From Le Mans to Macau
Lucas di Grassi, from Brazil, is a driver who’s not afraid of a challenge. His next one comes just next week, when he takes part in the FIA GT World Cup through the streets of Macau.
The 33-year-old’s participation in the event will be the latest milestone in his increasingly successful relationship with Audi. His shared history with the German marque began in 2012 when he joined its all-conquering sportscar squad for a World Endurance Championship race in his home city of Sao Paulo, on the famed Interlagos track that is also the venue for this weekend’s Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Sharing a car with two endurance racing icons in Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish (which they drove to third place) gave di Grassi a flying start in the discipline, and after finishing on the podium again at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours in 2013, he became a full-time member of Audi’s world championship driving force.
A busy schedule saw him combine that with representing the brand in Formula E: an initiative he was behind from the start thanks to his relationship with series founder Alejandro Agag. Di Grassi raced for Agag’s team in the GP2 Series in 2008, finishing third in the standings despite missing six races. A similar result the next year with a rival squad led to him earning his break as an F1 driver…and it was through F1 that he first became associated with Pirelli.
Learning the hard way
Life with the brand-new Virgin Racing team (which later became Marussia and then Manor) wasn’t easy, but he was able to use the experience gained from that and his years beforehand as a test driver for Renault to take on a testing role with Pirelli. Then, he remembers: “Alejandro came with this crazy idea and said: ‘I’m going to do an electric racing series, do you want to join and help me to build this championship?’”
Di Grassi won the title at the third attempt earlier this year for a team that enjoys increasing involvement from Audi. His passion for the future of motoring has now developed to the point that he has become the CEO of Roborace: a racing driver in charge of a series that will have no drivers. But di Grassi is an astute businessman as well as a fierce competitor. The automotive world is heading only in one way, towards possibly the most overused phrase in the motoring lexicon: ‘sustainable mobility’. But whether we like it or not, it's happening.