Risi Competizione Baltimore race report

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#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia: Jaime Melo, Toni Vilander
#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia: Jaime Melo, Toni Vilander

Photo by: Darren Pierson

Baltimore, September 3, 2011. In a day of action and drama on the streets of Baltimore, and in front of an estimated crowd of 150,000 enthusiastic spectators, the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia today overcame a disadvantaged starting position and a malfunctioning gearbox to finish sixth in the production-led GT class. The class was won by the Falken Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers.

After an incident with another car in yesterday’s qualifying, for which Brazilian Jaime Melo was later cleared of blame, the No.62 was forced to start from the back row of the 30-car grid. With experience of street course races, Toni Vilander, who took the start, correctly anticipated a first lap incident and managed to not only keep clear of trouble but leapfrog at least half the field to take sixth place in class, as he describes here:

Toni Vilander: “I was a bit worried about the first corner as it’s a bit tight and I was predicting a pile up. It would have looked a bit stupid to start last and then be stuck in the pile up so I was thinking carefully about whether to go inside the pack, or outside or even back off. In the end I went outside and everyone took it fairly easy but there was a spin at the front of the GT field and suddenly everyone was all over the place. Luckily for me there was a hole in the traffic on the outside and I managed to pass quite a lot of cars.”

Vilander stayed close to the leaders, rising as high as fourth in class, but 25 minutes into the race started experiencing gear shift problems. “There were some miss-changes on gear downshifts and I knew I had to be very careful. It got worse and worse and in some corners I could not select any gear which was really frustrating as the race was going in a good direction and I felt comfortable with the car.”

At 46 minutes into the race, the team elected to pit and carry out a full service on the Ferrari with fuel, new Michelin tires and a change of driver to Jaime Melo – just before the first of the two full course caution periods. The first of these was a 21-minute hold for a loose manhole cover on the track which needed attending to. Melo, a Risi stalwart, who drove so superbly at the last ALMS round in Road America to help secure Ferrari’s first North American victory, did everything possible to hold position but the gearbox woes were too much for him to be able to challenge for a better finish than the eventual sixth place.

Jaime Melo: “Second gear had already gone when I got in the car, which is a vital gear on a track which has so many slow corners, so I just tried to minimise the problem by holding the gear lever in position every time I downshifted. I tried different options to overcome the problem, but it was pretty hard to do an hour holding the lever.

“Anyway, after starting from last, when the first ten minutes of the race were completed I thought we could be on the podium, but it turned out we didn’t have the best car today. Coming out of the corners the traction was bad so we were hitting the traction control pretty hard, even with trying to control it on the throttle, and that wasn’t ideal. It’s one more race we need to learn from, for the future. There are still two more races to go in the season and we need to keep our focus. The problem we had in qualifying was disappointing but we’ve got to keep going and always improve. The spirit of the team is good even if the result is bad, so we must see if we can win the last two races at Laguna and Petit Le Mans. They are endurance races and we usually seem to do well in those.”

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jaime Melo , Bryan Sellers , Wolf Henzler , Toni Vilander
Teams Risi Competizione
Tags baltimore, ferrari, melo, risi, vilander