Manny Franco and Championship-Winning Driver Alessandro Balzan Debut New No. 34 Conquest Racing/Corsa Horizon Ferrari 488 GT3 in Fanatec GT World Challenge Pro-Am Class This Weekend at Sebring International Raceway; Third Driver to be Announced for Indianapolis 8 Hour
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (September 22, 2022) - Conquest Racing returns to top-level sports car racing for the final two rounds of the 2022 SRO Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS season with co-drivers Manny Franco and Alessandro Balzan in the No. 34 Conquest Racing/Corsa Horizon Ferrari 488 GT3.
In preparation for a full-season campaign in 2023, the new Ferrari debuts this weekend in the Pro-Am division of the GT World Challenge America doubleheader at Sebring International Raceway, September 23 - 25. The Conquest Racing/Corsa Horizon No. 34 has also been entered at next month's season-ending Indianapolis 8 Hour on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is also a round of the global Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli series. A third driver to join Franco and Balzan for the Indy 8 Hour will be announced in the near future.
The move to GT World Challenge America with Franco and Corsa Horizon brings Conquest Racing back to top-tier sports car racing and marks the evolution of the team's championship-winning success in IMSA Ferrari Challenge North America competition. Conquest Racing has also earned race-winning success the past two years competing with JMF Motorsports in the SRO Pirelli GT4 America series.
“I am very excited to start this new program with a 488 GT3 Ferrari and this is the next logical step from our large involvement with the Ferrari Challenge Series," said Conquest Racing President and CEO Eric Bachelart. "Manny Franco has been a dominant driver in the Ferrari Challenge competition and this move makes sense for him as well. I was very impressed how quickly he adapted to this new car recently at Sebring and we can’t wait to start racing this weekend. I have known Alessandro for a long time and he was an obvious choice to help Manny get up to speed with this new car."
A former champion driver, Bachelart has operated Conquest Racing, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, for 25 years. In addition to competing in a variety of open-wheel categories, culminating with IndyCar and Champ Car competition, Conquest has raced and won in LMP2 competition and in LMP3.
Franco, 27, moves up to GT World Challenge after successfully competing with Conquest in Ferrari Challenge competition. He has also made several race starts in GT4 machinery, including co-driving a Conquest Mercedes-AMG GT4 to a sixth-place race finish with Josh Hurley in the season-opening Pirelli GT4 America weekend at Sonoma Raceway last April.
"I do feel ready to move up," Franco said. "I’ve had podiums, wins and my fair share of bad days In Ferrari Challenge. But, the one thing that tells me I am ready to advance was being comfortable with the Ferrari Challenge car. Pushing, attacking, defending. I always feel in control and aware of my surroundings. My outlook is to gain an understanding of the GT3 Class. I want to gain experience in what feels like a no pressure situation. I’m quite an adaptable driver and I’m expecting to quickly gain the understanding I’m looking for and display that as pace on track. It's incredible to have such a machine as my debut car going into Sebring. Ferrari knows how to race and how to win, similar to Alessandro Balzan. The amount of knowledge he has on this Ferrari GT3 is immense. I look forward to learning a lot from him."
Balzan returns to GT World Challenge competition in North America while completing the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe season in an AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3. He is best known in the U.S. for winning a trio of championships since 2013 - all in Ferraris - including the final GRAND-AM GT title in 2013 and back-to-back IMSA GTD titles in 2016 and 2017 co-driving with Christina Nielsen. He co-drove with Nielsen and Jeff Segal in the first race for the Ferrari 488 GT3 in 2016, bringing the car home a winner in the GTD class in its debut in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
"I am very excited and for many years I have been friends with Eric Bachelart when we met with another program in the past," Balzan said. "Sebring is very special for the Ferrari and the 488. I drove in the debut race in 2016 in the first race ever for what was the new 488, and it was a winning one. We won the GT class. Every time I have been out there with a Ferrari, it has been really great results. We are going into this race weekend with a very positive attitude after a couple of days testing at Sebring. It was the first time for the team to be able to work with and run the car. It all went incredibly smooth, and Manny was comfortable in the car and turned some good lap times. Sebring is a demanding but fun track, which is why it is one of my favorite tracks not only in the U.S. but all over the world. It is a special place."
Balzan also has experience in the 488 GT3 on the Indianapolis road course after co-driving to a second-place Pro-Am finish at "The Brickyard" in the Indy 8 Hour in 2020.
After a brief shakedown with the new Ferrari at Modena in Italy, Franco, Balzan and Conquest tested for two days with the Ferrari at Sebring, September 14 - 15.
This weekend's GT World Challenge schedule at Sebring features twin 90-minute races on Saturday and Sunday. Race one is scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. EDT this Saturday, September 24, while the second and final 90-minute race goes green at 1:15 p.m. EDT on Sunday, September 25. Both races can be viewed live on the GT World channel on YouTube.