Risi Competizione press release
RISI QUALIFY SEVENTH IN GT FOR MONTEREY SIX HOUR ENDURANCE RACE
Monterey, 16 September 2011. Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 458 Italia will start tomorrow’s ModSpace American Le Mans Series Monterey six hour race from the fourth row of the GT grid after a sterling qualifying effort by Toni Vilander in the most difficult of circumstances.
The Finn, who is making his race debut at the 2.238 mile Californian roller-coaster, otherwise known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, recorded a fastest time in qualifying of 1:23.518; Vilander was just four tenths of a second away from the front row of the starting grid. Pole position was set by Joey Hand’s BMW with a time of 1:22.226, and all three Ferrari 458 Italia GT entries qualified in the top seven GT cars.
His performance was admirable considering that he had only completed 22 laps around the slippery and challenging track in yesterday’s unofficial practice session. Due to complete more laps in this morning’s official practice, the Houston-based Risi team’s track time was cut short by an accident which befell Jaime Melo.
Melo was working through a program of set up changes to improve the handling of the car which had been “unpredictable”, a problem later found to be attributable to an unmatched set of dampers. In a move untypical of the Brazilian, he lost control of the rear of the car and it impacted with the tire barriers. The damage was fortunately restricted to bodywork but, by the time the repairs were completed, the second practice session was two thirds through.
Melo, having the most experience of the track, went back out to complete the practice session and fine-tune the set up, but this left Vilander with only the qualifying session in which to set a ‘qualifying’ time for the race. If Melo had qualified, and Vilander had not set a time within 115% of the fastest overall time in any of the official practice sessions, then the Ferrari would have been forced to start the race from the back of the grid.
Vilander completed nine fast laps, but a suspected fuel pick up problem at the end of qualifying ultimately saw him stranded out on track. After returning to the pits, he commented: “It was so difficult being thrown into the qualifying without much preparation. The potential of the car was good; I think a 1:23.0 or maybe a 22.9 was possible with some good driving and a little bit more track time this morning. I started lap by lap to get it together but then I felt the tires were off a bit so I cooled down for a lap. After that I pushed and felt that a small improvement was coming, but I got the fuel pressure problem so today was really a bit up and down, like the rest of our season. Of course this is today and tomorrow is another story.”