Risi Competizione Laguna Seca Preview - Aiming to Finish on a High Houston, TX, October 14, 2008. The Risi Competizione team travels to the final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series riding on the crest of a wave, having triumphed in...
Risi Competizione Laguna Seca Preview - Aiming to Finish on a High
Houston, TX, October 14, 2008. The Risi Competizione team travels to the final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series riding on the crest of a wave, having triumphed in the GT2 class at two of the last three races including the prestigious Petit Le Mans. The victory at Road Atlanta on October 4, together with the Houston-based team's dominant win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, has gone a long way towards making up for the dismal early part of its 2008 racing season.
Laguna Seca has always been a happy hunting ground for Risi Competizione and all four drivers love racing at the track. It is at this track that Risi has twice brought home the ALMS Teams Championship and where, in 2007, Salo and Melo clinched the GT2 Drivers' Championship -- an honor that has gone this year to the team's much-respected rivals, Flying Lizard Motorsports.
Built on a former US Army base, the 2.238 mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is challenging for drivers and engineers alike, with its 11 turns and many ups and downs. The famous Corkscrew turn, a steep drop away over a blind 90-degree left-hand bend that immediately sweeps away to the right, is one of the highlights here and is an awesome place to watch the drivers in action. The track is also notoriously slippery due to the sand surrounding the asphalt, which is often either blown on or brought onto the track by another car. A fast lap here takes every ounce of skill that a driver possesses.
For Finland's Mika Salo, one of the paddock's most experienced and charismatic characters, Laguna Seca is a particular favorite. On his first visit to the track in 2006, he not only posted class pole but went on to take fastest lap of the race and victory with Stephane Ortelli in a Risi Competizione F430GT. The result was repeated in 2007 with current team mate and 07 Drivers Co-Champion, Jaime Melo.
Mika Salo: "There are some tricky parts and some similar corners to some of the street circuits we've raced at this year. When you first race there it's more difficult maybe to memorize than most of them because of the elevation changes, and also the low grip is an issue there. It's a beautiful track and a nice place, the whole area. I really enjoyed it the last two years and we're just going to try to repeat the same thing this year."
Risi's Brazilian driver, Melo, who drove with such amazing metronomic precision and speed at Road Atlanta, is very aware that the GT2 battle will be as intensely competitive as ever -- despite the championships having already been settled -- and can't wait to enter the fray.
Jaime Melo: "Winning at Petit Le Mans has given us even more confidence for this race, although we have always done well here. Our #62 car was not passed on the track by any other GT2 car at Road Atlanta but I think it might be more difficult to repeat that at Laguna. There will be a few people still racing for points in the championship, us included, so it will be important for us to have a good result."
Buoyed by a fine fourth place GT2 finish at Petit Le Mans, the Krohn green Ferrari 430 GT of Tracy W Krohn and Nic Jonsson will be looking for a strong finish with which to round off their season. It will be the fourth time the pair has raced under the Risi Competizione banner this year, and Tracy Krohn can't wait to get to California.
Tracy Krohn: "Who doesn't want to go to Laguna? What a great place to race! I need a little redemption there from last year. I got knocked around a couple of times by the Prototype cars and beat up a little bit so it's time for a little redemption. While we are pleased with a 4th place finish at Petit Le Mans, the goal always remains to be on the podium. The team did a great job and Nic and Eric did their usual great job as well. There was a lot of carnage and patience ruled the day for this race. I think the same strategy will apply for Laguna."
Nic Jonsson: "The number one way to have a successful car is to last the whole race and have a pit crew that does not make mistakes. We have both of those every race with Risi Competizione. They are very meticulous in the preparation and the guys are fantastic and a first-class crew, along with first-class equipment. It's a pure team effort to be able to achieve the results we've had in such a tough environment. As far as the car is concerned, I think the Ferrari has shown to be very good on braking and good to put power down, but Laguna Seca is a very low grip track. They actually resurfaced the track a few years ago and it's still very slippery because of the sand that blows across the track all the time. It's like polished asphalt. I think though it should be a very good track for the Ferrari because the geometry on the car helps it get good traction."
The final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patron from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The four-hour race into darkness is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. PT on Saturday, October 18. NBC Sports will air the race from 2 to 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 19. XM Satellite Radio's Channel 144 will air the race from 4 to 8 p.m. ET on the same day. Live video of qualifying will be available on americanlemans.com starting at 3 p.m. PT on Friday, October 17. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage on americanlemans.com, which also will feature Live Timing & Scoring.