Road Atlanta: Risi Competizione preview

RISI COMPETIZIONE AIMING TO BID FAREWELL TO THE FERRARI 430 IN STYLE Houston, Texas, September 27, 2010. How does one honor the end of a racing era? For Houston-based Risi Competizione, there is only one way and that is to echo a familiar...

RISI COMPETIZIONE AIMING TO BID FAREWELL TO THE FERRARI 430 IN STYLE

Houston, Texas, September 27, 2010. How does one honor the end of a racing era? For Houston-based Risi Competizione, there is only one way and that is to echo a familiar theme throughout the competitive life of the Ferrari F430 GTC -- with a win in the GT2 class at the American Le Mans Series' season finale, Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda2. The 1000 mile or 10 Hour (whichever comes first) race takes place on Saturday, October 2 at the Road Atlanta road course in Georgia.

But there is more at stake for Team Principal Giuseppe Risi, his all-star cast of international drivers and the highly committed and professional group of staff that makes up the Risi Competizione team.

"After the most intense and competitive season of GT racing that I've ever witnessed, we go into the final race with an opportunity to win Championship titles," says Giuseppe Risi. "That three different manufacturers and teams are still in the running at this stage of the year is a testament not only to our own successes and the consistency and reliability of the F430, but also to the level of our competitors."

The Team Principal continues, "This has been an incredible season of racing, with Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs and Corvettes all equally capable of achieving victory every time the flag falls. These major auto manufacturers, TV audiences and fans at home and abroad have witnessed some really exciting racing throughout the year and I'm sure Petit Le Mans will be no exception. With the F430 we have, since its introduction in 2006, achieved 19 ALMS victories, two Le Mans GT2 titles and four Championships. That's no mean feat for a small, privately-funded team -- and to win this event for a third consecutive year would be a perfect way to sign it off into the history books."

To bring this desire to reality, Risi Competizione has assembled the strongest line up of drivers possible and made a significant strategic change in the partnerships to balance speed, experience and set up preferences.

In the #61 car, newly re-built after a heavy accident at Mosport at the end of August, Jaime Melo will bring his considerable experience and raw talent together with that of Mika Salo's canny racing know-how. Melo is now fully recovered from the illness which prevented him from racing at Mosport. The Brazilian-Finnish duo, of course, won the 2007 ALMS Drivers' championship together, taking eight victories from the 12 races in that season. They will be joined by Giancarlo Fisichella who, with 231 Grand Prix starts to his name, is one of the most experienced drivers within the Ferrari stable. This will be Fisichella's third start in the ALMS -- a series which he has very much enjoyed to date.

The line up for the #62 car will be the same as that which took the start of round 8 at Mosport, the pairing of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander -- who finished a strong second in the GT class despite being forced to take the start from the back of the grid. With Pierre Kaffer not being available due to a clashing round of the International GT Open series, and a championship title of his own at stake in that arena, Bruni and Vilander have elected to do the race between them.

Joining the Risi Competizione team at the 2.54 mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta track will be a over 50 Ferrari owners, bringing their own vehicles to a Corral to witness the F430's ALMS swansong, and guests from the team's major sponsor, Pennzoil Ultra TM.

Pennzoil Ultra TM is a technical partner, not only with Risi but also with Ferrari, and is the official motor oil of Risi Competizione. It is not only on the hood of the car, but also under it. The Pennzoil Ultra TM 5W40 that is used in the two Ferrari F430 GTCs on the track is the same that can be bought right off the shelf for use in our own cars. Just as the first Ferraris which drove through the gates of the Maranello factory in 1947 were powered and protected by Shell products, so the F430 is today.

Every element of the team's preparation, both technically and otherwise, will need to be pinpoint-perfect in order to achieve success at Petit Le Mans. Not only is the event the final race in the ALMS calendar, but it is also the second round of the ACO's newly-launched Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and the entry list has been boosted considerably from last year. With Bruni and Melo's GT2 victory at the ILMC's opening round at Silverstone two weeks ago, Ferrari now leads the points tables in this category, a position it is anxious to consolidate.

The field of 45 cars includes 12 prototypes and some fierce competition amongst the 17 entries in the expanded GT2 class. In last year's rain-shortened Petit Le Mans, Melo, Salo and Kaffer took victory in GT2 after an inspired early strategy call for wet Michelin tires saw them take the lead over their more cautious rivals. The race was suspended, and eventually flagged, after four hours and 49 minutes of running due to a flooded track.

Gianmaria Bruni (on the size of the field at Petit Le Mans): "I think it's going to be difficult during the race because of the big field of 45 cars, especially when it's getting dark. I've never raced there but I've done two days of Michelin testing two years ago and will have another two days the weekend before the race so I feel I know the layout of the track already and have shown this year that learning a new track is not a problem for me."

(On his Championship chances): "It's going to be a long race and obviously we are still fighting for the championship; there's a small chance still open for us and we all know that anything can happen at these longer races. It will be good to get back there -- it's a fast and smooth circuit, a driver's circuit -- so I'm looking forward to it."

Giancarlo Fisichella (on competing at Petit Le Mans): "Road Atlanta will be another new race for me in the American Le Mans Series but I've heard a lot about it from my team mates and I've looked at the onboard footage. The track looks fast but quite difficult to pass in places, and it will be even harder with a lot of cars. Being at Silverstone recently for the 1000 Km race was good preparation from that point of view, with 45 entries there too and a similar mix of prototypes and GT cars. It will, of course, be challenging but I like that, just as I like racing in the ALMS."

Jaime Melo (on Petit Le Mans as an event): "Petit Le Mans is always really difficult because it's a very fast track and very busy. It's narrow, especially the first part of the track, and there's not much room for overtaking. There are a lot of cars and we need to be patient with the traffic and during the first part of the race. We have used a spotter in the past which helps some of the drivers."

(On his approach to the final race of the F430 GTC): "Our approach will be to try to score maximum points we can for the Team and Manufacturers' championships and for sure to try and protect the car to reach the end of the race without any trouble. We had a good car last year, although the weather was a bit strange, but thinking back to the year before we do well here so I am confident for 2010. Hopefully we can end the Ferrari 430's life in the ALMS in the best way possible."

Mika Salo (on Petit Le Mans): "It's always a tough race because of the traffic and, like last year, anything can happen. We weren't the fastest but we managed to win the race on strategy. It's going to be hard for everyone as there's so much at stake in the championship; this year is very important for us. Of course it's also important for Ferrari which is why we have two strong cars and every chance to win the race."

(On race strategy): "You can't afford to relax for one second in this race and the amount of traffic will be important in how you get through the field, especially from Turn 1 to Turn 5 where it is difficult to pass."

Toni Vilander (on Petit Le Mans): "It's good to continue on the ALMS program and I'm looking forward to driving with Gimmi again. I've seen some onboard footage from daytime and night and it seems very impressive -- especially at night. There are a lot of curbs and high speed corners but it will be easier after you've learned the circuit which we'll do at the test. Everyone tells me it's a very, very nice event, the same as the other ALMS events but bigger!"

(On the 45-strong field): "It doesn't make any difference to me about the size of the field. It's good for the series to have more cars and hopefully the track is safe and wide enough for this number [45]. I hope the GTC and slower LMPC cars don't give us any problems, in amongst and with the bigger number of faster prototypes, but that's part of the game and the same for everyone -- not just us. Like in the past, we'll concentrate on our performance and our work and try to optimize the time we have and if all goes to plan we'll be ready for the race!"

-source: risi

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