RISI CLAIM FIRST ALMS PODIUM FINISH FOR FERRARI 458 ITALIA
Risi Competizione today staged a remarkable fight from the back of the starting grid, through the ultra-competitive GT class of the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, to take the No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia GT to a third place class finish and seventh place overall.
Five different manufacturers finished in the top six GT places, with the BMW of Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand claiming the winner's step of the podium, and Oliver Gavin/Jan Magnussen's Corvette in second.
An qualifying incident yesterday meant that the Houston-based privateer team wasn't able to set a competitive time and the red Ferrari 458 was forced to line up behind all its competitors and the slower GTC cars for the two-hour race. A great debt of thanks is owed to fellow Ferrari entrants, Extreme Speed Motorsports, who generously lent the team a rear wing as the team's own spare has not yet been delivered from Italy.
In hot and sunny conditions (88oF air temperature) Toni Vilander took the start of the incident-filled and action-packed event, which ultimately finished under yellow caution flags due to cars off course and in dangerous positions. The Finn drove an extremely well-judged race and moved the F458 through the field, without taking any undue risks, to rise as high as fourth by the time he stopped at just after the one-hour mark.
Jaime Melo continued the good work and for 11 laps maintained a steady pace behind Scott Sharp's Extreme Speed Ferrari before making a clean overtaking move which took the Brazilian into the third place he held to the checkered flag.
Risi Competizione's Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, said after the race, "I am very happy with the result. After starting from the back, and not being able to get all the final feedback from qualifying and missing out on some tire set up data, we might have felt we were a little behind the game. But, with the track being what it is, and the drivers having to deal with some of the traffic and accidents that occurred, I believe we've done an excellent job. The crew were perfect, and I think we can rightly be proud of gaining the Ferrari 458's first podium in the American Le Mans Series; it's a victory in itself."
I am very happy with the result. After starting from the back. I think we can rightly be proud of gaining the Ferrari 458's first podium in the American Le Mans Series
Jaime Melo: "I'm sorry again for what happened yesterday, so in the circumstances I think third is a good result and we got some important points which is what we were looking for. We still need to work harder to make the car easier to drive, and try to get some straight line speed. I think if we improve that, we can close the gap a little bit to the BMWs and Corvettes because at the moment we are struggling to keep the pace."
Toni Vilander: "Using experience from last year, I tried to keep cool and once I got into the groove I didn't want to make a mistake. I didn't want to overdrive the car, even though at some points it felt frustrating to stay behind other cars. We talked a lot before the race about strategy and decided we would try and make the race come to us and not force it too much. We had some brake and straight line speed issues but we will work on those and improve the set up of the car for the future races; I think it will all be very positive."