Lime Rock: Risi Competizione race report

RISI COMPETIZIONE FERRARI TAKES FIFTH AT LIME ROCK ALMS RACE. Lime Rock Park, CT - At the end of a very tough race meeting at Lime Rock Park nestled deep in the greenery of the Berkshire Mountains, the ...

RISI COMPETIZIONE FERRARI TAKES FIFTH AT LIME ROCK ALMS RACE.

Lime Rock Park, CT - At the end of a very tough race meeting at Lime Rock Park nestled deep in the greenery of the Berkshire Mountains, the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT driven by Marc Gene and Mario Dominguez claimed fifth place in GT2 at the end of a race that was marked with crashes and retirements in every class. "One very tough race" said Team Engineer Rick Mayer as the checkered flag dropped. The #61 R. Ferri Competizione F430GT, piloted by Toni Vilander and Ferrari sportscar veteran Ralf Kelleners did not finish after sustaining damage incurred when it flew off the course after hitting oil or fluids dropped by another competitor. Prior to the accident, the car had been comfortably leading the GT2 class.

The weekend at Lime Rock, scene of a famous GT2 class victory by Risi Competizione in 2004, was filled with real racing drama this year. In the last warm up session on Friday afternoon, just before official qualifying was set to take place, the Risi Competizione #62 F430GT went into the tire barriers. The damage was cosmetic, but it took the car out of the qualifying session as it required urgent repairs, which were completed by 11:00PM that evening.

That incident did not stop the Ferrari push for the front of the grid. The #61 Ferri Competizione F430GT, driven by Vilander and Kelleners, showed the typical Ferrari turn of speed with a vengeance, taking pole in GT2. It was now the car to beat in the class and, with the highly experienced Kelleners on board-who had won here in 2004 for Risi Competizione-the situation looked very positive.

Giuseppe Risi's statement that "We will be on the grid" was prophetic, as #62 Risi Competizione car went out in the morning warm-ups and promptly set fastest time with Mexican single-seat ace Mario Dominguez behind the wheel. Right behind was the #61 Ferrari with Vilander on board. The race day situation thus looked very positive, despite Friday's adventure, with the Ferraris one and two in the final warm-ups. The cars went back to garage area for final preparations and setup, and as the day turned increasingly warm and sunny, spirits were rising for the friends of Maranello.

The flag dropped at 3:04PM and by 3:19PM, 14 minutes into the race, Toni Vilander had raced to into the GT2 lead in the Ferri Ferrari. The #62 F430GT, with Marc Gene taking the first stint, comfortably blew past the cars at the back of the grid on the opening couple of laps to move into the midst of the frenetic pack action. However fortune swiftly turned against the team as within minutes of the start, at 3:10PM, Gene had to pit after one of the Porsche RS Spiders bumped side-to-side with his Ferrari. A tire was changed and Gene went out again. He was back on the next lap though (local time: 3:11PM) for bodywork repairs and further fresh rubber before screaming out of the pits to join battle with the other GT2 cars.

Meanwhile, Toni Vilander, driving for Ferrari of Silicon Valley and Ferrari of Ontario's Remo Ferri and his R. Ferri Competizione team, was dishing out his on-track business card to the other GT2 competitors, seizing first with a steely grip and then logging lap after lap at the front, leading the class and avoiding the many dramas going on around him. His drive was marvelously consistent-just the type of thing that warms the hearts of Team Managers, Team Owners, and Team Strategists everywhere.

But destiny had a different point of view. At 3:38PM, the Ferrari 430GT roared down the hill leading onto the front straight, and hit what appeared to be fluids laid down seconds before by one of the Courage C65 Mazdas, and went off, flying into the offending car which was by now parked up against the wall, sustaining enough damage that the Ferrari was unable to continue. It was a disappointment as Toni Vilander had been turning in really a brilliant drive on his F430GT debut outing at a track he had never before seen.

The good news though was that Vilander was uninjured. He was examined at the track's medical facility, and pronounced bruised but OK, though with a possible hairline fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his foot, although further x-rays would be needed. Vilander walked out of the center under his own power and in disgust at the bad luck that put him out of the race. "I wanted to do so well for the team.I feel badly for them," he said, although once he hit the on-track fluids he was merely a passenger in his own race car.

On-track, Marc Gene kept the #62 F430GT in the hunt as he consistently reeled the leaders back. After the race, Gene said after his first stint: "It took a while to get used to the traffic. The car is fine." No doubt, Lime Rock Park is a tough track for today's sports cars. It is tight, at 1.54 miles long and the fastest prototypes are lapping in the 47 second range. The tight track mixed with the closing speed of the prototypes presents a tough driving challenge.

At 4:45PM (1 Hour, 49 Minutes Race Time) the #62 F430GT pitted and in the ensuing driver change, Gene was replaced with Mario Dominguez, who left the pits like a man with something to prove. He did, and by race's end he had driven the Risi Competizione F430GT into fifth place, despite the car having started from the back of the grid, despite the on-track incident with the Porsche RS Spyder, and despite two unplanned pit stops. Dominguez's comment at the end: "Another thirty minutes and we would have fourth and thirty after that, third."

As the team and the cars were gathered back in the paddock after the race, there was a feeling that Racing Luck, the goddess of high speed competition, had once again intervened. "The overall results were not quite what we had hoped when we arrived" said Team Manager Dave Sims, "but there is much to be proud of and the overall effort by the team was heroic. We had some misfortune right before qualifying with the Risi Competizione #62 but we repaired the car, and obviously got it right as it was fastest in the warm up. Toni Vilander and Ralf Kelleners gave Ferri Competizione a pole in the team's first time on the track with an F430GT and led the race until the incident with a 'fluid' on the track. We had a new technical crew for Ferri and the Risi Competizione techs worked with them to prepare the car immaculately. Both F430GTs performed beautifully, they were extremely fast, and the Michelins were superb on this rough and bumpy surface. And at the end of the race, the Risi Competizione drivers still placed the #62 car very respectably, despite all the obstacles they had to overcome. We will survey the repair requirements for the #61 Ferri F430GT when the car is back at our race shop in Houston. It will all come our way soon. I like our chances in Utah."

-www.risicompetizione.com

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Marc Gene , Mario Dominguez , Toni Vilander
Teams Risi Competizione