Earlier today, the Romeo Ferraris engineering firm announced that veteran Italian driver, Fabrizio Giovanardi, had left their World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) operations with immediate effect.
Giovanardi had been driving for Romeo Ferraris under the Team Mulsanne banner, as part of a two-car Alfa Romeo team in the WTCR. He’s the second driver to depart from the team since the start of the 2018 season, following Gianni Morbidelli‘s decision to leave a few months ago.
For Team Mulsanne, it’s been a difficult year of development with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR – a car which hasn’t received the same manufacturer support as many of its competitors. As such, Gianni Morbidelli left the team having been unable to score a single championship point.
Somewhat ironically, the Giulietta TCR seemed to take a promising step forward at the following event at the Slovakiaring, during which Fabrizio Giovanardi scored the team’s first points of the season.
Indeed, Giovanardi had been an integral part of the car’s development over the course of the year, but in recent rounds has been rather outshone by Morbidelli’s replacement, Kevin Ceccon. The young Italian has raised quite a few eyebrows since his debut in the WTCR, and has seemingly got to grips with touring car racing very quickly. In fact, despite having only been present for the past three events, Ceccon has already amassed more championship points than Giovanardi has over the entirety of the season so far.
In fact, while Ceccon has improved since his arrival, Giovanardi comparatively gone backwards. Admittedly, this hasn’t entirely been his own fault, with the Alfa Romeo suffering significant mechanical issues during both parts of the Chinese double-header at Ningbo and Wuhan.
This most recent string of technical niggles seems to have been the catalyst for Giovanardi’s departure from the team, with the car’s lack of competitiveness being cited as his reason to leave.
Michela Cerruti, the operations manager at Romeo Ferraris, released this statement: “We have taken Fabrizio’s decision with great respect, for what he has represented both within our project and the whole touring car environment.”
“We have looked for him this winter to try to develop a new product, but evidently we were not able to understand and realise the requests from him to satisfy his needs and provide him with a competitive car.”
“Fabrizio’s work has been fundamental for the growth of this car, and thanks to his contribution we were able to score our first WTCR points in Slovakia, which we will forever be thankful for.”
Giovanardi also had his say on the situation, making it clear that there were no hard feelings between him and the team: “This was not an easy decision, I’m definitely disappointed with not having been able to get the results we had wanted. I went back to touring cars because I wanted to win, and I accepted this challenge with Romeo Ferraris because I believed in this project and in the team.”
“Unfortunately things tumbled down in China, due to technical issues which were impossible to solve out of the workshop. I still take pride in having conquered the first WTCR points of the Giulietta and having done several races “à la Piedone”, in my own style, throughout the season.”
“In spite of the all but happy ending of this adventure I would still like to thank the team, both on track and at home. They worked their hearts out and I wish them the best for this season and beyond. I’m still very much hungry for wins and I want to tell my many supporters that I will do everything I can to find a project that allows me to continue to put on a great show and fight for top positions.”
With Giovanardi gone, Team Mulsanne had to work fast to find a replacement ahead of the final two WTCR rounds of 2018, at Suzuka and Macau. The driver chosen to be Ceccon’s new team-mate is TCR Italy Series regular, Luigi Ferrara.
Behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR for V-Action Racing, Ferrara was a strong contender for this year’s TCR Italy championship. However, “Gigi” ended up third in the overall standings, as Salvatore Tavano clinched the title.
Eager to get going, Ferrara was very thankful for the opportunity to drive in the World Touring Car Cup, saying: “I thank a lot Romeo Ferraris and Team Mulsanne for choosing me to finish the season. The call received by Michela, for sure, took me by surprise, but at the same time, boosted me a lot.”
“I am anxious to be meeting the team and discovering the atmosphere of the WTCR. It is like a dream come true for me and an opportunity to give continuity to the work I have done with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR by Romeo Ferraris in the TCR Italy in the last two seasons”
Cerruti explained that Ferrara’s prior experience with the Giulietta TCR was key to his selection for the WTCR drive: “We warmly welcome Gigi in the team. Following’s Fabrizio decision, we had very little time to find a replacement for the last two rounds, and the obvious choice was to enter alongside Kevin someone who already knew our car.”
“Ferrara was a natural option, and we are confident that he will be able to contribute a lot to the set-up of the car given his great experience with our cars, although he will be facing two challenging tracks as Suzuka and Macau.”