Gianmaria Bruni is making his IMSA debut this weekend with Laurens Vanthoor as his teammate. This is one stout line up. Name wise this would have drawn so much attention in a Blancpain race somewhere in Europe.
In essence Gianmaria has been considered the best factory GT driver over the past few years and Vanthoor has been considered the best hired gun available when you have cash and need a fast freelancer. Well it's arguable...this all a matter of opinion and public opinion is strong on those claims. The average IMSA fan might not be keen on them, but all GTLM drivers know about the reputation these two have built over in Europe.
With all due respect to the WEC's GTE Pro class, and anything Blancpain has to offer, the close lap times, the close battles, and the all professional nature in GTLM has us thinking IMSA's GTLM class is the best GT racing in the world. With all their accolades overseas, they will be expected to earn their stripes all over again here in IMSA to salvage their carefully built reputations. Fellow competitors and even their own teammates (Pilet/Werner) in the sister #911 Porsche will be looking to take a bite out of this highly regarded pair.
While they will both of course work on achieving victories, Gimmi Bruni being the eldest, and to justify the trouble endured by Porsche in acquiring him, would quickly want to achieve success.
Call me Gimmi
At Sebring in 2012 when the WEC shared the Sebring and Petit LeMans races with the ALMS, Joey Hand who was leading the GT class and battling the #71 AF Corse Ferrari, was bumped by a Gianmaria Bruni in the #51 AF Corse that was several laps down. Gianmaria was attempting to give a hand to his teammates. The #71 AF Corse took the lead but had to slow down with a puncture before the checkered flag and that allowed Joey Hand to rightfully regain his P1 position.
The ALMS GT class was being scored separately from the WEC's GTE Pro class. Meaning Joey Hand's car would have earned first place points for the ALMS and the #71 AF Corse would have earned first place points for the ILMC no matter in which order they had finished. But as racing drivers, everyone wanted that ultimate victory, because only the class winners would actually get the Sebring class winner's trophy. Joey Hand had some harsh words for Bruni in the post race interview and Bruni's car was excluded from the results.
Aside from that blemish, with the WEC becoming as strong a championship as the ALMS/USCR, Bruni's status as a top factory ace rocketed, and he became the de facto #1 at AF Corse, a globe trotting and multi series competition winning outfit.