GRIP ISSUES MAR RISI'S RUN AT ROAD AMERICA 'Grip' and 'tires' were the key words for Risi Competizione after today's seventh round of the American Le Mans Series at Road America. The team's two red Ferrari F430 GTC cars finished in 6th and...
GRIP ISSUES MAR RISI'S RUN AT ROAD AMERICA
'Grip' and 'tires' were the key words for Risi Competizione after today's seventh round of the American Le Mans Series at Road America. The team's two red Ferrari F430 GTC cars finished in 6th and 7th places in the GT class, but the final result does not truly reflect the performance of either cars or drivers during what turned out to be another thrillingly close GT race.
Four full course caution periods played a part in the outcome of the 2 hour 45 minute event; strategy and the decision to take or not take new tires at each stop turned out to be critical in terms of track position.
Pierre Kaffer and Jaime Melo were the starting drivers in the No. 61 and 62 respectively and, while the German kept his car in contention through the early stages of the race, it was the decision to make an early stop for fuel and new Michelin rubber which allowed the Brazilian to carve his way through the field to lead the class by the end of the first hour. Melo set an amazing pace and in just 13 laps pulled out a 23 second gap over his competitors before a third caution period at an hour and 12 minutes closed the field up again.
Making the second of three stops [for each car], Melo handed over to Bruni who continued to run with the leaders and was making his way back to the front of the pack when -- 12 laps before the end -- he experienced a sudden loss of rear grip which meant he was unable to hold the pace through to the checkered flag. Without the traction available to push through left hand corners, the Italian experienced a loss of confidence in the rear of the car and was unable to go to throttle without spinning the tires. Rather than forcing the car into situations which could potentially prevent it from finishing the race at all, Bruni was forced to drop back to his final finishing place of sixth. Until the team has had an opportunity to fully examine the Ferrari, it is unable to explain this change in handling.
Gianmaria Bruni said afterwards: "We went from being one of the quickest cars to nowhere. From one lap to the next it just changed. I passed Jan Magnussen for third place and tried several times to get past the No. 45 for another place but just couldn't get it. We were having a great fight though. The end result is disappointing but we've got Mosport now and the car is always good there so I'm looking forward to that instead of thinking more about today."
Lack of traction was also the complaint from the No. 61 car, with both Kaffer and Mika Salo suffering from the same mysterious lack of grip. A pit stop an hour and 10 minutes into the race for fuel and tires was unfortunately timed as flags for the third of the four caution periods came out just one lap later and the No. 61 went a lap down until gaining it back on the wave by. Salo struggled through to the checkered flag to finish in seventh place but the fact that nine GT cars were all on the same lap, separated by just 35 seconds shows clearly how competitive and closely fought the class battles are in the American Le Mans Series.
Team Manager Dave Sims said of the race: "It wasn't a great one for us, but it was all down to grip...or lack of it. We'll have to investigate why the cars behaved as they did, but we know it wasn't down to the Michelin tires. There was still wear left at the end. We're now heading off to Mosport and a test day on Wednesday so it will give us a bit of time to investigate."
Today's results mean that Risi Competizione is now in third place in the Teams and Manufacturers championship, and that Melo and Bruni are now tied in second place with Muller and Hand in the Drivers' title chase. However, with 50 points available over the next two races, and next weekend's round at the traditionally happy hunting ground for Risi of Mosport in Canada, there is still all to play for.