RISI COMPETIZIONE RACING FOR RESULTS AT LE MANS After a difficult start to its American Le Mans Series racing season, Houston-based Risi Competizione will be crossing the Atlantic to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans looking for a fresh start,...
RISI COMPETIZIONE RACING FOR RESULTS AT LE MANS
After a difficult start to its American Le Mans Series racing season, Houston-based Risi Competizione will be crossing the Atlantic to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans looking for a fresh start, a smooth run up to the race, and with high expectations for a result for both its Ferrari F430 GT Berlinettas.
Renewing its successful racing relationship with Krohn Racing for the second of four outings this year, the 2007 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champions will be looking to repeat the impressive speed and consistency shown in last year's race. Last year's class runners up at Le Mans, Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson, who achieved their superb result despite appalling weather conditions, will be returning in the Krohn green liveried car #83 for a renewed attempt at victory alongside a new team mate, the highly experienced Eric van de Poele.
Until their assault on victory was brought to a premature end 12 months ago by a damaged water pump, Jaime Melo and Mika Salo had been holding a commanding lead in the GT2 class for over 11 hours. They will this year be joined by the current FIA GT2 Championship leader, Italian Gianmaria Bruni, reprising his Sebring 12 Hours role as an important member of 'Rosso' red #82's driver line up.
Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, acknowledges that his team is badly in need of a good result, but is confident they are more than capable of achieving it. "We have high expectations, especially after last year, and because we need to redress the balance of our results so far in 2008. More than this though, we are looking for a win here simply because of what Le Mans is and what it means in endurance racing.
"If we didn't have a chance of winning, we wouldn't go. Risi Competizione goes there with the equipment and the drivers capable of winning in our category which, once again, will be intensely competitive. We are preparing our Ferraris to that level, and have got two cars entered to double our chances of success."
Ferrari has a very special relationship with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, being one of the two most successful marques in its history, and the two cars entered by Risi Competizione in 2008 will be racing to uphold that honor.
The potential race-winning package includes a Ferrari GT car which has won multiple championships, a strong 4-liter V8 engine, race-proven Michelin tires and a multi-national, star-studded driver line up.
Car 82 will be the focus of much attention principally because of its driver line up. Jaime Melo and Mika Salo set a new record in 2007 for the most class victories in a single season, and helped Risi Competizione to its second Team Championship and a first Manufacturers' title for Ferrari. They will be joined by Gianmaria Bruni, a driver whose race-winning experience with the Ferrari 430 GT and familiarity with the team will outweigh the fact that he will be making his debut at Le Mans.
The three Krohn Racing drivers entered in car 83 contribute a well-proven mix of experience, race craft and enthusiasm. Tracy W Krohn, of Houston, Texas, is team owner/driver of the two-car Krohn Racing Daytona Prototype team in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, and he will be taking his third Le Mans start, having made his debut at La Sarthe in 2006. He races with his podium team mate of 2007 (Le Mans) and 2008 (Sebring), Nic Jonsson, and Belgian Eric van de Poele -- a face very familiar at La Sarthe and a previous overall winner in 1998 in the Doyle-Risi Racing Ferrari 333 SP.
DRIVER QUOTES AND DETAILS: CAR 82
Name: Gianmaria (Gimmi) Bruni Nationality: Italian (lives Rome, Italy) Date of Birth: May 30, 1981 Le Mans Experience: None
Gianmaria Bruni: "I have never driven round the track but I've watched a video and obviously talked with my team mates about it. I'm looking forward to it; I know it will be very challenging, but great during the night, and I'm happy to be racing there with Risi. I did the Spa 24 Hours with AF Corse last year, but this will be my first Le Mans. This event is what endurance racing is about, the most important race of all. Stephane Ortelli has told me a lot about it, and I'm looking forward to the test weekend to learn the circuit, where there might be any tricky points, where to avoid accidents."
Name: Jaime Melo
Nationality: Brazilian (lives Houston, Texas, USA)
Date of Birth: April 24, 1980
Le Mans Experience:
2007 - Risi Ferrari 430 GT2 (Salo/Mowlem) -- DNF (water pump)
2004 - JMB Ferrari 360 GT2 (Daoudi/de Fournoux) - DNF (transmission)
Jaime Melo: "This will be my third time to Le Mans and I am hoping it will be "third time lucky" as they say. We had bad luck there last year, after being so fast and leading for such a long time, and the start to 2008 has been very difficult -- especially as it comes straight after such a great season in 2007. Our races so far this year have not given us the results we were looking for but what has helped me to remain so positive is that we have a very competitive Ferrari 430 GT car and a great team behind us. I know that we all know our potential, so we must hope we won't have any problems and get through to the finish. If we finish, I know we will finish well."
