Everything James Calado touches at the moment seems to be turning to gold. Before the 27-year-old Briton teamed up with Risi Competizione for Petit Le Mans, the Houston-based team had been enduring a miserable run of luck that had Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella questioning whether they had opened an umbrella indoors and broken a mirror in doing so.
After coming so agonizingly close to a first victory with the 488 GTE at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Giuseppe Risi’s team fell victim to late contact at Road America and VIR, before suffering electrical problems while leading with 20 minutes to go at COTA.
But when Calado joined Vilander and Fisichella for the IMSA season finale at Petit Le Mans, all their bad luck was laid to rest as they defeated the Le Mans-winning Ford of Dirk Muller, Joey Hand and Sebastian Bourdais by just 16 seconds after 10 hours of racing.
“It meant a lot to be part of the team,” Calado said. “The guys are all super professional, everyone did a superb job, the team were fantastic in the pit stops and we dominated the whole race. Both Toni and Giancarlo were spot on, we made no mistakes and were very quick.
Ticked off the list ✅ pic.twitter.com/qVL3ALhIcw
— James Calado (@JamesCalado) October 3, 2016
“I learned the track quickly and got up to speed within ten laps. It was important to look after the car, which we did. It was great to get the victory in the last race and good to see everyone smiling again.”
Calado rates his the Petit Le Mans triumph “very highly – in the top five” of his career wins, however it would pale next to winning the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers, a prospect which looked distinctly unlikely after a tumultuous start to the year.
After an engine failure in qualifying forced the No. 51 Ferrari to start from the back of the grid at Silverstone, Calado and team-mate Gianmaria Bruni performed an excellent recovery drive to finish second. They then suffered another engine problem while leading at Spa with 10 minutes remaining, before a further retirement at Le Mans left them with a serious mountain to climb.
Since then, Calado and Bruni have taken full advantage of the 488’s improved reliability to score 61 points from the 75 available. Following their long overdue first victory of the season in a Ferrari 1-2 at the Nürburgring, they finished a close second both in Mexico and Austin to bring them to within 29 points of championship leaders Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen with three races remaining.
“We have been the strongest all year – we should have won Silverstone and Spa, but reliability issues hampered us,” Calado explained. “Not scoring in Le Mans was a big dent in the points table, but from then on, we are always in the top two in terms of pace – although it’s a tough ask, we can still win the championship.”
— James Calado (@JamesCalado) October 8, 2016
Calado knows that nothing less than victory will do at this weekend’s 6 Hours of Fuji if they are to keep the pressure on the Aston Martin duo, but believes that their prodigious straight-line speed will make the British cars tough to match on the 1.48 km front straight.
“Aston is super quick currently, we can’t compete with the straight line speed they have, so it makes our job much harder,” he added. “We’ve just got to do the best we can and maximise our performance to its full potential. We will go for three wins in a row try to help Ferrari to win the Manufacturer title and to win the [Drivers] title despite the difficult start of the season.”