Recently crowned smart EQ fortwo e-cup champion Vittorio Ghirelli says that succeeding in the championship was more challenging than it appeared given the tough competition and unique nature of the electric supermini touring cars.
Driving for Mercedes-Benz Roma, Ghirelli picked up one race win, nine podiums and three pole positions across the 12 races that made up the second season of the Italian smart e-cup series.
Ghirelli’s previous single-seater career included stints in GP2, GP3, Italian Formula 3, Indy Lights and AutoGP before moving to the Italian GT Championship and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
This makes him one of the most experienced drivers in the smart e-cup, which he competed in this year alongside his Euro NASCAR commitments, where he finished third in the championship.
“I was among the first pilots to believe in this innovative and successful project,” he said. “The car is definitely fun to drive, it teaches you a lot and it’s not at all easy.
“You have to be braking, taking a lot of cornering speed while making the most of your Pirelli tires, while in the exit you have to be very clean to straighten the steering immediately and accelerate as soon as possible.
“The smart e-cup is a particular car but very formative, I am convinced that it is perfect both for those who have never raced and want to approach motorsports, and for those who want to refine their driving technique.
“Going strong with these cars is not so obvious and the races have shown that.”
Ghirelli says that the main challenge of the series, which frequently enjoyed 20-car grids this year, is the single-make nature, putting the emphasis on driver talent rather than setup and car development.
“Well, when you have the same car and setup for everyone, the driver makes the difference,” he explained. “You have to take so much out and take every opportunity.
“And when there are no opportunities, you have to be good at creating them.
“This year I also had the good fortune of having many high-level opponents; this on one hand is an incentive to do more but on the other it allows you to do some maneuvers that, if you didn’t have the utmost respect and confidence in your rival, you wouldn’t do.”
As for his fiercest rivals this year, Ghirelli named Riccardo Azzoli and Fulvio Ferri.
“Fulvio is the 2018 champion, he has a lot of experience and despite an unlucky season he still finished in third place with three victories, while Azzoli had an explosive season finale,” he said.
“I had to sweat to secure the two poles at Magione and Adria.
“The lowest point was perhaps Misano. Excited from pole in qualifying, I finished 11th in anger and came back after a few too many contacts in the race.
“There I lost a lot of points! Instead I think Magione was the most beautiful weekend and the turning point of the season: pole, victory and a decisive leap forward in the standings.”
An early supporter of the smart e-cup, Ghirelli also shows his support for the electric smarts in his day-to-day life, driving a smart EQ road car at home.
“I bought one of the first smart EQs and it is still my favorite car to drive in Rome: parking everywhere, within the ZTL (restricted traffic zone) and no fuel consumption.
“In the evening I come home and put it in charge. There is nothing easier.”