Houston: Risi Competizione race report

HOME VICTORY FOR RISI COMPETIZIONE IN THE LONE STAR GRAND PRIX Houston, TX - Risi Competizione's No. 62 Ferrari 430GT finished first in the two hour and forty-five minute ALMS Lone Star Grand Prix, contested at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park on...

HOME VICTORY FOR RISI COMPETIZIONE IN THE LONE STAR GRAND PRIX

Houston, TX - Risi Competizione's No. 62 Ferrari 430GT finished first in the two hour and forty-five minute ALMS Lone Star Grand Prix, contested at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park on Saturday. Drivers Mika Salo and Jaime Melo won their fourth GT2 class race this year for the Houston-based team. Second place went to the Flying Lizards Motorsports No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Jorg Bergmeister/Johannes van Overbeek) and third place was taken by Tafel Racing's No.71 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Robin Liddell/Wolf Henzler).

"This was a very good win for us," said Team Manager Dave Sims. "There was a lot of pressure on the team and it performed superbly this week. Having a race in our home town is great, but it brings a lot of opportunities to lose focus. I am glad to say that we kept our minds on our business and finished the job in Houston."

The race was run at JAGFlo speedway at Reliant Park in Houston, a temporary street circuit which has gathered a reputation for bumps and attrition. Held under clear skies, with a starting-time track temperature of over 90 degrees, the race was a homecoming for the Houston-based team but one not without perils.

The race meeting started off properly for the red Ferrari 430GT of Risi Competizione, as Mika Salo took the pole. Anticipation in the crowd was high as the drivers were given the command to start engines at 5:26PM, and at 5:28PM the cars rolled off the Le Mans style (parked rear-end to pit wall) grid for the rolling start. After two circuits of the 1.683 mile track (last year it was 1.69), the green flag dropped at 5.32PM and Jaime Melo went to work in the cockpit of the Risi Competizione 430GT. No one enjoys a day at the office more than Melo, who started to pull out a lead on the No. 45 Porsche (van Overbeek/Bergmeister, Flying Lizards Motorsports). Twenty-Three minutes into the race, Melo had created an eight- second lead over the Porsche; Van Overbeek's Flying Lizards Motorsports' team mate, Darren Law, was third, in the No. 44 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

The opening rounds were not so kind to the No. 61 Krohn Racing/Risi Competizione Ferrari 430GT. Tracy Krohn started the race in the No. 61 but only 9 minutes into his stint, went to the run-off at Turn 6, creating a local Yellow. Tracy restarted the car, which sustained damaged on the left front fender, and rejoined the fray, going into the pits for fuel only. The crew inspected the front bumper and decided to change the front deck lid. The car went behind the pit wall after the decision was made to switch out the radiator.

Thirty minutes into the race, Melo in No. 62 was first in his Ferrari 430GT GT2, Van Overbeek in the No. 45 Porsche (Flying Lizard Motorsports) was second, and Darren Law in the No. 44 Porsche (Flying Lizard Motorsports) was third. Melo had, by this time, pulled out a 13 second, enjoying another productive day at work.

With fifty-seven minutes gone in the two hour and forty-five minute race, Jaime Melo had stretched his lead to 25 seconds. Along pit row, the question was when Melo would pit for fuel and tires as GT2 cars have been known to go almost 90 minutes before stopping for fuel. The answer was not long in coming, as Melo came into the pits at 6:35PM(1 hour, 3 minutes into the race) for fuel, tires, and a driver change (Melo out/Salo in).

The pit stop put Johannes van Overbeek into first in the No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, but three minutes later, van Overbeek came into the pits for 4 tires, fuel, and drive change (van Overbeek out/Bergmeister in). Former Risi Competizione driver Ralf Kelleners, now driving for Rahal Letterman in the No. 18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, moved into first.

While Salo was working his way towards the front of the pack, Tracy Krohn was getting back in the action after the Risi Competizione crew had changed a front radiator.

At one hour and eleven minutes into the race, Kelleners (No. 18 Porsche/Rahal Letterman Racing) pitted for tires, fuel, and a fresh driver (Kelleners out/Tom Milner in). Salo in the No. 62 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR took the lead.

Meanwhile, the carnage that street courses exact on competitors was stacking up. Tim Pappas in the No. 54 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Team Trans Sport Racing) pitted for fuel, tires, and a driver change (Pappas out/Terry Borcheller in) but the stop was lengthy as the team had a problem getting the safety belts on the driver. Bill Auberlin (No. 21 Panoz Esperante GTLM/Panoz Team PTG) went behind the pit wall with driveshaft failure.

One hour and twenty-four minutes into the race, the top 3 in GT2 was a familiar sight to GT2 fans: Salo in 1st (No. 62 Ferrari 430GT); Bergmeister in Second (No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR), and Henzler in third (No. 71 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR).

On they roared into the twilight with Salo in the Risi Competizione 430GT building up a 19.356 second lead on Bergmeister's Porsche.

A yellow flag at 7:36PM (2 hours 4 minutes running) sent everyone scrambling into the pits. But Bergmeister, in No. 45 beat Salo out of the pits and grabbed the lead, but only by the narrowest of margins. Salo has shown all season that he is most unhappy when behind in the closing minutes of the race, and he set off to reel in Bergmeister in the Porsche when the green flag dropped at 2 hours and 15 minutes into the race. Two laps later, Salo was in front.

When the checkered flag dropped, Salo (Risi Competizione No. 62 Ferrari 430GT Mika Salo/Jaime Melo) had a 6.461 second lead over Bergmeister (Flying Lizard No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Jorg Bergmeister/Johannes van Overbeek) with Robin Liddell taking third ( Tafel Racing No.71 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Robin Liddell/Wolf Henzler).

With this win, Risi Competizione has now won four GT2 races in a row in 2007 (Sebring, St. Petersburg, Long Beach, and Houston) and five in a row counting 2006 (Laguna Seca), a new ALMS record. Mika Salo has won his last seven starts for Risi Competizione (Salt Lake City, Portland, Laguna Seca, Sebring, St. Petersburg, Long Beach, and Houston) and Jaime Melo has won his last six starts for Risi Competizione (Salt Lake City, Portland, Laguna Seca, Sebring, St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Houston). Risi Competizione has now won six of the last seven ALMS races it has entered (Mosport, Laguna Seca, Sebring, St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Houston).

Asked about the winning streak, Team Managing Director Giuseppe Risi said "it gets tougher each week. No one rests in this series and we can see it in the race pace of the other cars. We cannot stop improving because our competition is not going to stop improving. Most of the season lies in front of us, but...this is a pretty good start."

-credit: rc

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Mika Salo , Robin Liddell , Terry Borcheller , Darren Law , Jörg Bergmeister , Jaime Melo , Tim Pappas , Johannes van Overbeek , Tracy Krohn , Wolf Henzler
Teams Krohn Racing , Risi Competizione