The pageantry, extravagance and overall brilliance of the Ferrari World Finals were on full display at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida on December 1-4, and the 2016 Finali Mondiali proved to be nothing short of spectacular. But when it came time to go racing with Ferrari Challenge competitors from all over the world, driver James Weiland and EMS Race Team were all business.
Throughout the three-day event, the Boardwalk Ferrari crew demonstrated the same heart and attention to detail they had all season long to put EMS in a position to succeed. Entering the weekend trailing by only three points in the North American Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli AM points standings, one mistake could cost EMS Race Team the season championship. Everyone in the garage understood the stakes, and everyone delivered.
“With 40 cars in a race start, our strategy was really to make it through Turn 1 unscathed—which Jim did a great job of today,” Coach Conrad Grunewald said, following a fourth-place finish for Weiland in Race 2 that secured the Trofeo Pirelli AM class season title by one point.
“After that, it’s see where he is, as far as Steve Johnson, who is our main competitor for the season championship. Then base our strategy off that. With Steve in front of (Weiland) in P3, there was no need to risk any overdriving or making a mistake. And it left us with a one-point lead for the championship. Couldn’t be more proud of Jim, he did a great job this season.”
Coach Grunewald was speaking from Victory Lane at DIS after a technically sound performance on Saturday from Weiland. Understanding how many points were needed during the final race of the 2016 season to win the championship, EMS Race Team drove free of mistakes. This followed a Race 1 effort that ended with Weiland and his reserve driver who helped prepare for each race on the first-place podium, earning enough points on Friday to move into the top spot overall.
Reserve Driver Max Weiland reviewing race strategy with Coach Conrad Grunewald
“As you can see it just brings a big smile to my face,” Boardwalk Ferrari Team Partner Rudy Courtade said in response to Boardwalk Ferrari and Ferrari of San Francisco teammates James Weiland (P1 Trofeo Pirelli AM), Matt Keegan (P1 Coppa Shell) and J.C. Saada (P2 Coppa Shell) all finishing in the top two spots in class during Race 1. “It’s incredible how these guys can just pull off a 1-1-2 finish, with Jim, Matt and JC here at the Daytona World Finals. Everybody is super excited and we’re stoked going into the second race.”
While some outside the Boardwalk Ferrari and Ferrari of San Francisco garages may have been surprised that Weiland moved from second to first overall on the final Ferrari Challenge weekend of the year, one racing analyst was not.
“I think Paris is going to bring home the W,” Beckham Harkins, a racing analyst and son of former NHL player Brett Harkins who has appeared on ESPN, Fox, and other sports media outlets said before Race 1 began. “Go fast. I think she’s going to bring another championship back to Cleveland.”
The ems+ Ferrari Challenge 458 EVO trimmed in blue did bring that championship back to Cleveland as Harkins predicted. But the victory would never be won without the group of mechanics who kept Paris in racing order on a challenging track at Daytona.
“Car and the driver are both really, really fast,” head mechanic Dave Cameron said prior to qualifying on Friday morning. “We have a solid piece of equipment, just did a solid inspection. Ready to bring our A-game at the World Finals.”
With Erin, the ems+ Ferrari Challenge 458 EVO trimmed in red, initially slotted to run in the Finals, her sister, Paris, was forced to step in. The blue ems+ car qualified second in class for Race 1 before securing the hard-fought victory on opening night. The win, coupled with a best lap point, allowed Weiland to be leading the Trofeo Pirelli AM class by three heading into Race 2. The Bass Pro Shops car, driven by Steve Johnson, entered the final race in second position before finishing the season on the podium, earning 12 points with a third. But the ems+ car finished fourth and earned 10—which was just enough for the one-point season advantage.
“I’m really proud to be part of this Boardwalk Ferrari team,” Weiland said following the racing action at the Finali Mondiali. “But that’s nothing new. I love how hard they work, love their passion for what they do, and it’s showed in our results all season long. Huge thanks to Ken Ambrose, Nathan Dunning, Emmanuel Turin, Ryan Negri, Rudy Cortade, Dave Cameron, Daryl Cameron, Donald Cameron, Andrew Prendeville and my coach, Conrad Grunewald. To share this championship with those guys, it really makes it special. We all got together to raise as much awareness for PETA Cruelty Free and the Cornerstone of Hope Foundation as we could when the season began, and that’s what we did.”
Following the first-place finish Friday, and fourth on Saturday, EMS Race Team was back at it again on Sunday to compete for the World Finals. This race would be the first time that the Asian Pacific Series, European Series, and North American Series directly competed against each other, despite sharing a track throughout the weekend. EMS would receive rear contact on Sunday, however, and end the afternoon early. But they wouldn’t leave Daytona without the North American Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli AM championship trophy that the reserve driver required when the season began.
