Road Atlanta: Risi Competizione race report

RISI TAKE THE ENDURANCE TRIPLE With their GT win at today's rain-shortened 1000 Mile/10 Hour Petit Le Mans, Houston-based Risi Competizione sealed their place in the record books as the team which has best represented Ferrari in GT racing ...

RISI TAKE THE ENDURANCE TRIPLE

With their GT win at today's rain-shortened 1000 Mile/10 Hour Petit Le Mans, Houston-based Risi Competizione sealed their place in the record books as the team which has best represented Ferrari in GT racing over the last decade.

Today's 8th place overall result, in what may well be known in the future as the "Tout Petit Le Mans", tops an outstanding year for Risi. They have taken victory laurels at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans outcome continues a run of wins at the last five endurance classics, beginning with the 2008 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It turned out to be an extraordinary race due to thunder, lightning and rain storms which deluged the track, and the race action was suspended after 4 hours and 49 minutes due to unsafe track conditions. At the time the red flag was shown, Mika Salo's Ferrari F430 GT was leading the GT class with a lap in hand thanks to an inspired early strategy call for wet Michelin tires. The race remained suspended for a further 3 hours and 56 minutes before the checkered flag was shown/called.

Mid race, as the skies darkened and the rain started to fall, the #62 car was the first in the GT class to make the change from slick to wet tires, while under the 6th of the seven full course caution periods. This allowed Salo -- in increasingly heavy rain -- to pass all his competitors, first on the track, and then additionally as they all had to pit for their own wet tires.

Declared a "wet race" prior to the start, Jaime Melo took the Ferrari from its 10th place grid position up to 5th place in class by the 5th lap, and ran strongly in changing track conditions to keep in touch with the two fast-running Corvettes and two Porsches ahead. Pierre Kaffer continued the good work, despite continual pressure from the #87 Farnbacher Porsche and a chasing Corvette which, had it got past, would have put the Ferrari yet a further lap in arrears. Great pit work and strategy by the Risi crew (only one of the team's seven pit stops took place under 'green' racing conditions) ensured that the #62 car headed the GT class as weather conditions took a turn for the worse.

"This race has really been a revelation," said Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, after the race. "I am very, very happy for my team and for Ferrari for us to have our second victory at Petit Le Mans. At the beginning of the race it looked as though we had a real good fight on our hands, but racing is what it is. You can lose a race on the last lap, or win it, and we made the right call on our tires. The rain was there for everyone to see, but we took a bigger gamble than everyone else by coming in earlier because we were listening to what our driver was telling us. The feedback from him was that people were beginning to slide in front of him and he thought it the right time to change tires. Between our engineer, Rick Mayer, and myself we made the decision to come in.

"I believe it's fair to say that this result today confirms the quality of this team and shows it to be maybe one of the best GT teams ever."

Starting driver, Jaime Melo, was full of praise for the Risi team and his team mates. "It was kind of a strange race but I think we had a competitive car. I was a bit conservative at the beginning as the track was wet and I didn't want to take any risks. The car was comfortable in both wet and dry conditions. Even if the race had continued we could have kept up a good pace in these conditions. I need to say thank you to Pierre who did a very good job for the 3rd and 4th stints and to Mika, who I think drove for only seven laps -- five behind the safety car [laughs]! Thank you to the whole crew and for the strategy, everyone has been phenomenal.

"We still have one more race to go and we are now 19 points behind the Flying Lizard Porsche in the Championship and we never give up so we'll see what happens in the last race."

Pierre Kaffer took the opportunity to thank Ferrari for bringing a revised aerodynamic package to this event which "helped us a lot. The track was drying more and more during my stint and the car was pretty good during the race. It was exciting to drive and I think the GT class was again very exciting for the spectators. We had great battles and I want to thank the whole team who did a great job to help us get where we were, and my team mates. I can always learn something from Mika -- he might not have done such a long stint but he made the most important call of the day."

After good-naturedly taking the teasing about his lack of race laps, Mika Salo reminded his team mates of his version of events. "I might not have been in the car very much but if you go around for 4 hours in 6th or 5th position and then I'm in the car for half an hour and I went from 6th to the lead, then I think you can take what you want from that! Seriously though, it's a great team with always a very nice atmosphere. It's only the third race I've done this year and it's a great atmosphere; everyone is working so hard and is so serious and professional about their racing. I've got two team mates who I can trust and who don't go off and destroy the car -- apart from Jaime sometimes [said with a big smile and to much laughter in the media room] -- and it's such a pleasure always to drive for the Risi team."

Risi Competizione is a Houston-based Ferrari racing team lead by Managing Director Giuseppe Risi. Official team sponsors include Motorola, Boardwalk Auto Group, AdShip, Ferrari Financial Services and Ferrari of Houston.

-credit: risicompetizione

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