Daytona 24: Risi Competizione preview

Risi Competizione returns to the Rolex 24 at Daytona with an impressive international cast. The experienced team will field the No. 13 Ferrari 333 SP in the top SRP class for drivers David Brabham of Australia, Stefan Johansson of Sweden and...

Risi Competizione returns to the Rolex 24 at Daytona with an impressive international cast. The experienced team will field the No. 13 Ferrari 333 SP in the top SRP class for drivers David Brabham of Australia, Stefan Johansson of Sweden and Eric van de Poele of Belgium. All three have raced and excelled at the highest levels of motorsport, from the Formula One World Championship to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Brabham has won races and championships around the world, but he says driving a Ferrari is a unique thrill: "My father raced against Ferrari and I've always had Ferrari somewhere that was special in my heart. I never thought I'd drive one. Last year was the first time I drove for the Risi team and the first time I drove a Ferrari 333. It was a fantastic experience."

Although he has scored at Daytona, his class win predated the custom of presenting Rolex watches to the winners. "Unfortunately, I didn't get a watch, so I want one now!" he said.

Van de Poele has victories in the biggest sports-car races in the world, including an LMP1 win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Risi Ferrari, but he's missing a Daytona first. He hopes this will be his year.

"The Daytona track has a lack of grip," he explained. "The good thing is the Ferrari is always competitive there because it isn't a car with a lot of downforce. We have a good top speed and the car is quite comfortable in the slow parts, as well. We have really a perfect car. The good thing is that it is reliable. We have the potential to be at the end without worrying.

"I think we have the perfect drivers because we don't want to prove anything to each other," he added. "We know what we want to do, we all have the same goal, we have 100 per cent confidence between us. We know you can go to sleep and when you come back, the car will still be in good shape. Nobody will try to do the best lap time because we don't care about that. We just want to finish and win the race."

Johansson's resume also lists a string of international success, including victory at Le Mans and, like van de Poele, a major win with Ferrari at the 12 Hours at Sebring.

"I've never driven for Risi before, but I've driven for Ferrari, and they've always been one of my strong competitors in the Daytona race," he said. "The car is a very well-proven car. I don't think it will necessarily be the quickest car over a lap, but over the race distance we should be in very good shape to be in the front for the win after 24 hours."

He is looking forward to working with Brabham and van de Poele. "I'm quite excited about my co-drivers," he said. "I've never driven with either of them but I have a lot of respect for both of them. It's going to be a lot of fun to share the car with them."

Team principal Giuseppe Risi shares the drivers' optimism. "I have great confidence in the drivers, in the team and the car," he said. In addition to the on-track action, he noted Risi Competizione and Ferrari of Houston will offer an extra treat for Daytona race fans, with a Maserati Spider on display in the paddock.

The 24-hour race is scheduled to start Feb. 2 on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course in Daytona Beach, Fla.

-rc/sp-

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