Four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro hopes that the upcoming inaugural Rome E-Prix will act as a trigger to engage more Italians into motorsport.
Pirro, who was born in and is still based in Rome, says that the ABB FIA Formula E Championship race in the Italian capital next month could “open doors” for Italian racing going forwards.
“Rome is a city with a lot of history, and actually some racing history too, so to have Formula E inside the city will be very interesting to see,” Pirro told e-racing365.
“We have Vallelunga about half an hour from the city but to bring a major international event to the city itself can only be good.
“Formula E came to Rome and will make a home I am sure. Time will tell if the Roman people will take to it, but what I am sure of is it is good for the city and that it will be an important milestone.
“We almost had a Rome Grand Prix a few years ago when the good work which was done by [former racer and World Superbikes rights holder] Maurizio Flamini ended because of political reasons.
“I hope that these problems don’t happen again. An event like this needs to be given a good chance.”
Pirro though believes there are still overall challenges to be overcome when it comes to expanding the profile of motorsport in Italy.
“There is always the Ferrari question of course, because we know how powerful they are emotionally to a lot of fans here in Italy,” he said.
“So overall you get a situation where Ferrari consumes all the interest in racing because their attraction is so great because of the mystique.
“This is not a bad thing but what it sometimes means is that other interesting areas of motorsport sometimes get forgotten.”
The former Benetton and Scuderia Italia Formula One driver who went on to a glittering career in endurance racing recently attended his first E-Prix in Mexico City where he was working as an sporting ambassador for Audi Sport.
“My first impression of Formula E overall was very good,” said Pirro.
“When you look at the drivers there now it is very impressive. In my mind there are three championships in world motorsport where the quality of driver is that high. Formula E, F1 and DTM.”