Name: Mika Salo
Nationality: Finnish (lives Monaco)
Date of Birth: November 30, 1966
Le Mans Experience:
2007 - Risi Ferrari 430 GT2 (Melo/Mowlem) -- DNF (water pump)
2003 - Arena Audi R8 (Biela/McCarthy) - DNF (fuel)
Mika Salo: "I don't consider this year to be really different compared to last year. We were the fastest there and had a good chance of winning it but for a mistake which, in the end, lost us the race. But, everyone has learnt something about last year and we can do better now. The team is doing everything so that the car will run consistently for 24 hours, and I have no concerns about Gimmi Bruni being a rookie. He showed us at Sebring that he is very quick and he adapted to left foot braking very quickly to be the same as Jaime and me. We know that to succeed at Le Mans you have to stay out of trouble, spend as little time as possible in the pits, and maintain a consistent pace throughout and that's what we will be aiming to do."
DRIVER QUOTES AND DETAILS: CAR 83
Name: Nic Jonsson
Nationality: Swedish (lives Buford, Georgia, USA)
Date of Birth: August 4, 1967
Le Mans Experience:
2007 - Risi/Krohn Ferrari 430 GT (Krohn/Braun) -- 2nd in class (LMGT2)
2006 - Petersen White Lightning Porsche 911 RSR (Bergmeister/Krohn) - DNF (accident)
Nic Jonsson: "I don't feel any pressure going back now after such a good result last year -- we are realistic in that we are the second car and our aim is to do the best we can and support the other car. Last year we had a very good run and this year we'll try and repeat that and get further up the podium. Our strategy is to run a consistent, good race pace and stay out of trouble; we won't have the same speed as the guys who are in the car for the whole season but if we avoid mistakes this will bring us up to the front. Having Eric on our driver line up brings added value to the team as he has so much experience of 24 hour races. Colin [Braun] did a great job last year, and he learnt quick, but Eric has history at Le Mans and a lot of success, which brings confidence to the whole team."
Name: Tracy Krohn
Nationality: American (lives Houston, Texas, USA)
Date of Birth: August 26, 1954
Le Mans Experience:
2007 - Risi/Krohn Ferrari 430 GT (Jonsson/Braun) -- 2nd in class (LMGT2)
2006 - Petersen White Lightning Porsche 911 RSR (Bergmeister/Jonsson) - DNF (accident)
Tracy Krohn: "I'm looking forward to being back at Le Mans again and I have a great deal of confidence in Giuseppe Risi and his team. We've had podium finishes in two of the major sportscar races in the world which is a confidence builder, and we're expecting a very good result this year as well -- we expect to have a chance to win. I'm becoming more accustomed to 24 hour races now, and the trick to getting through them is to have patience. They require a different approach and attitude and you have to manage the race quite a bit different to sprint races. The car has to be there at the end, so patience is the key word."
Name: Eric van de Poele
Nationality: Belgian (lives Incourt, Belgium)
Date of Birth: September 30, 1961
Le Mans Experience:
2002 - Team Bentley -- Bentley EXP Speed 8 (Wallace/ Leitzinger) -- 1st in class (GTP)
2000 - Team Cadillac/Bill Riley - Cadillac Northstar LMP (Taylor/Angelelli) -- Finish 22nd (LMP900)
1998 - Doyle Risi Racing - Ferrari 333 SP Michelotto (Taylor/Velez) -- 1st in class (LMP1)
1997 - Nissan Motorsports -- Nissan R390 (Suzuki/ Patrese) -- DNF (gearbox) (GT1)
1996 - Racing for Belgium/Team Scandia Ferrari 333 SP Dallara (Goossens/Bachelart) -- DNF (Accident) (LMP)
1994 - Clayton Cunningham Racing Nissan 300ZX Turbo (Gentilozzi/Kasuya) -- DNF (Ignition) (IMSA GTS)
1992 - Peugeot Talbot Sport -- Peugeot 905 (A Ferte/ Wendlinger) -- DNF (engine) (Category 1)
Eric van de Poele: "I had a good experience with this Ferrari (430GT) at Sebring as we finished on the podium, and I'm very happy to be back at Le Mans. My last time was in 2002 and every year I've missed the race so I'm really looking forward to being back. I have very good memories there with Giuseppe and his Risi team so to do it again with my Grand Am team mates this year, Nic and Tracy, plus Risi is a bonus. The package looks very good. It is always very hard at these events, but it's a long race and we can always hope to make a podium."