From Tears to Cheers by James Calado
James Calado mulls over his dramatic defence of the LMGTE Pro crown.....
Newly crowned LMGTE FIA World Endurance Champion James Calado has described the dramatic last two hours of the race that saw him and the whole No.51 AF Corse crew on agonising tenterhooks.
Calado experienced the beginning of a gearbox issue which eventually stuck the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in gear and caused teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi to drive in survival mode to the chequered flag just to get the requisite points for fifth position in the LMGTE Pro class to take the title.
"As you'd expect, everything was fine. Then I heard this noise and I didn't think it was the gearbox, I just thought maybe some like bit of rubber or something vibrating on the side of the door or something like that,” said Calado.
“Then as soon as you realise a few laps later that it was fourth gear making this strange noise, but it wasn't too bad.
“For about 15 laps the noise was the same. I kept informing the team and everything was fine. Then I came out of turn four, and it was like I just heard this almighty explosion in the back of the car and then I just heard metal and I let them know and I said, “this is difficult, I've no fourth gear anymore'.
Calado, who along with Pier Guidi was aiming to defend the title it won in dramatic circumstances last November, then elaborated on how some quick thinking ultimately saved the car from disaster.
“The problem in fourth gear is you couldn't downshift the upshift from third or to fifth without using the clutch or locking the rears and I was also worried to over-rev the engine,” he added.
“So, I was trying to find out different ways to drive the car. We managed to keep going and I got out of the car. and I thought it was all over.
“You probably saw my tears in the garage. But it was unbelievable.”
Once Calado pitted and handed over to his teammate, the emotions had to be contained as all eyes were on the Italian and if he could get the compromised car to the chequered flag to seal a third title for the pair.
He also revealed how the WEC App also helped calm his nerves, at least a little anyway.
‘Alessandro jumped in and I went on the onboard on the on the WEC App and he was just in fifth gear driving everywhere,” said Calado.
“It's like he on a Sunday drive in fifth gear in a road car. I thought bloody hell if he finishes fifth and No.92 doesn't finish second we'll win the championship.
“That was an hour and a half of thinking and worrying about what was going to happen.”
But, despite the worry and nail-biting finish, Pier Guidi made it to the chequered flag and sent the Prancing Horse into rapture.
It was a fitting way for AF Corse and Ferrari to end an unforgettable period of endurance history as LMGTE Pro came to a close, with the title typically going down to the very last lap.