be the icing on the cake to get a really good result to build on.”

The 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship kicks off at Silverstone on April 12.

Supercross: Haiden Deegan debuts in 250s at Houston, Justin Cooper graduates to 450 class for Star Yamaha

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Rising star Haiden Deegan will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut in Houston, Texas with Yamaha Star Racing while the 2021 250 West champion Justin Cooper graduates to 450s.

Deegan, the son of motocross and off-road legend Brian Deegan and brother of NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, made two starts in the Pro Motocross outdoors season last year. He finished 31st overall at the Ironman Nationals in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was 13th at Fox Raceway in the season-ender at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, but the overall results did not necessarily reflect how well he ran. In both events, he challenged for top-10s during portions of the week and actually finished 10th in one of the Pala motos.

Last week, Haiden finished fifth in the Supercross 250 Futures in Anaheim 2.

“We’re really excited to get the season on the East Coast started,” said Monster Energy Team Manager Jensen Hendler in a press release. “It’s also exciting to have Haiden move up to join our pro program this season and to have Justin make his debut on the 450. The guys have been working hard and are looking forward to seeing what they can do this weekend in Houston.”

After scoring a 250SX Futures podium, Talon Hawkins gets 250 East ride.

Deegan will join Nate Thrasher and Jordon Smith in the 250 East division this week.

Cooper moves into the 450 class this weekend. According to Supercross rules, after winning the 2021 championship, he had one season to defend his title and then would be required to move up a class. Cooper missed all of last year to injury.

Cooper was healthy when the outdoor season started and he earned five podiums and nine top-fives in 12 rounds. Three of these races ended in runners-up finishes, at Hangtown, in Rancho Cordova, California, Washougal, Washington and Unadilla, New York.

Cooper joins Eli Tomac and Dylan Ferrandis in the 450 class and will race select events.

Justin Cooper learned to temper aggression with speed

Cooper’s Houston attempt will be the first of an undisclosed number of races he will compete in during the 2023 season.

“It’s been about two years since I’ve lined up for a supercross, and now it’s in a new class with the best guys, so I’m excited to just get out there,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to get back under the lights and learn what I can. Overall, I’m just really excited to be in the position to be out there, so I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it!”

Deegan and Cooper will be part of a seven-rider Supercross lineup for Yamaha Star Racing. Nick Romano will debut in the 250 East division later this year.