Risi-Krohn Ferrari Team Hopes to Defend Podium Finish at 12 Hours of Sebring The No. 61 Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430GT, prepared by Risi Competizione, is seeking to defend its 2008 podium finish at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented...
Risi-Krohn Ferrari Team Hopes to Defend Podium Finish at 12 Hours of Sebring
The No. 61 Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430GT, prepared by Risi Competizione, is seeking to defend its 2008 podium finish at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 21. The signature Krohn green and blue Ferrari will be driven again by Krohn Racing team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Eric van de Poele.
Krohn Racing and Risi Competizione, both of Houston, Texas, have paired for the third season in a row to field a Ferrari 430 GT in the GT2 class for Sebring and the LMGT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Last year the Risi-Krohn Ferrari team participated in three of the ALMS races, collecting a third place finish at Sebring, fourth at Petit Le Mans and 11th at the Laguna Seca finale. They also competed at Le Mans to an unfortunate DNF. In 2007 the Risi-Krohn Ferrari finished a remarkable second-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
The sister No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT of Jaime Melo, Pierre Kaffer and Mika Salo are in search of a repeat of the team's 2008 ALMS GT2 Team and Driver Championships in the American Le Mans Series at this week's season opener in Sebring, Florida.
TRACY W. KROHN, Krohn Racing Team Owner, Risi-Krohn Ferrari Driver:
There are 15 cars entered in the GT2 class, which is undoubtedly the most competitive...talk about the challenges, the competition -- the cars and the level of driving skill - in the GT2 class.
"I think GT-2 is the most competitive class given the car count and the number of manufacturers involved. Sebring takes a toll on man and machine. I always feel like I have been in a war anytime I have competed at Sebring. This year will be no different. Although it is a 12-hour race, make no mistake that it is a sprint race!! The competition is extremely intense in that most drivers are factory drivers."
What is it like and how difficult is it to be in the lowest horsepower class at a demanding track like Sebring? "Sebring is a great track in that it is so technical and there are so many surface changes every lap and then of course the track changes dramatically with weather and temperature. It is always difficult to drive in a so called "slower class" such as we have in GT-2 class in ALMS in that you are checking your mirrors and making decisions every lap regarding faster traffic. Patience is a key for all classes, particularly with regard to the P-1 and P-2 classes in that ultimately it is their responsibility to get around slower cars. For GT drivers, the best way to handle that is to stay on line and realize that the "P" cars are generally social animals and thus do not travel alone but in packs of two or more!! For the most part I feel that they do a good job in that most drivers understand the requirements for driving in GT class as well."
Your teammate Eric has won Sebring twice...how special would it be to you to win Sebring? "Sebring is one of my personal goals as it has always been one of my favorite tracks. Winning at Sebring is certainly a high point in any driver's career,but for me it is really special because I do not make my living as a driver and competing at this level and winning against arguably many of the best sports car drivers in the world is something nobody can take away!!"
NIC JONSSON, Risi-Krohn Ferrari Driver:
What about your hopes going into the 2009 race? "My hope is to have a very competitive, good result. Since we did Daytona (24 Hours) in the Grand-Am Series, we didn't have too good of results because of mechanical issues. It would be very nice to have a good result in Sebring to build the momentum for the remainder of the DP (Daytona Prototype) season and going into Le Mans later this year. So the hope is to have a competitive, good, fast race car that we can have a Top 5 finish. I think that would be a good accomplishment for us. I think anything better than that will be stunning. In fact, I think a reasonable goal will be a Top 5 finish. If we can achieve that, I think it will be great."
There are already 15 cars entered in the GT2 class, which is undoubtedly the most competitive...talk about the competition -- the cars and the level of driving skill in the GT2 class. "If you start with the driving skill -- the GT2 class in the American Le Mans Series is probably among the toughest series in the world. You have a very international driver line-up in the GT-2 class. That includes cars from Porsche, BMW, who is coming back this year with experienced, good car and good drivers, and Ferrari has 7good drivers. As far as the cars go, it's going to be hard to tell. I don't really know what kind of updates and new improvements have been made between Porsche versus Ferrari. Then also there is BMW coming into this very seriously. From a driver standpoint, I think it is as competitive as the Grand-Am DP Series.
I'm flattered to be a part of that whole group and to be out competing with the best in the world in sports car racing as far as the equipment goes. Porsche is always a contender and you have to look out for them so I am sure they going to be very hard nut to crack again this year with the Ferrari. I believe Ferrari has been working hard over the winter so I am hopeful to be up to par with them and running competitive lap times against the Porsche and also the new BMW."
What is it like and how difficult is it to be in the lowest horsepower class at a demanding track like Sebring? "To drive a GT2 car, which is the slowest class in the ALMS series adds a completely different aspect to driving. I'm used to driving in either spec series like IndyCars, where everybody runs the same type of car, or in the faster class in Grand-Am with the Daytona Prototype class or in Koni Challenge, where I race with my Kinetic GS class car. I am normally used to passing people all the time in the slower classes. