Risi Competizione today won the final American Le Mans Series GT2 race of the season at the storied Laguna Seca raceway in California, putting a definitive end to a historic 2007 season. The team took eight victories from the twelve races and...
Risi Competizione today won the final American Le Mans Series GT2 race of the season at the storied Laguna Seca raceway in California, putting a definitive end to a historic 2007 season. The team took eight victories from the twelve races and today clinched three Championship titles.
Starting from GT2 pole, drivers Mika Salo and Jaime Melo drove the Rosso Corsa No. 62 Ferrari 430GT to a first place win which comprehensively secured the Drivers Championship for Salo and Melo, the Manufacturers Championship for Ferrari, and the Team Championship for Risi Competizione.
The victory, coming in the American Le Mans Series, the world's very best, most competitive and prestigious Prototype/GT racing series, was the second for Risi Competizione at Laguna Seca. In 2006, the team won their first ALMS GT2 Team Championship at the same track.
The win was a historic one in many ways. Ferrari won the first race ever held at Laguna Seca fifty years ago. Coming in the marque's 60th Anniversary year, the Manufacturers Championship is also Ferrari's first ever GT Championship in North America. The success of Risi Competizione makes the Houston-based team the most successful North American racing team since Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team (NART) was competing in the late fifties and sixties.
This weekend also has great significance for Ferrari, as the Italian manufacturer could conceivably win three other racing championships on three separate continents. In addition to the ALMS sweep by Risi Competizione, still to be decided are the F1 World Championship (Brazil), the FIA GT Championship and Italian GT Championship (Europe).
Ferrari's Corse Clienti division paid special tribute to Giuseppe Risi and his whole team for their achievements on behalf of the Italian marque, and reinforced the fact that, for them, the American Le Mans Series is considered to be an extremely influential and important international GT Championship.
Risi's Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, was generous in his praise for the competition provided within the American Le Mans Series.
"We've had quite a year but we have to look at the Porsche teams who have provided the competition because, without them, we wouldn't be here. I especially want to mention the Flying Lizard team, who are real sportsmen. Racing in the ALMS has been very special, and I think the Series is justified in calling itself "World Class". We have a competitive car now, and I am sure Porsche won't be sleeping over the winter. Neither will we!
"I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our sponsors and Ferrari North America, and hope they will enjoy this success just as much as we will."
Mika and Jaime had a faultless run to victory today. While they did not hold the lead throughout the entire race, the strategy put together by their race engineer, Rick Mayer, and team strategist, Don Shaver, together with their supreme driving talent, ensured they were always in a position to be the first to take the checkered flag.
Melo, who started the race in the no. 62 car and completed the first two hours and three minutes of the race, followed the team's "no risk" policy to the letter, knowing that the F430 would not let him down. He also set Fastest GT2 Lap of the race. "At the beginning I was very careful, especially at the start as there was some confusion at the first corner. I lost first position but I knew that I could fight for that afterwards. I just tried to find a good place to overtake him [the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche] and afterwards I just tried to keep a good pace and not make any mistakes.
"I would like to thank Mika and everybody who has worked for this Championship. Thank you to Ferrari for such a great car; thank you to Michelin because we could double stint the tires very easily and they were very consistent, and thank you to the whole team for a fantastic year."
Mika Salo had some great battles during his double stint to the finish, especially with the no. 18 Porsche of Ralf Kelleners and thanked the whole team as he crossed the line on the four hour mark. "Today was an important Championship for Ferrari and for us also, and the whole team. It didn't go our way completely; we wanted to win the Championship two races ago which didn't happen. To win all three Championships is very important for everyone here and in Italy.
"I want to say thanks to the Lizard guys. We had some bad luck and they had some bad luck too but they were always there and that made good racing."
Risi's second Ferrari, competing in the colors of its racing partner, Krohn Racing, had a slightly more adventurous race today, but came through to finish eighth in class. Several off track excursions featured, the first of which caused the second of the five full course caution periods. When Tracy Krohn was being pulled from the T3 gravel trap in which he was stuck, the corner workers unfortunately tore away from the car the tow hook together with an electronic device which indicated gear shifts and set the pit lane speed limiter. This fact unfortunately led to two stop/go penalties for the no. 61 car for speeding in the pit lane -- something they had limited control over after the damage incurred.
Tracy W Krohn was behind the wheel of the Ferrari for two hours and 47 minutes of the four hour race today and thoroughly enjoyed himself. "The only issue I had today was the closing speeds of the Prototype cars; it's always exciting with those speeds. This is a fantastic track and I love racing here; I could race here every day. It's challenging because of the speed and conditions but I had a lot of fun.
"Giuseppe [Risi] has done a great job all year and it's great to be here today. We had a wonderful race with the team earlier this year at Le Mans and I hope we will be back here in the ALMS challenging again next year."
Krohn's driving partner, Nic Jonsson, has driven for the Risi team in eight of the ALMS rounds this year, so was delighted to have been a part of the team's success today. "The Risi guys did a great job with the car and we had no mechanical issues. It was unfortunate that Tracy had the incident after the first 45 minutes as that set us back five laps straight away. The car ran good though, as it has with Risi Competizione all year. I'm really looking forward to next year and hopefully we can be with them again at Le Mans."