Risi Competizione set for Laguna Seca endurance challenge

Risi Competizione press release


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

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

Houston, Texas, Wednesday 14 Sept 2011. As the 2011 American Le Mans Series approaches its final stages with just two races left in the schedule, Risi Competizione is looking firmly towards a repeat of its GT victory in the four-hour race at Road America in August, the first for the Ferrari 458 Italia GTC in North America.

As something of an expert in endurance races – with an unmatched 8 consecutive GT wins at the Sebring 12 Hours, Le Mans 24 Hours and Petit Le Mans events in recent years – the forthcoming six-hour race into the darkness at the storied Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track is a challenge that Risi Competizione is more than ready to embrace.

Built on a former US Army base, the 2.238 mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is challenging for drivers and engineers alike, with its 11 turns and many ups and downs. The famous Corkscrew turn, a steep drop away over a blind 90-degree left-hand bend that immediately sweeps away to the right, is one of the highlights here and is an awesome place to watch the drivers in action. The track is also notoriously slippery due to the sand surrounding the asphalt, which is often either blown on or brought onto the track by another car. A fast lap here takes every ounce of skill that a driver possesses.

Brazilian Jaime Melo very much enjoys his visits to the Californian track and is hoping for a smooth run on Saturday. He will be driving with his season-long partner Toni Vilander who will be making his first visit to the circuit on the Monterey Peninsula.

Melo says of the coming weekend: “It will be the first time at Laguna Seca for the new model, the Ferrari 458 Italia. The track has a mixture of high and mid speed corners which, at other tracks, the new 458 has shown itself to be very good at in terms of changes of direction and stability so I expect Laguna to be a good track for us.

“We really need to try to find, as always, a good compromise between me and Toni; we have a different style of driving, so at Laguna we need to make it closer and try to make the car as easy as possible to drive. We are coming from Baltimore, which is a completely different type of track - slow and bumpy – while Laguna is smooth and slippery with overall high speed. We will have a different approach but we have a lot of information to try and make a good car.”

With a 38-car entry, the Series’ largest at the track since its first event at the track in 1999, the risk of off-track excursions are multiplied, and not because of any lack of skill from Risi’s very accomplished Ferrari drivers. Melo explains why:

“If you think about the run off areas around the track, it’s just sand so normally people can go off and re-join the track but then they put all the dirt on the track. With 38 cars and only one straight it’s going to be busy but we’ve had other races with no yellow caution periods so it’s not impossible to have a smooth run. A lot of this comes from the drivers, especially the prototype drivers who need to be aware that the track is not too wide; we all need to be aware that you have your own place on the track and that 3-into-1 doesn’t go in most places!

“We need to have an easy car to drive in traffic with no technical problems, as that will allow us to relax and breathe more easily and the driving will be more comfortable. We will have more time to look in the mirrors and give space to others. As we go into the weekend practice sessions, I always try to work for the race set up first and then qualifying as it’s important to feel comfortable in the car for the race.”

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jaime Melo , Toni Vilander
Teams Risi Competizione
Tags ferrari, mazda raceway, melo, risi, vilander