“Will Zamparelli and JTR be ones to watch?”
Autosport International can be a bit of an assault on the senses sometimes. The lights, sounds, smells and density of the trade stands can all become a bit overwhelming, but in a good way. It’s easy to miss things, so as a journalist you have to keep your ear to the ground at all times, and your eyes on the crowds in an attempt to spot key drivers and personnel mingling amongst the visitors.
Two of those key personnel were hanging around the Porsche stand, and with good reason.
I’d already arranged a catch-up with old friend Nick Tandy, but I didn’t expect for Dino Zamparelli to tag along too.
“You two in cohorts this year then?” I asked presumptively.
“You’d better ask Nick first, and then you can write the story,” came Dino’s response through a telling grin.
So there you have it. Zamparelli and Tandy – could it be the signing of this year’s Porsche Carrera Cup GB?
Zamparelli was the only man to take the title fight to Dan Cammish last year, and in truth, is probably the driver best placed to do so again this year.
Yes, Porsche Scholar Charlie Eastwood was a winner last season, but Zamparelli’s extra experience from high-profile single-seaters mixed with two years in a 911 GT3 Cup should combine to make him favourite for the challenger tag.
I’ve watched Dino since his Ginetta Junior days, and he’s quick and a cerebral driver. He learns and adapts brilliantly, but his best years have always come when he’s had a seasoned and calming voice in his corner too.
He had that in Ginetta Jrs and Formula Renault BARC via his dad Mike, himself a former powerboat racer. I have fond memories of being invited to the post-session debriefs aboard the family’s motor home – a cleverly converted bus – and usually offered a bowl of the best pasta in the paddock. But the higher the level, the more external influences play a part.
Zamparelli’s GP3 results were largely unrepresentative of his talent, so the Carrera Cup beckoned, but his first two years were spent muddled between two teams.
Now Zamparelli will definitely benefit from having Tandy in his corner to be that calming voice.
I’d wager that nobody knows the 911 GT3 Cup cars quite like Tandy. After all, he helped develop it.
For Tandy, this year represents a chance to move the family business into the arena he knows best, and try to raise the next generation of Porsche stars. His team simply has to succeed, if only for his own reputation, and in Zamparelli and Lewis Plato it has a promising base.
Tandy himself won’t be available for all of the UK rounds – currently he has two clashes with his FIA World Endurance programme – but he has seasoned staff there to look after things in his absence.
This is what the Carrera Cup needed. Having one driver dominate each year ultimately hurts public interest in any series. But it looks like we’ll have a genuinely open title fight in 2017.