Friday, 8 January 2016

Bird joins Ferrari amid GT driver shuffle

Sam Bird will join Ferrari's factory GT team this year, racing alongside Davide Rigon in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The reigning WEC LMP2 champion takes the place of fellow Brit James Calado who moves over to the lead car which he will share with three-time LMGTE Pro champion Gianmaria Bruni.

"I'm delighted to be joining the Ferrari factory," Bird said of his recent signing with the Maranello squad. "As a young boy, I used to look at Ferrari's Prancing Horse and think it was the symbol in motorsport, and I am thrilled to be associated with it."

Although the 2016 season marks Bird's first season as an official Ferrari driver, it is not the first time that he has raced for the Prancing Horse. The former Mercedes F1 tester scored a podium on his sports car racing début in a GTE Am Ferrari 458 at Silverstone in 2014.

His new role with Ferrari will not affect his Formula E commitments with the DS Virgin Racing team. The 2013 GP2 runner-up is a two-time winner in the all-electric category and he currently sits fourth in the standings.

Meanwhile Toni Vilander, who has shared the #51 458 GTE with Bruni for the past two seasons will move over to the IMSA USCC championship in the United States, sharing driving duties for Risi Competizione with former Grand Prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella. The two have previously teamed up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans six times, winning in 2012 and 2014.

The programmes of the remaining Ferrari Factory drivers, Olivier Beretta and F1 test driver Andrea Bertolini will be announced by Ferrari in due course.

Both Risi Competizione and the AF Corse-run WEC effort will make use of the new 488GTE which will make it's competition début at the end of January. The car, which was unveiled at last year's Finali Mondiali event, is the first turbocharged Ferrari GT car since the F40 GTE in 1996 and the first from the factory in the company's history.

Images: Dominik Wilde, Ferrari Media

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