Risi Competizione was today cruelly denied the chance to challenge for a third consecutive GT pole position for the American Le Mans Series' flagship Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta. A puncture to the right rear tire, possibly caused by...
Risi Competizione was today cruelly denied the chance to challenge for a third consecutive GT pole position for the American Le Mans Series' flagship Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta.
A puncture to the right rear tire, possibly caused by debris on the track, saw Jaime Melo limping back to the pits after only being able to set one flying lap right at the start of the 20-minute qualifying session. The car was undamaged but would have required a new set of Michelin tires in order to continue and the team took no further part in the session.
The rules are such that, if the team had changed even one tire and sent Melo out for further laps, he would have had to start the race from the back of the grid. The Brazilian's only quick lap time of 1:22.718 places him in 10th place on the GT grid.
Giuseppe Risi commented after the session, "It's naturally disappointing for the whole team that we didn't get an opportunity to start further up the GT grid but, if this kind of thing has to happen, it's better that it happens today and not tomorrow. It's a 10-hour race and we have been known to do quite well in endurance races, even when we've started from the back of the grid, like at Sebring in March this year!"
Jaime Melo was approaching Turn 10 when the puncture occurred. "I just felt something strange before I braked, and then the rear of the car felt funny. I just tried to keep the car on the track as much as possible and get back to the pits without damage. I'm disappointed for sure as we could have done well in qualifying; the car was good in practice this morning. It's a long race though and that gives us more of a chance to make up for today."
After three days of dry and very hot, humid weather here at Road Atlanta, more of last week's heavy rain is expected for tomorrow's race day. Those conditions would more than equalize the field, and Melo - along with his teams mates Pierre Kaffer and Mika Salo - will be adopting the same no-risk strategy that has allowed the team to claim GT endurance honors in the last four 'majors' (Le Mans 2008, Petit Le Mans 2009, Sebring 2009 and Le Mans 2009).