The 17-year-old from Team DKR Engineering is contesting his first season in the Prototype Cup Germany in 2023 and his speed is impressive. His career dream is to win the 24h Le Mans.
The 2023 season of the Prototype Cup Germany is on the finishing straight. There are two race weekends left to go: The first one being in Assen/NLD in September, followed by the finale at the Nürburgring in October. In the close, balanced field, all the titles are still completely open. In a promising position in third place in the overall standings currently are Valentino Catalano (17/Westheim) and Robin Rogalski (23/POL, both DKR Engineering), who drive a Duqueine D08. “We want to deliver our best performance at both events and have flawless races,” says Catalano looking ahead. “We have the pace, so both titles are the ultimate goal – since in addition to the overall standings we also have our eyes on the junior standings.”
The youngster duo of Catalano/Rogalski has performed strongly in the four race weekends thus far and has finished on the podium four times. The highlight was victory in the Sunday race at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben. “The season has been fantastic so far. I feel right at home at DKR Engineering. The car suits my driving style, which meant we were able to put the perfect overall package together,” says Catalano revealing the secret to their success. However, the last race weekend at the Norisring in mid-July didn’t go according to plan. A gearbox defect forced them to retire from race one; in race two, Rogalski was well ahead in P1 when he crashed into the track barrier.
“Even if it isn’t reflected in the results, with zero points in both races, the Norisring was my personal best weekend of the season so far. My pace was really strong, and I was able to show my potential in front of a big crowd,” says Catalano looking back positively on his performance on the legendary street circuit in Nuremberg. “It is also great fun to drive there.”
The 17-year-old also shows the aforementioned strong pace in qualifying in particular. This becomes clear when you take a look at the statistics. In the four qualifying sessions completed, he has recorded three pole positions and one second place. “I’m a driver who loves qualifying. You have to put everything into place,” clarifies Catalano. “I can also tune the car to suit my needs. It simply works great.”
Catalano, who hails from Westheim not far from the Hockenheimring, moved from karting to formula racing for the 2020 season. After a season in the French Formula 4, he entered the ADAC Formula 4 in 2021. The switch to the sport prototypes followed in 2022, with a season in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and then in the Asian Le Mans Series in the subsequent winter. “We all know why it is relatively difficult to get into formula racing at the moment. So, we decided to go in the direction of LMP3. My big career goal is to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a hypercar one day – and the Prototype Cup Germany is an ideal step on this path,” says Catalano.
The talented youngster has felt right at home in the championship organised by ADAC and Creventic. “As a German driver, it’s great to be driving in a German race series. It means sponsors and family can easily come to see me at the track. International races, some of which are very far away, make that really difficult sometimes,” explains Catalano. “On top of that, I really like the format of having two sprint races, each lasting around an hour. I think it’s fantastic that the Prototype Cup Germany is fully focussed on the LMP3 cars – not least because we aren’t only doing battle for class wins in the races, but for the overall wins.”