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THOMAS FLEMING CROWNED FERRARI WORLD CHAMPION 2023

The Mugello circuit, located in the hills of Tuscany, Italy, hosted the 10th anniversary of the Ferrari Finali Mondiali; the most prestigious event on the Ferrari Challenge calendar.

 

The event would crown a world champion by merging the North American, Asian Pacific and European Challenge series into one qualifying and 30 minute sprint race where the winner takes all.

 

 

TF entered the weekend of the Finali Mondiali after claiming two poles, a win and a third place in the final round of the European championship two days prior. TF came away as Vice European Champion in his rookie year.
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming

Ferrari Finali Mondiali

Saturday- Qualifying Magic

Thomas Fleming Pole Position

The first order of business was to set the grid for Sunday’s world final race. The Ferrari Challenge trialled a new format of qualifying; "Super Pole". All Pros and PRO-AMs would compete for the top 6 in a standard qualifying session. The top 6 would then continue to a shoot-out (Super Pole). These top 6 would battle it out for the pole position.

 

With around 40 cars on the grid, TF qualified a strong second place, yet a distant cry away from first place. However, analysis concluded that yellow flags, traffic and session stoppages meant that by the time TF placed a competitive time the tyres were far past their best. His second position meant that TF had qualified for the “Super Pole” shootout, and had the opportunity to go for pole.

 

The Super Pole

TF started his first push lap and topped the time sheets with a 1:49.395.  TF ended +0.299s faster than second place and claimed pole position and the fastest lap of the weekend. He was awarded a miniature Rotiform Gold Wheel by Pirelli for his pole position achievement. 


TF stated : “The lap was unbelievable, especially the middle sector where commitment and bravery really pays dividends. The car felt mega and I only have the team (FF Corse) to thank for providing me a brilliant car. I look forward to seeing what Sunday brings!”

Sunday- A Champion Crowned

The crowd was out in force come Sunday’s race. The grandstand and hillsides by the track were filled with Ferrari and motorsport lovers alike and eager to be entertained by some brilliant Ferrari Challenge racing.

 

The stage was set for a competitive race with the two championship rivals of the Ferrari European Challenge, TF and Eliseo Donno, starting P1 and P2 respectively. As lights went out and racing went underway, TF was out-dragged into turn 1 dropping him down to third place, yet in a display of awareness and calmness under pressure, by turn 2 he had snatched the positions back with a switch-back move.

 

 

 

Chaos ensued behind, with cars making contact and finding the gravel trap, reducing the grid size by seven cars by the end of sector one. Luckily, TF came away unscathed and in P1. A red flag was called by the end of lap one, and all cars returned to the pits anxiously waiting for the restart. 
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming

After a lengthy 40 minute red flag stoppage while the marshals repaired broken barriers, the race was underway once again. Due to such a large stoppage, all heat in the tyres had dissipated which made for a very sketchy opening lap for all.

 

The restart was another rolling start, and TF knew with the state of the tyres he could not afford to be out dragged again. As they entered the last corner and the lights went out, TF lunged for the first corner and maintain his P1 position. By the end of the same lap, TF was 1 second ahead of his nearest rival. Fate decided to have another twist to the tale, with a safety car coming out a few laps later once again destroying the lead TF had built, a stressful watch for the FF Corse team. 

 

At the restart TF held his ground and fended off the attack of P2  through sector 1 and set about building another gap to second place. Yet with only 6 minutes left in the race, another safety car came out due to an accident through turn 2.

 

When the safety car pulled in there were only two laps remaining - two laps to complete in order to become the World Champion. With the pack bunched up once again, it was anybody's game.TF left nothing on the table, pushing his battled-scared 488 Challenge EVO to the absolute limits producing another 1 second gap and crossed the finish line  to become the Ferrari Challenge World Champion.

In just his first year of competitive car racing, and being a rookie, this was an incredible achievement which left TF speechless (and rather teary). 
Thomas Fleming and Donno
Thomas Fleming

As TF pulled into the pitlane, he was greeted by his engineer. A beautiful moment was shared between TF and Donno, after an intense year of battles the two celebrated on top of TF's number 73 Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo.

While TF was still processing his achievement, he gave an interview allowing viewers to see the raw emotion and gratitude he felt. 

"World Champion! It means everything to be even at this event and to come away as world champion is just… I was choking on the last lap, I couldn't breathe because of how much this all means to me and the team. FF (Corse) hasn’t been back since Covid and the first pairing of drivers (since) was this year. We’ve started from zero from my experience and worked all the way up… It means so much to me. The first start before the red flag was nuts! Donno and Bence were both trying to squeeze me so I just backed out, got the switch back on both of them and made sure we had the lead, stayed calm… Thank you so much to FF Corse and everybody around me because without you I wouldn't be here. Thank you." 

Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming

TF was awarded an impressive trophy by Benedetto Vigna, the Ferrari Chief Executive Officer.

TF later gave another interview stating: 

"This means absolutely everything to me. From starting at zero at the beginning of the year to ending up as World Champion is unbelievable and is a true testament to the team's (FF Corse) and I's hard work throughout the year. I have to thank everybody at FF Corse, my sponsors, my family and everyone else who has been part of this unbelievable journey as without you it would not have been possible."

During the 2023 Ferrari Show TF was interviewed in front of thousands of spectators and amongst vintage F1 cars, the Le Mans winning car, the all new Ferrari 499P Modificata and the Ferrari 296 Challenge car that will debut in the 2024 Ferrari Challenge season. TF attended the same event in 2022 at the Imola Circuit as a spectator. At that point he had only one test day (round Donnington Park) in a Ferrari Challenge car under his belt, and in just one year he has become a World Champion and was very much part of the Ferrari Show.  

Contact Thomas Fleming

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