For more behind-the-scenes coverage of the Finali Mondiali weekend at Daytona International Speedway visit @emsRaceTeam on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo.
Written by Brendan Bowers
The Ferrari World Finals will be held on December 1-4 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida. The Ferrari extravaganza begins on Friday night with racing under the lights, and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday. During the first two days of action, Ferrari Challenge drivers from all over the world will compete for season championships in the North American, European, and Asian Pacific series. With more than 40 cars on the track for each race, the competition expects to be crowded and stiff. But EMS Race Team driver, James Weiland, and his crew from Boardwalk Ferrari are looking forward to the opportunity.
“It’s exciting to be hosting the Ferrari World Finals, in a sense, at a North American series location,” Weiland said of the upcoming races in Daytona, Florida. “We’ve traveled to compete in the Ferrari World Finals in places like Abu Dhabi and Italy in the past, and it was amazing. So I think it will be a very fun and entertaining weekend, and a great experience for everyone at Daytona International Speedway. Our team is certainly looking forward to the challenge.”
By Saturday night, a season champion will be crowned for each class and series. EMS Race Team is currently in second place, but has an opportunity to close out the season in first with some solid racing and a little bit of luck. On Sunday, the chance to compete for a world championship during a third race at Daytona will conclude a star-studded weekend of Ferrari racing for EMS and all those in attendance.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will also be driving their Ferrari F1 cars at Daytona during an on-track exhibition for the fans. Meanwhile, former NASCAR champion, Rusty Wallace, will be competing in the Ferrari races at DIS per the following release.
From Daytona International Speedway:
“NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace is going to return to the driver’s seat for the upcoming Ferrari Finali Mondiali on Dec. 1-4 at Daytona International Speedway. The 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will battle the twists and turns of the “World Center of Racing’s” 3.56-mile road course for the Risi Competizione/Ferrari of Houston team in the North America series of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli. Wallace will practice on Thursday, Dec. 1 followed by qualifying and racing on Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3.
“I hope that I can run strong in it and hopefully win but I’m realistic too,” Wallace said. “I haven’t been in a car in a long time. I’m going to have to knock a lot cobwebs off but I got the passion for it.”’
Wallace’s passion as a driver led to 55 victories and 36 poles during his NASCAR career. He along with Vettel and Raikkonen will infuse an already exciting event with even more energy, during a highly-anticipated weekend of racing.
“The Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Daytona will have a lot of eyes on it this year to be sure,” Weiland added, with respect to the celebrity drivers appearing as well as the Ferrari drivers from many different countries around the globe. “So, hopefully we can represent PETA Cruelty Free and the Cornerstone of Hope as well as we can, and get onto the podium a couple times. If we happen to win a season championship along the way, that’s great too.”
For more behind the scenes race coverage throughout the weekend follow @emsRaceTeam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live updates. Also check out the Vimeo page as well for on-track footage following the race.
Champion driver Jeff Gordon once said, “When you’re in a race car, you’re going through so many different emotions throughout that race.” For EMS Race Team, while competing in the last regular-season event on the 2016 Ferrari Challenge North American schedule, there were many reasons for emotions to become a distraction at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. A solid showing there would create an opportunity to secure first place overall in the season points standings at the Finali Mondali next month. Meanwhile, a disappointing effort could make that next to impossible. But driver James Weiland and his crew from Boardwalk Ferrari refused to be overcome by those emotions.
While driving Paris, the ems+ Ferrari 458 Challenge EVO trimmed in blue, Weiland got out to a great start in Race 1 on Saturday. Despite some pressure by a collection of talented drivers in the Trofeo Pirelli AM class, he was able to earn a podium finish good enough for second in class and fifth overall. After following that up by earning pole position for Race 2 on Sunday, Weiland and Paris would stand on the podium again after completing another second place finish. The points EMS earned along the way would be enough to remain within striking distance for the overall title which will be decided at the Daytona International Speedway in December.
“We are excited to be in a position to compete for the Trofeo Pirelli AM title next month to be sure,” Weiland said following the race. “But that wasn’t anything we were thinking about heading into the races at Homestead. We knew coming in that if we were going to accomplish our goals as a team, we needed to take this one race at a time. We competed against some great drivers here, and we knew we would need our best effort to get onto the podium. We didn’t win, but we got up there twice and gave ourselves a chance to accomplish something special next month.”
EMS Race Team is now three points off the overall lead behind friend and rival, Steve Johnson (Ferrari Fort Lauderdale). In Race 1 and Race 2 at Daytona International Speedway on December 2-3, a win is worth 20 points for each of the two races. A second place finish is worth 15 in each race, third is 12, fourth is 10, and so on from there. On December 4 at the World Finals, EMS and the Boardwalk Ferrari crew will then compete against the other Ferrari drivers from around the world in addition to the North American series drivers.
“We haven’t spent much time talking about points or standings this season, and we’re certainly not going to start now,” Weiland added. “It may sound cliché, but it really is all about one race at a time for our team, and continuing to find ways to improve. That’s what we’ll do when we come back to Florida next month and we’ll have a great time doing it. But what we’re most excited about is continuing to raise awareness for PETA Cruelty Free and the Cornerstone of Hope just like we did in Miami. That’s the biggest honor for us each time we compete, and we hope to close the season strong by raising even more awareness for the great work that each of those teams do for our community.”
For more behind the scenes coverage of the Ferrari Challenge at Homestead-Miami Speedway visit @emsRaceTeam on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo.
While competing to raise awareness for the Cornerstone of Hope Foundation and PETA Cruelty Free, EMS Race Team traveled to Russia for the Ferrari Racing Days event in Sochi this past weekend. On a track surrounding the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, driver James Weiland and his team battled some of the best Ferrari Challenge drivers in the world all weekend long. Despite this significant test, EMS would eventually make Russia the fourth country they’d earn a podium finish in this season with a top-three performance on Sunday.
Ferrari Racing Days is one of the biggest events organized by the Prancing Horse and features some of the best Ferrari Challenge drivers in the world. The first Ferrari Racing Days event was held in Nuremberg, Germany in 1996. Since then, this prominent celebration of racing has made stops in the United Kingdom, Italy, Hungary, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and the United States. For the first time since its inception, on July 30-31, Russia will host this marquee weekend and EMS Race Team will be among the many competitors.
The upcoming event will be held at the Sochi Autodrom in Sochi, Russia with the Ferrari Challenge races taking place on Saturday and Sunday. At just over 3.6 miles, the Sochi Autodrom plays host to the Russian Grand Prix and is the third-longest circuit on the Formula One schedule. The track is built around the Sochi Olympic Park—site of the 2014 Winter Olympics—and opened for racing just after the games concluded. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) won the first two Russian Grand Prix races at Sochi in 2014 and 2015, while teammate Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) won the signature Russian F1 competition this year.
When EMS Race Team tears off that same starting line during Race 1 at Sochi later this month, it will mark the third Ferrari Challenge event that they have competed in this season outside of the United States. Along with the Ferrari Racing Days in Suzuka, Japan, the trip to Russia will also be the second time that EMS will compete outside of North America this year. During this action-packed weekend, EMS Race Team driver James Weiland will be debuting a new member of their fleet as well, while trying to win for the fifth-straight time.
“We are very excited for Nicky to be making her racing debut in Sochi,” Weiland said of the Electronic Merchant Systems Boardwalk Ferrari 458 Challenge EVO trimmed in purple. “She is currently in Italy getting prepped for the trip, and we’re looking forward to seeing what she can do out on the track. If she’s able to run anywhere like her sisters Erin and Paris have this year, we’ll certainly be pleased with that type of performance.”
While competing in Japan earlier this season, Erin—the Electronic Merchant Systems Boardwalk Ferrari 458 Challenge EVO trimmed in red—was able to secure the first overseas victory of the year with a win at the Suzuka Circuit. Most recently, sister Paris has helped Weiland secure four-straight Ferrari Challenge victories at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin and then the Circuit-Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal.
“Our coaches, crew, and myself as a driver, we are always trying to get better from race to race,” Weiland added. “So we’re just hoping to continue to improve in Russia and grow as a team. With the many talented drivers we’ll be competing against from all over the world, we understand that nothing less than our very best effort will be required for a podium finish on a track as challenging as the Sochi Autodrom. Win or lose, though, this will be another great opportunity to spread our message of support for the PETA Cruelty Free Campaign and Cornerstone of Hope to the race fans in Russia.”
Weiland has been preparing for Sochi over the last several weeks. He was in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for testing at Road America earlier this month, and then at the GPX Labs in Miami learning his way around the virtual track at Sochi in anticipation of the trip. For behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ferrari Challenge in Russia throughout the weekend, follow @emsRaceTeam on Twitter and Facebook. Also be sure to visit EMS Race Team’s Vimeo Page for on-track video action after the race.