Felipe Massa said the stars aligned for him to make his sports car racing debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with Riley.
The Brazilian, who made 269 Grand Prix starts over a 15-year Formula 1 career, has joined the 2023 IMSA LMP3 championship-winning squad, which steps up to LMP2 competition for the 2024 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Massa will share the No. 74 Oreca 07 Gibson with Gar Robinson, Josh Burdon and close friend and compatriot Felipe Fraga, who helped connect him to the Bill Riley-led operation.
“I always wanted to try and to do a race like Daytona or maybe Le Mans,” Massa told Sportscar365.
“Since I stopped Formula 1, I came here to watch one day, maybe in 2018. But doing the race just to do it was not my idea.
“It was to try and find a good team to be part of it.
“I never really tried to find a team. This year, Felipe [Fraga], who is a big friend of mine, he said, ‘I’m racing for a very good team and they are doing LMP2 next year. I’m sure we can be competitive, and the team is really interested in having you as well.’
“So I said, ‘Why not?’
“Then I came to a test in [Road] Atlanta with the LMP3 first. Then last week we did it with this car. We decided to be part of the race. I’m looking forward to making my debut here.”
As revealed by Sportscar365, Massa took part in a test in one of Riley’s LMP3 cars at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in September with the idea of taking part in the Rolex 24.
The 42-year-old turned his first laps in the Oreca LMP2 car a few weeks ago, also at Road Atlanta.
“It’s a great car to drive,” he said. “It has massive grip. Even if the engine is not very impressive [because of detuning] I think the chassis is very good.
“I drove in a very different track in [Road] Atlanta, which is a lot of different corners and a lot of g-forces, uphill and downhill.
“It’s also quite physical on that track. I’m sure it will be much easier here. But the car impressed me a lot, the amount of grip that you have in this car.”
Wednesday’s opening day of the IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway will mark the ex-F1 and Formula E driver’s highly anticipated debut on the Florida high banks, something Massa said he’s looking forward to.
“It’s looking good,” he said. “It will be my first day here in Daytona; I never drove here before, even in a road car. I don’t know the track so it will be a learning experience for me.
“But I’m really looking forward to it. Felipe is doing a really great job. They won the [LMP3] championship last year.
“It will also be new for him to drive this car but he was already massive quick in Atlanta. I was also quite happy with my lap times as well. I didn’t drive so much but for the amount of laps I did, it was really interesting to understand the car.
“Here will be new for everyone. Hopefully we learn well an try to understand everything in the right way, especially not only to drive the car but for the long race.
“It’s very different from all the other races [I’ve done], with the strategy, the way you need to drive, the traffic as well, which is quite new to me. But I’m really looking forward to it.”
Massa “Not Even Looking” At Other Sports Car Opportunities
As the fourth driver in Riley’s LMP2 entry, Massa is currently only confirmed for the Rolex 24 and said he’s not actively seeking other sports car racing opportunities.
“For the moment I’m just looking forward to this race,” he said. “I will keep doing my Stock Car [Brasil] championship, so I’m quite happy there as well.
“It will be a nice experience to understand what else we can do more in this type of championship. But this year will be only this race.”
When asked if he has a desire to one day take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Massa indicated it would need to again be with the right opportunity.
“If you find a way to join in the nice way, with a good team and good people, maybe,” he said. “But for the moment I’m not even looking.
“I’m just concentrated here to try and learn well this car, this track and the team and also my teammates, which will be nice to work with.”