James Calado from go-karts to the Ferrari hypercar to keep on dreaming

8. März 2023
James Calado from go-karts to the Ferrari hypercar to keep on dreaming

Before becoming an endurance racing star, James Calado competed in single-seaters with internal combustion and electric powertrains. “I love every kind of engine on a vehicle with four or two wheels,” says the three-time British world champion with Ferrari in the LMGTE Pro class. The driver was born in 1989 and made his top-class FIA WEC debut in the 2023 season in the number 51 499P shared with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Giovinazzi.


“My father gave me a passion for racing. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to race, which he never had,” says Calado. “The first race I saw in person was the Formula 1 GP in Silverstone in 1999. It was a magical Sunday, despite Michael Schumacher’s accident. He’s one of my heroes. The other? Ayrton Senna, who I admired for his speed and driving style.”

The beginnings

James’ first foray into motorsport proved encouraging. “I won my first karting race, while success in a single-seater came in Snetterton in 2008 in the first season of the British Formula Renault 2.0: it was one of the most intense emotions I’ve ever felt.” In the first season of karting, “my family went to great lengths: we couldn’t afford a hotel room, so at weekends I slept in the back of our old van, which became my bedroom. We couldn’t buy wet tyres either: I used slicks even when it was raining, a necessity that then helped me adapt quickly to every situation on the asphalt.” His youth results bolstered his dream of becoming a professional driver. “Motorsport is a world which demands a lot of sacrifice in your private life. When you start achieving wins, it rewards those sacrifices,” he says. “Winning is everything for me. In the very last seconds before crossing the line or before my teammate passes under the chequered flag, I feel an indescribable sensation. It’s great to see the joy on the faces of all the people in the team and feel part of a group of winners.”

The successes

As of 2014, James switched from single-seaters to GTs with Ferrari. “It takes time to reach a good level. The first hurdle to overcome was mental: not thinking individually any more, but as part of a team who share the car. Then we started down a road that would lead us to dominate in GT,” says the driver who has 12 WEC wins to his own name, including two in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2019 and 2021). “The approach to the LMH is similar: a new challenge, a brand-new experience. There’ll be no shortage of pitfalls, starting with handling the traffic. I’m on a team with victory in its sights and we’ll do anything it takes to achieve it. My dream? Returning to the top step of the podium at Le Mans with the Hypercar.”

The endurance race held at the Circuit de la Sarthe stands out in Calado’s mind. His analysis: “After a number of errors in previous editions, the first win arrived in 2019. I lost my voice shouting with joy after the race.”


An endurance race demands that drivers and teams put in an effort made up of energy, determination and concentration, various factors of equal importance. “Endurance isn’t about speed alone, but also strategy, management and patience. For my first Le Mans I stayed awake for 40 hours, I felt agitated and tense, but the tiredness had a negative effect on my performance in the long run,”relates Calado. “It became a lesson for me. I learnt that a 24 Hours is a real marathon during which, as well as not committing errors, you have to find time to rest. After two stints of driving I go back to the motorhome, put my smartphone and tablet away, turn off the light and try to sleep.” Endurance racing was a sporting adventure that often saw Calado alongside Pier Guidi. “We have a very strong connection, know each other inside out and have always respected each other. Even when we’ve committed errors we’ve always understood each other,” he says. “Mutual support is a characteristic aspect of our whole team.”


“In the days before the race, the tension keeps building, until the time comes and, when you climb into the car on the starting grid, the pressure peaks,” explains the driver for the number 51 Ferrari 499P. “You know that everyone’s looking at you and trusts you. It’s only after the first stints that the tension starts to ease off.”

James stresses the value of the fans on an emotional level: “I feel fortunate to be a Ferrari driver. I’ve always been a fan of Ferraris,” he explains. “I love the passion of Italians for Ferrari. The fans create that magical adrenaline-charged atmosphere that we really pick up on, especially on the starting grid. My dream is to reward them all with a great triumph, at Le Mans perhaps, the most eagerly awaited race, or at Monza, on our home turf.”

The advice

Reflecting on the past, James would advise an aspiring young driver to “always be ready for the next step, for the challenge that’s going to present itself in the next race.” He concludes: “It’s also vital to keep your ego in check, preventing it from outgrowing your talent, and treasure what you learn from others.”

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