Manny Franco Heads Home for Road America

Manny Franco Heads Home for Road America

Manny Franco shares the No. 21 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 with Ferrari expert Alessandro Balzan in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS. While life has taken him around the country, his roots are in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, making Road America his home track.

Franco will entertain the masses as part of the PRO Class in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America series. It is the first time he’ll visit his home track as part of the series with SRO Motorsports America. Prior to arriving to this moment, Franco put in the work learning and developing his racecraft in the Ferrari Challenge series. The series gave him confidence in the Ferrari machinery he’s long admired. 

“Everyone is a Ferrari fan at one point or another in their life whether they admit it or not,” Franco said. “Ferrari is the manufacturer I started my racing career with going from Corsa Pilota through Ferrari Challenge and now here driving their GT3. It was only natural for me to stick to with Ferrari who have been supportive of my racing journey.

“The Ferrari 296 GT3 is very high downforce car for a GT3. I'm told that my driving style is more of a LMP driver. And with that extra bit of downforce the 296 acts like an LMP car. I like to eat up every bit of track even if sometimes it is unnecessary. The 296 rewards that style of driving in one way or another. Whether it is on extra corner speed to get a run on someone or better tire preservation to bring them to you later in the race.” 

His interest in racing began as a child. Franco was never able to attend races at Road America or the Milwaukee Mile in his hometown growing up but that didn’t stop him from dreaming.

“I would go to the Wisconsin state fairgrounds where the Milwaukee mile resides, and I would hear the engines of the cars roaming the track,” Franco said. “It would always spark that interest and curiosity about what being a racing driver would be like.

“I always loved racing as a kid. I would watch NASCAR, and I remember watching a Nissan 370z GT4 car on TV. I would participate in track days with a group out of Chicago as I got older. It was their idea that I should buy a race car. I thought to myself what a great idea. Little did I know I was getting sucked into a passion.”

Franco is firmly planted in that passion. He’s worked with Balzan to fight for every point valiantly this season. They currently sit fifth in the Drivers Points Championship. While they’ve had some rough luck during the season, the duo found success quickly with a podium finish at Sonoma Raceway.

At VIRginia International Raceway Franco packed up a pair of fourth-place finishes. Feeling the swing of the pendulum return to his favor, Road America could be the moment Franco and Conquest Racing are waiting for to top the podium finally. 

The motivation to show up is rooted in his home turf. The inspiration to keep going is found in those who surround him.

“It’s that kid in me who always dreamed of being a race car driver that inspires me to keep pushing my talents and skills,” Franco said. “It’s the words from everyone I’ve met on my way to being here. That I have a natural gift for driving. The words of my team conquest racing, co-drivers, coaches, and family that it’s just something you need to see to the end. It’s a journey and a story I don’t want to end!”

The Road America weekend festivities kick off with the annual GT Parade and Welcome Party on Thursday, Aug. 17. The 143 racecars make the journey from Road America to downtown Elkhart Lake at 5 p.m. for a spectacle on the streets of the Village. Meet Franco and the stars and cars of SRO America at Siebkens Resort and enjoy live music, free swag, and Spotted Cow.