Antonella Bassani makes spectacular debut in Porsche Cup Brazil
At her first ever race in GT racing, 16-year-old Antonella Bassani had an outstanding debut in the Porsche Cup Brazil, claiming a class podium and fourth overall on Sunday at Interlagos.
Only announced on Friday before the event, Brazilian karting star Antonella Bassani made her racing debut in GT racing in the Porsche Cup Brasil – and it was a star-worthy performance. Bassani, 16, was a finalist in the FIA Women in Motorsport's promoted global selections for female talents Girls on Track - Rising Stars in 2020 and 2021, and is currently mentored by former IndyCar driver Bia Figueiredo. Having started her career at the age of 4, Bassani rose to the national karting scene. In 2022, she shared the wheel with her mentor Figueiredo for the Interlagos round of the TCR South America championship, making her race car debut. After that, she continued her karting competitions – until last weekend. Bassani has in fact been selected as part of the new Young Racing Academy program, an initiative designed to be the first stage of a potential selection within the Porsche Junior Program at national level. With the launch of Young Racing Academy, Bassani landed a seat in the Porsche Cup Brazil with support from Mobil 1: the young driver will compete in the six Sprint rounds, in the Challenge category – effectively making her GT racing debut. At her very first weekend in the car, Antonella was thrown in at the deep end, jumping behind the wheel for her first practice session the day before her first race at Interlagos. Yet, she delivered. Bassani qualified P11 out of 21 cars on Saturday morning – a result that left the young Brazilian dissatisfied for not having maximised her potential. In race 1, though, she would prove her talent with a remarkable recovery drive. At the race start, Urubatan Junior snatched the lead from pole sitter Marcelo Tomasoni at Turn 1, as Antonio Junqueira, Cristian Mohr and Sadak Leite followed. Bassani had a brilliant start and moved up the order – but tangled with André Gaidzinski at Turn 7. While she lost a few places, Bassani could continue and would start an outstanding comeback over the course of the race. While Tomasoni and Urubatan exchanged positions at the top-end of the classification and Mohr moved up to third with a pass on Junqueira, all the eyes were soon on Bassani, who was already back into the top ten and continued to complete spectacular overtakes and with pace often over one second per lap faster than the cars ahead. She moved up into ninth place with a late braking-pass into Turn 1 on Mariotti, then passed Zanon for eighth on lap 10. Bassani was among the fastest drivers on track and soon caught up with a group of cars battling for sixth. She made a bold move around the outside of Turn 4 on the penultimate lap and chased Leite for sixth, when the chequered flag waved: a seriously impressive drive earned Bassani seventh on her first ever race in GT cars. Tomasoni took victory, ahead of Mohr, Urubatan and Junqueira. "Now I can say that I started my life in motorsport", Antonella wrote. "Today I had my first qualifying and my first Porsche Cup race, and I won't deny that I was a little nervous in qualifying", she explained. "Unfortunately I couldn't put in a good lap, which qualified me in P11 – but I went into the race super motivated and thinking about moving forward." "In my first race I was P7, and it was extremely important for my adaptation to the car. At the end of the race I was able to learn a bit more from the car's dynamics." On Sunday, Bassani had an even bigger chance, starting from second place due to the reverse grid order. At lights out, Bassani had another good getaway and went side by side with pole sitter Josimar Junior at Turn 1; while she initially seemed able to take the lead, Sadak Leite surprised both with a better exit from the S do Senna and advanced to first place, with Junqueira and Bassani behind. A multiple car crash further behind triggered the Safety Car and the race restarted on lap 4: Bassani was faster and started to put pressure on the leading duo but was unable to find a gap. Junqueira attempted a pass on Leite at Turn 1 – handing Bassani a chance on the opposite straight. The teenager, though, also had to defend from Mohr and Urubatan, who were right behind her #72 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. With the top-five separated by 2 seconds, the Safety Car was deployed for the contact between Gustavo Zanon and Josimar Junior at Turn 1, which ended the race of both drivers. At the restart, Mohr was on the move and climbed to second, demoting Bassani to fourth. She attacked Junqueira – but left the door open to Urubatan. With positions changing by the second, Antonella found her way back into fourth and had the pace to climb higher; up until the chequered flag, Sadak Leite defended the lead from Mohr, winning by a 0.090 seconds margin. Bassani attempted a last lap pass at Turn 1, but had to settle for fourth – completing a spectacular rookie weekend. While fourth overall, Bassani was also third in the Sprint Challenge class, thus climbing on the podium in her first weekend. "Very happy to get on the podium in the first round of the Porsche Cup, and I dedicate this podium to all the women" – Bassani commented. "It was an extremely competitive race, with several position changes, and I'm very happy with the result and the experience I'm gaining", she continued. "First I would like to thank the amazing women that worked with me as engineers and mechanics, as well as everyone that supported me and that believed in my potential. Special thanks to Mobil 1 and Porsche Cup Brazil for believing in me." The second round of the series will be held at Autodromo Velocittà, on 15-16 April.