Risi Competizione Ferrari 430GT First in ALMS GT2 Qualifying in Houston for Lone Star Grand Prix Houston, Texas - Risi Competizione (www.risicompetizione.com) competing for the first time in Houston, Texas, their hometown, gave the local fans ...
Risi Competizione Ferrari 430GT First in ALMS GT2 Qualifying in Houston for Lone Star Grand Prix
Houston, Texas - Risi Competizione (www.risicompetizione.com) competing for the first time in Houston, Texas, their hometown, gave the local fans a real day to remember yesterday when they qualified first in the GT2 Class for this evening's inaugural American Le Mans Series Lone Star Grand Prix.
Jaime Melo, who will share driving duties with ex-Ferrari F1 pilot Mika Salo in the #62 Ferrari F430GT, did the honors for the Texas team, turning in a class leading time of 1:11.209 on lap 10 of the qualifying session. Salo, in his second race for Risi Competizione, is coming off an FIA GT win at Silverstone in the AF Corse Ferrari 430GT; his teammate, Jaime Melo was third in the same race, in a companion AF Corse Ferrari 430GT.
Second in GT2 qualifying was the #31 Peterson/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Jorg Bergemeister, Michael Petersen and Long in 1:11:340 while third place went to Scott Maxwell and David Brabham, who took first place at Sebring earlier this year, in the #50 Multimac Motorsports Panoz Esperante GTLm, in 1:11.777. The Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT will start 12th overall when the flag drops on the first running of the ALMS Lone Star Grand Prix, conducted on a 1.7 mile course at Houston's Reliant Park.
The course is tight and demanding, with a 160mph plus front straight, some tricky 90 degree turns that will test both braking and nerves, and a bumpy surface that puts a premium on the right suspension setup and tire selection.
The team had been on the pace all day; in the morning, Mika Salo, in his first turn as an F430GT driver for the team, turned in quickest lap in morning practice. Jaime Melo was in the car for the afternoon practice session and also set the fastest lap, after two pit stops to adjust shock settings. Melo, who was one of the development drivers for the F430GT project with Ferrari, worked with Team Engineer Rick Meyer to perfect the setup and the tight, highly experience Risi Competizione team quickly dialed it in.
Team Managing Director Giuseppe Risi said that "First, it's all about preparation of the car and then about execution by the drivers. Salo and Melo are excellent drivers and we're very hopeful about tomorrow."
Asked about the benefits of racing in Houston, Risi noted that "there is no homefield advantage in automobile racing, like there is in other sports. Every team faces the same obstacles. We had never put a race car on this course until today, nor had any of the other teams. Yes, it's fun to race in front of our clients and friends in Houston but there is no comfort on the race circuit. This is a tough, demanding race track and it will punish both cars and drivers."
Jaime Melo, speaking during the post qualifying press conference, said that "the track is very bumpy and very hard for the car, but not too much for us with a GT car. The Ferrari is very good over the bumps. It is very easy to manage. I could do my qualifying lap very comfortably. We have a long race in front of us, so qualifying doesn't mean too much though." Melo, who joined the team for the first race of the season at Sebring, also holds the lap record at that track, a feat he accomplished while leading the team to a third in class podium finish. Adding the pole at Houston, means that Melo has posted the fastest lap in both ALMS GT2 races this season in the Risi Competizione F430GT.
Asked by a member of the media why the car did so well over the bumps, Melo said that "It's a Ferrari. We worked a lot on our dampers. We knew that the track is very bumpy, so we tried to work hard on that in the setup. The car works well here. Normally after qualifying and the race, we do a briefing to determine what to do. We'll be prepared for the race.we won't have much to do."
Team Mate Mika Salo echoed Melo's thoughts. "Sebring is a smoother circuit compared to this. It's more comfortable. It's difficult to pass on a street circuit because there is so little grip. Normally, the braking areas are on the inside. You can try to pass in every braking area. Risi Competizione has set up this car very well."
This afternoon (12th May) sees the ALMS competitors running a 'warm up' session from 1345-1415, before the Lone Star Grand Prix gets underway at 2000 this evening. The 2 hour 45 minute duration race is expected to finish at around 2245 tonight.