RISI TAKES FIRST MID OHIO VICTORY IN A DAY OF HIGHS AND LOWS Lexington, Ohio. Saturday, August 7. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari F430 GTC of Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni recorded the team's first ever victory at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course today...
RISI TAKES FIRST MID OHIO VICTORY IN A DAY OF HIGHS AND LOWS
Lexington, Ohio. Saturday, August 7. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari F430 GTC of Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni recorded the team's first ever victory at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course today after an intensely exciting GT battle throughout the whole of the sixth round of the American Le Mans Series. It was Risi Competizione's third victory this season, and the result takes the team to an equal first in the Teams' and Manufacturers' Championship battles, and Melo and Bruni to second in the Drivers' Championship points chase, just eight points behind the lead.
The team's win was balanced by disappointment in the retirement just ten minutes before the end of the 2 hour 45 minute race of the No. 61 Pennzoil Ultra sponsored Ferrari F430 of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander. Contact from another GT car caused suspension damage which prevented them from being able to continue to the checkered flag, much to the frustration of the whole team.
Team Principal Giuseppe Risi summed up the race as follows: "I'm obviously delighted with the outcome for the No. 62 car. The race wasn't easy by any means, but Jaime did a fantastic job to hold off the close attentions of the Corvette for the last 18 laps and his pass on both the BMWs after his second pit stop was one of the defining moments of the race. This delight is of course balanced by the fact that the No. 61 wasn't able to finish the race. Giancarlo and Toni deserved a better result today, particularly as Giancarlo was so competitive during the race; his times were right up there with the leaders."
Bruni, who posted the fastest GT lap of the race, started in the No. 62 and was able to make a relatively easy pass on his team mate to lead from the first lap until the first round of pit stops, held under the first of three full course caution periods. Despite being frustrated by a slower prototype ahead, which was preventing him from pulling out a greater gap to the rest of the GT pack, he was able to hand over the car to Melo while at the head of the GT class. The pit stops brought about a shuffle in the order but the Ferrari was always in contention until the Brazilian experienced a problem with the Ferrari's primary fuel pump after an hour's running which dropped him back to sixth place.
After switching to the reserve pump, Melo was able to begin the fight back to the front of the field, picking off cars one by one until he make the stunning move on the two BMWs with just 45 minutes left to run. An epic battle with Oliver Gavin's Corvette then ensued, reminiscent of the one enjoyed by so many at Le Mans this year, until the second of the full course caution periods occurred 50 minutes before the end of the race. Melo knew that the battle could be won or lost in the pits, and elected at the last minute to take just left side Michelin tires instead of a full set and gaining valuable seconds which allowed him to exit the pits before Gavin. He went on to take the checkered just 0.582 seconds ahead of the Corvette, recording his 17th ALMS career win and Bruni's third.
Jaime Melo said afterwards: "It was pretty hard to hold the position because at the last stop we just changed the left side tires so it was getting difficult to find grip in the left hand corners. We had a very consistent car and I could keep very good lap times, although I had some slow traffic on the last two laps and that brought the Corvette very close. I tried to stay calm and not make any mistakes.
"This was very hard but it was important for us to win here because of the Championship. Gimmi did a great job at the start, and it was a combination of the Michelin tires, the Ferrari, the team and my teammate which allowed us to win today. My pass on the BMWs was the only chance to get around them because it was almost impossible to get pass them on a straight line. I actually got a little bit in the grass but it worked.
Gianmaria Bruni added: "I think first of all I have to say a big thank you to Jaime for today. He did everything we needed to win, passing the BMWs and the Corvette. We had some issues with the car and we lost four or five places but Jaime came back so it was a good race to watch. We have a similar mentality so I know how he thinks about these things and I knew he would do it. I'm very happy for everyone on the team and at Ferrari for this result."
Despite starting from pole position, won by Toni Vilander with a stunning lap yesterday, today's Mid Ohio Sports Car Challenge didn't fall the way of the Finnish-Italian duo. Slight delays in the pit stops dropped them from the leading pack but Fisichella was charging back into contention each time, despite also struggling with car-to-pit communications due to a malfunctioning radio connection. The final blow came just 11 minutes before the end of the race, when contact occurred between the No. 61 and another GT car.
Giancarlo Fisichella explains: "It was a disappointing race as far as the result, especially the last ten minutes before the end when I was overtaking -- lapping -- another car and we had a crash. I was inside him and ahead going into the corner, and it's absolutely not my fault, but he touched my rear wheel, and I spun off the track. We were very competitive until then although we had some problems with the pit stops which lost us some positions. Without these problems, I think we could have scored a one-two so I'm looking forward instead now to the next time I'll be here in the American Le Mans Series."
Toni Vilander: "Of course it's disappointing for Giancarlo and me not to be able to finish what we started so well with our pole position, but we have to be happy for the Risi team and Ferrari and their win today. The car was very good, and our lap times showed that we were just as fast as the leaders, but luck wasn't on our side with the contact on the track. Maybe weren't as slick in the pits as the other car, which has been doing this for much longer in this series, but we will be better next time and we will try our best again to get an even better result -- a one-two finish."
The next round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron will be the American Le Mans Series powered by e-Star at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Sunday, August 22.