Laguna Seca: Risi Competizione race report



Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California - This was the way it was supposed to end, the perfect final episode for a season of challenges: one race for the GT2 championship, with everything on the line, ace drivers in the cockpit, nothing held back, and an international TV audience watching the every move of a team kissed by destiny and shunned by luck.

Mika Salo, driving the No.62 Ferrari F430GT for Risi Competizione, made GT2 history on Saturday as he crossed the finish line in first place to win the ALMS GT2 class in the last ALMS race of the season and, together with driving partner Stephane Ortelli, put Risi Competizione and Ferrari into the ALMS record books by leading the team to the 2006 GT2 championship against a field of factory Porsches and Panoz racecars. It was the first Teams' championship for Risi Competizione and Ferrari in the American Le Mans Series.

The stablemate No.61 Ferrari F430GT, driven by Andrea Bertolini and Maurzio Mediani and owned by R. Ferri Competizione (Remo Ferri) and Ferrari Silicon Valley (Giacomo Mattioli) finished eighth in the GT2 class.

Salo, a former Ferrari F1 driver who has quickly developed a reputation in ALMS for being able to "close" a race, nipped inside Jorge Bergmeister with less than 15 minutes remaining in the race to put the screaming and defiant Ferrari F430GT into first place with just minutes remaining in the race, a position he held until the checkered flag came down. Salo came back from over 20 seconds down to pass Bergmeister, in a move that reminded onlookers of his audacious pass to take the lead (and the win) at Portland this year. Starting from the pole-where Salo set a qualifying record of 1:23.611 for GT2 cars at Laguna Seca and concluding with the final sprint to the flag, the Risi Competizione 'Rosso Corsa' Ferrari F430GT snarled and screamed around the tight, twisty, historic Laguna Seca racetrack, an 11 turn 2.238 mile circuit that puts a premium on cornering, braking, and nerve. The track, recently resurfaced, had given all drivers some early concern as sand and rocks blew across the asphalt. Salo matched his new record for qualifying with a fastest lap in the race as well.

Asked about the win, Salo, back, in the U.S. for his first race since the now-legendary team win at Portland with Jaime Melo, where the team was in last place after the first lap and took the win with a virtuoso display of driving from both Melo and Salo, said that "it was a great win for the team. We've had a lot of different drivers in the car this year and Mr. Risi has had to pay for a lot of repairs, but I am glad to win this one for the team." Salo, who won his third GT2 race of the season for Risi Competizione was paired with Stephane Ortelli, the FIA GT series ace, who won his second GT2 race driving for Risi Competizione.

Coming into Laguna Seca, Risi Competizione held a narrow, six point lead over the Flying Lizard Porsche team (138 to 132 points) for the team championship. Risi Competizione had to finish within one place of the Flying Lizard team to claim the championship; they did it one better by finishing first. The team of Bergmeister/Petersen/Long, driving for Petersen/White Lightning finished second in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Rockenfeller/Tiemann third in another Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for Alex Job Racing.

It was a season of high drama for the Houston-based Risi Competizione team, a mechanical opera played out at high speeds across the width and breadth of the North American continent. During the season, the team fielded seven different driver teams, captured seven poles and six fastest laps. Along with the highs of pole positions and wins-the team won four of the 10 American Le Mans Series races-there were the lows, with accident plagued outings at Mid-Ohio, Lime Rock, Road America, and Petit Le Mans coupled with a heart-breaking third at Sebring after the team had lead the majority of the race that teased spectators with 27 lead changes.

Team Managing Director Giuseppe Risi said that "this is another great win for Ferrari and another historic championship for Ferrari. We've had an incredible year and it is a true testament to the character of this team that we have overcome all obstacles and very stiff competition from Porsche and Panoz to win the Team Championship in GT2. Every driver we used gave their best effort to help us to this win and Michelin were relentless in delivering the best tires. I thank our sponsors for 2006-Boost/Motorola, Forza2 Motorsport, LP/Italy, Putnam Leasing, Boardwalk Autogroup, Ferrari of Houston, AMD, and Tubi-for their support in a very dramatic season. We are honored to be the champions in GT2 but we know what awaits us in 2007- more epic battles with Porsche and Panoz. But for tonight.we're going to relax and enjoy the win."

The 10 race season started at Sebring in March and included two long distance races (12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans), one four race (Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), and seven two hour and four-five minute races. The American Le Mans Series races test a car under all conditions and over different time periods. From the start, Team Manager David Sims, said, "We knew we had a good shot a good season. The car was fast out of the box at testing in Sebring prior to the 12 Hour race, and we were in contention for the lead throughout the year."

Development never stopped on the mid-engine Ferrari F430GT; "After Sebring," Sims notes, "we knew we had the potential but we had to continue to develop the car in all areas. Porsche and Panoz do not stand still-they are both brilliant competitors with massive technical resources. In this series, if you're standing still, you're going backward. It is ultra- competitive, as one can see from the sheer number of lead changes."

Risi Competizione ran one car at Sebring, Houston, and Mid-0hio. At Lime Rock, the stablemate No. 61 Ferrari F430GT, owned by R. Ferri Competizione/Ferrari Silicon Valley, joined the team to race under the Risi Competizione banner. That car, too, was fast out of the box, as newcomer to ALMS racing Toni Vilander grabbed the pole in his first weekend in a 430GT. Regrettably, Vilander was taken out of the race with an on-course incident and No.61 was sidelined for repairs, not rejoining the team until the Road America race.

In the meantime, the No.62 car continued the campaign. The points picked up by No.61 at Road America and Petite Le Mans were crucial to Risi Competizione winning the GT2 Team Championship. "Remo Ferri and Giacomo Mattioli (R. Ferri Competizione and Ferrari Silicon Valley respectively) played a big part in our run to the championship. The addition of a second Ferrari put us on even footing with the Porsche and Panoz teams and the points they picked up were incredibly important to our effort. When No.62 had problems, the No.61 car stepped into the void and delivered under intense pressure. This was a great team effort," Giuseppe Risi stated.

The GT2 Team Championship is another milestone for Risi Competizione, founded in 1998 by Giuseppe Risi and based in Houston, Texas. The team raced a Ferrari 333SP, prior to 2002, taking a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998. The team was also World Sports Car Champion (Ferrari 333SP) in 1998. In 2002, Risi Competizione ran a Lola Nissan SRPII for Rand Racing and captured the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Championship; that team took class honors at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and had a perfect season in Grand Am, winning every race in the 10 race series, taking every pole, and setting fastest lap in each race.

In 2003 and 2004, Risi Competizione campaigned a Ferrari F360GTC, winning the ALMS IMSA Cup in 2003. In 2004, Risi Competizione won the Lime Rock race, snapping Porsches 21 race GT2 win streak. In 2005, Risi Competizione provided logistical support for Maserati Reparto Corse, the racing division of Maserati, in a campaign to run the Maserati MC12, the top car in FIA racing, in the American Le Mans Series.

-credit: Risi Competizione

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Mika Salo , Stéphane Ortelli , Jaime Melo , Andrea Bertolini , Alex Job , Toni Vilander
Teams Risi Competizione