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.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”