RISI REUNITES ITS WINNING LINE UP FOR PETIT LE MANS Houston, Tx., 15 September 2009. Endurance experts, Risi Competizione, will arrive at Road Atlanta for the 1,000 mile Petit Le Mans event with only one aim in mind. To extend its phenomenal run...
RISI REUNITES ITS WINNING LINE UP FOR PETIT LE MANS
Houston, Tx., 15 September 2009. Endurance experts, Risi Competizione, will arrive at Road Atlanta for the 1,000 mile Petit Le Mans event with only one aim in mind. To extend its phenomenal run of consecutive GT2 victories in the sportscar "Majors" which began with the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans, encompassed last year's Petit Le Mans and the 2009 12 Hours of Sebring, and run through to the French classic again this past June.
To take on this mission, the Houston-based team will once again be calling upon the considerable talents of former Ferrari F1 star, Mika Salo, to complement the regular ALMS points-winning driver line up of Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer. The trio will be chasing their own 2009 triple of international, long distance races, while Melo and Salo have been involved in all of the above named events.
Risi will be concentrating all its efforts on the "Rosso Red" #62 Ferrari F430GT as the team's regular endurance partner, Krohn Racing, decided at the beginning of the year to confine its 2009 participation to just Sebring and Le Mans.
Every ounce of that concentration and effort will certainly be required as the entry of 31 includes 17 prototypes and some fierce competition in the GT2 category. In last year's Petit Le Mans, which featured a slightly larger and equally stellar field, Melo and Salo staged a remarkable fight back through to victory after losing two laps in the early stages of the race due to a freak mechanical problem. A broken part from a drinks bottle connecter came loose and lodged itself temporarily under the throttle.
As Brazilian driver Jaime Melo comments: "Hopefully it will be different to last year! We had a problem which delayed us and afterwards were pushing most of the time. I hope this year we can have a good qualifying, in the top three, and that we can stay out of trouble. That's the first thing we need to think about for this type of race. The team is really well prepared on pit stops -- we showed that already during the season and I think we've got a good chance. We want to put it together with Sebring and Le Mans to make our season better than it is now.
"It will be challenging with all the prototypes, especially for passing. At Mosport there were only 6 or 7 prototypes and, with so many more, it's something where we can either gain or lose time so we need to be smart enough to make sure we don't lose time in the traffic.
"We obviously won last year and we've got a very good and consistent car there. I think Mika will be in good shape as well to help us in the best way so I'm pretty confident about it. We need to do some final tuning of the car to make it fast and get some tenths in the corners compared to the others, as we're still too slow in a straight line. That's our main problem at the moment. Anyway I think we need to keep our heads up and try to do our best with what we've got."
Pierre Kaffer, who has noticeably grown in confidence over the last few races, and whose 2008 fifth place Petit Le Mans finish allowed Ferrari to claim four of the top five GT2 spots, can't wait to get to Road Atlanta.
"I have to say I really like Petit Le Mans," said the genial German, "but I haven't managed to win there...yet. This year it would be nice to win and have success in all the big races -- Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans; that would be a good run. The track will suit the Ferrari because there's only one long straight. We will take part in the test the weekend before which should give us lots of time to find the right set up for qualifying and the race.
"I like the event and the track -- after Sebring and Laguna it's the track I know the best and I know that all the Risi mechanics and everyone at Ferrari will do their best so we can fight for the victory. We have more LMP1s there which will make the event even more challenging and anything can happen during a long event so there's still a possibility to fight for the championship."
Risi Competizione is currently in second place in the ALMS GT2 Championship standings and needs to close the 31-point deficit to Flying Lizard Motorsports to ensure any chance of Championship success. With 30 points available to the winners at Petit Le Mans, there is all to play for.
The ever popular Mika Salo is also looking forward to his ALMS return, and jokes that he "likes to think the secret to Risi's endurance success is me!" On a slightly more serious note, he goes on to say, "It will be fun to be racing again, and I hope we can keep up our winning streak. It won't be easy though as the competition is harder than ever; we've seen the new Corvettes to be very quick, and the Porsches and BMWs are not slow. But, in longer races, speed is not the key to win; you don't have to be fast, you have to be clever.
"We have the experience, and I think that once you've had your first big victory it's easier for the others to follow. We have very consistent drivers and we all compromise and adapt very well as a trio so no one suffers too much with an uncomfortable car or set up. Jaime is blinding quick which is good if you have to catch up or make up time, he can close down any gap, and Pierre is very reliable and consistent which is important in endurance races. My part is to support those guys, to keep us up there for another victory."