With less than two months to go before the opening ceremony takes place in Rome, preparations for the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games have entered their final phase. In recent days several nations have formally committed to the 1-3 November event, revealing the categories in which they will chase gold at Vallelunga Circuit.
Six disciplines will be part of the schedule: GT, Touring Car, Formula 4, Drifting, Karting Slalom and Digital. There has been significant interest in the GT category, which represents a continuation of last year's FIA GT Nations Cup at the Bahrain International Circuit. A number of line-ups can now be officially confirmed for this discipline, with new and returning squads looking to clinch victory for their nation.
Team Russia emerged as a leading contender in Bahrain, qualifying fifth on the grid for the deciding race and ultimately securing a fourth-place finish. Extending its commitment to contest all six disciplines at the Motorsport Games, the country has revealed an unchanged line-up for the GT Cup category. Rinat Salikhov and Denis Bulatov will once again drive a Ferrari 488 GT3, decked out in their national colours and prepared by expert GT squad Rinaldi Racing.
The experienced Salikhov is known as one of Europe's fastest bronze-graded drivers. A regular race-winner at international level, his career to date has been highlighted by a class victory at the 2018 Total 24 Hours of Spa, while the 2019 season has seen him link up with fellow countryman Bulatov for a Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup programme aboard a Rinaldi-run Ferrari.
Bulatov is set to be among the youngest drivers competing for GT Cup honours at this year's FIA Motorsport Games. The Russian, who will turn 21 shortly before the event, made an early switch to GT racing in 2018 after spending his formative years in single-seaters. Now in his second season competing internationally, he will hope to be among the leading medal contenders in Rome.
Like the Russian entry, Team USA has also put its trust in Ferrari machinery. Experienced domestic racers Spencer Pumpelly and Robert Ferriol will carry the Stars and Stripes on their 488 GT3, with the globally renowned AF Corse squad taking care of its preparation.
Ferriol comes with a diverse background. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he has since balanced a successful business with a flourishing motorsport career. The South Carolina racer has accumulated significant mileage at the wheel of GT machinery in recent years, competing in the IMSA SportsCar Championship and his domestic Porsche GT3 Cup.
He will be joined on Team USA's racing roster by silver-graded competitor Pumpelly. The Virginia native has handled GT machinery in a variety of top-line series, including the FIA World Endurance Championship, IMSA SportsCar Championship, and Blancpain GT World Challenge America. He has also made multiple starts at the Le Mans 24 Hours, adding crucial international experience to the U.S. line-up.
Spanish participation in the FIA Motorsport Games was confirmed on Monday (9 September), with Team Spain entries set for the GT, Touring Car and Formula 4 categories. The GT Cup effort will be spearheaded by Alvaro Lobera and Fernando Navarrete, who will drive a to-be-determined car operated by Racing Team Spain.
Bronze-graded Lobera brings considerable expertise from circuit racing at the wheel of both GT and touring car machinery, particularly in his homeland. In recent years he has also competed in several rally events, adding a very different set of skills to his arsenal. Navarrete’s career behind the wheel stretches back almost 20 years and includes single-seater, touring car and GT series. He and Lobera know each other well from several endurance outings and currently compete as teammates in Spain’s domestic touring car championship.
He and Navarrete have previously shared driving duties in endurance racing and compete as teammates in their domestic touring car series, Silver-graded Navarrete knows his way around Team Spain's Lamborghini Huracan, having driven the same machine for Team Lazarus during this year's Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Team Belarus will compete in three categories at this year's FIA Motorsport Games, expanding on their participation in last year's FIA GT Nations Cup. As was the case in Bahrain, the Belarusian entry will be driven by father-son duo Alexander Talkanitsa Snr and Alexander Talkanitsa Jnr. They will share a Ferrari 488 GT3 run by their own AT Racing squad, with further technical assistance from AF Corse.
The Talkanitsas are the most active father-son duo currently competing at an international level. The 2019 season has seen them focus on LMP3 racing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, while their past experience together includes the European Le Mans Series and International GT Open. Last year, the Team Belarus Ferrari was eliminated at the very first corner of the deciding race. That will act as further motivation as they spearhead their nation's challenge at the Motorsport Games.
This quartet of crews join the previously announced Team Hong Kong line-up, which will see Paul Ip and Marchy Lee share a Honda NSX GT3. Competitors from all six disciplines will travel to host city Rome for the event’s opening ceremony on Thursday 31 October, with Vallelunga staging on-track activities over the following three days. Further news and line-ups from each category will be revealed during the coming weeks.