Houston, TX, 29th September 2008. The Risi Competizione Ferrari GT2 team travels to Road Atlanta for next weekend's Petit Le Mans hoping to emulate its endurance success in June at the event's big brother, the world famous 24 Hours of Le...
Houston, TX, 29th September 2008. The Risi Competizione Ferrari GT2 team travels to Road Atlanta for next weekend's Petit Le Mans hoping to emulate its endurance success in June at the event's big brother, the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The team will be re-united with its fellow Houston-headquartered racing partner Krohn Racing for the last two rounds of the 2008 series, reprising a racing relationship which has yielded significant success over the last two seasons. While highlights have been podium finishes at Le Mans in 2007 and Sebring in March of 2008, a strong finish at Petit Le Mans will be the prime goal in mind to add to their endurance roll of honor.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the blue riband Petit Le Mans race not only features an increased car count due to its prestige, but also offers a bumper crop of points to regular American Le Mans Series competitors. While Risi Competizione is not challenging for any championship titles, it is currently lying third in the GT2 Teams' standings and success in Georgia would also have a huge impact for Ferrari on the coveted Manufacturers' Championship.
After a tumultuous recent weekend in Houston thanks to Hurricane Ike, where thankfully the team's workshops and linked Ferrari of Houston dealership premises escaped relatively unscathed, the Risi team is now fully focused on the 1000 Mile race. A recent Michelotto-run test session gave Jaime Melo an opportunity to experience the 2.54 mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta track in its 2008 form, and unofficial times would seem to indicate that the repaving of last Spring has now had time to age and that lap times will be faster than 12 months ago.
Reigning GT2 Driver Champions and recent winners at Mosport in the #62 Rosso red Ferrari 430, Jaime Melo and Mika Salo, have elected to contest the nine hour plus race on their own rather than have a third driving partner join with them.
Mika Salo explains why: "We did it just the two of us last year, after Johnny [Mowlem] hurt his wrist in warm up. It's going to be a hard race for sure and, depending on the weather, could be a very hard race, but Jaime and I know each other so well and the car so it's risky to have another driver. We trust one another 100 percent. There will be long stints and it will be tiring for both of us but we can do it of course. It's a nice track, I like it, but it will be really difficult with the prototypes as they run at such a high speed. There will also be lots of drivers in the prototypes who don't' know what they are doing -- ones that aren't as experienced in the American Le Mans Series as others."
"It's a lovely track," adds Jaime Melo. "And one I like as it's fast with different types of corners. I tested there with Michelotto recently and the track seems to be a lot quicker than last year -- we shall have to see what happens when we actually race there. There are a lot of cars in the prototype classes, and GT2 will be competitive as always, so it will be more important than ever to stay out of trouble and be there at the finish. We have had a fast car there in the last two years but not managed to win Petit Le Mans yet. Like Le Mans in June, that is one of our main goals for the season."
Amongst the line up for the #61 Ferrari F430 GT, which will be racing in the familiar Krohn green colors, is Belgian Eric van de Poele -- the winner of the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998, in a Doyle Risi Ferrari 333SP. His experience will add to the already considerable bank of knowledge that his team mates, Tracy W Krohn and Nic Jonsson, have as their Krohn Racing Grand Am team operates from Road Atlanta premises and the track is well known to them.
"I'm very happy to be back with the same team and with a Ferrari after winning the first edition of the Petit Le Mans," says Eric van de Poele, a five-time winner of the 24 Hours of Spa. "It is not the same category, of course, but to reach the end of such a hard race is always a fantastic performance for all of the team. If there is a victory at the end, you cannot believe how much joy a driver can feel on the podium. So, yes, I am looking forward and I will do the best possible to achieve a good result that Risi Competizione deserves so much. We will not be the lead car, but we will try to assist them the most and if a problem should come to them, we are going to be right there too."
Tracy W Krohn, of Houston, Texas, is team owner/driver of the two-car Krohn Racing Daytona Prototype team in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series which recently finished 8th overall in the 2008 standings. "We're getting ready for Petit again this year. We had a very good result at Sebring, although not so good at Le Mans. Nic and Eric are very familiar with the track, as am I, which makes a pretty good combination. With also having our Krohn Racing team right at Road Atlanta, we've got a lot of laps around that track and the Ferrari is a wonderful car to drive. I really enjoy driving it."
Swedish born Nic Jonsson, who is now based in Buford, Ga., is eager to be back behind the wheel at his home track. "It is obviously exciting to be back in the Ferrari for Petit Le Mans with Risi Competizione and Krohn Racing and driving with Tracy and Eric. It's always one of the biggest sports car races in the county, and in the world as it has a pre-qualifying status to the big race at Le Mans. We had a pretty good car last year, but had some bad luck although we were pretty quick. I think it's going to be difficult to run at speed, but we have to be smart and make sure we stay out of trouble and be consistent. We're not going to be quite as quick as the regulars are in ALMS because they drive those cars all day long, so it's going to be very difficult. We know the track real well and we'll have a very well-prepared car. I live 20 minutes from the track, as well as my business being close. I'll have a lot of people coming out to Petit -- friends, family; it's going to be an exciting event."
The 4-litre, V8-engined Ferrari 430 GT, built by Michelotto on behalf of Ferrari and race-prepared by Risi Competizione in their Houston premises, will be taking to the track for official testing for Petit Le Mans on Wednesday, October 1, with night practice on Thursday, 2nd and qualifying on Friday, 3rd.
The tenth round of the American Le Mans Series will be Petit Le Mans on Saturday, October 4 at Road Atlanta, Georgia.