Getting to know...
Lamborghini Factory Driver Marco Mapelli is too humble to class himself as a professional, let alone a key cog in the championship-winning partnership he forms with FFF Racing team-mate and boss Andrea Caldarelli.
The 2019 season was a revelation for Mapelli, who plied his early trade in single seaters, looking for a foot-up into a motorsport career. A trade which took him as far away as Australia and ultimately back to Europe to climb up the GT ranks to where he is now.
It’s paid off handsomely. Mapelli may not be a young upstart who is part of a burgeoning junior development team, far from it. But he is a driver who is reaching his peak form, and his performances during the 2019 season proved just how valuable the Italian is to Lamborghini.
“I’ve been very lucky having people help me go racing,” Mapelli says. “I never like to use the word ‘career’, but motorsport is always dominated by money in the beginning, so you need it if you want to keep racing.”
Mapelli’s introduction to motorsport was to be expected, given that he was born in Seregno, about a 20-minute drive from the famous Monza circuit.
An avid go-karter until his switch to cars in 2004, Mapelli initially struggled tom make a firm impression. Until he made the move to Australian F3 three years later. There, he secured one win and a further three podium finishes which enabled him to finish fifth in the final points standings.
Fast forward three years – after periods in the Ferrari Challenge following his return to Italy – and Mapelli found himself in contention for the secondary Cup class in Italian GT, which he went on to win.
It was, for him, a career-defining moment: “In 2010, I started the season in March because at that point, I didn’t have a seat and the team called me and said ‘let’s try it’. And then the year after, I moved to Carrera Cup and that allowed me to become known by the Porsche guys to give me the opportunity to drive that. There were some drivers who had clashes and they called me in [to sub].
“This was basically my career, replacing people and trying to find a seat in a championship is not easy. Then in 2015, when Audi called it was made a little bit easier.”
Mapelli is very quick to say that he doesn’t believe in “superstars” which is a trait shared by Caldarelli at FFF.
Combined, the pair took the GT World Challenge Europe series by the scruff of the neck last season – the team’s first campaign in Europe – claiming three victories (at Misano, Nurburgring and Barcelona) to secure not only the Sprint Cup title, but the Endurance Cup and the Teams’ championship crown in the face of some of the sternest GT3 competition in the world.
Ahead of Mapelli in 2020 is more of the same, with the added desire of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which races in some of the world’s most prestigious endurance events.
Already a podium finisher in the Daytona 24 Hours – sharing the Magnus Racing by GRT Huracán with John Potter, Spencer Pumpelly and Andy Lally – Mapelli believes the key to further success comes from within.
“What really matters is the team. It’s never just one person who makes the difference, it’s everyone. I don’t want to be the superstar, I want to work with the team, stay focused and move in the right direction with the car all the time.”