Belgian racer Alessio Picariello won the European Le Mans Series LMGTE drivers’ title alongside his Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR team-mates Christian Reid and Michele Beretta in his first season with Porsche and in the series.
The 27-year-old joined Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific in 2020 as its Selected Driver, an evolution of the driver development programme to continue bringing talent into Asian motorsport. Initially, Picariello was lined up for a seat in GT World Challenge Asia with reigning teams’ champions Absolute Racing alongside Tanart Sathienthirakul in the Porsche 911 GT3 R, where he would receive driver coaching from former Porsche factory driver Sascha Maassen.
However, due to the ongoing pandemic, international motorsport in Asia was put on hiatus. It was therefore agreed to instead place Picariello on a European programme, where he was positioned with long-standing Porsche customer team Proton Competition. The German outfit, owned by Christian Reid, has been racing Porsches since 1996.
Despite being drafted in late, and having never raced a GTE car before, Picariello assisted the Proton trio to victory at the first race of the season at Paul Ricard, where he also secured his first pole position at the Le Castellet 240 two races later. The #77 crew ended the campaign with a crucial win to clinch the title, having scored two further podiums during the six-round campaign.
As with the LMP2 category, the top two finishers in the LMGTE class win a guaranteed entry into the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Picariello will end his 2020 season with a wildcard appearance at the 8 Hours of Bahrain with Gulf Racing on 14 November.
“I feel so lucky to have been racing in such a high-level championship with an amazing team like Proton Competition. I could never have imagined doing something like this before joining Porsche. Although my initial programme in Asia wasn’t possible, thanks to Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific I was able to bounce back in the European Le Mans Series, so to win it is a perfect scenario. The season has been really fun, I got pure enjoyment from driving the Porsche 911 RSR and we had great pace at every event despite running success ballast most of the time. My team-mates Michele and Christian were fantastic, not only pace-wise but we developed a great friendship so winning in Portugal was very special and emotional. Now I’m very excited to take part in the final round of the World Endurance Championship in Bahrain with Gulf Racing. My goal has always been to race in this series so hopefully this will lead to a full-time seat, but for now there’s no pressure on me and I will enjoy it as much as possible.”
Alexandre Gibot, Head of Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific:
“Alessio has had a fantastic first season with Porsche. We knew it was crucial to keep him racing despite the COVID-19 pandemic preventing us from placing him in GT World Challenge Asia, as was our original intention. We are extremely proud of his efforts, having utilised our driver development programme, and we look forward to seeing his WEC debut and what 2021 holds.”
Source. Pole/Photo. Paola Depalmas & Tim Upietz/Proton Competition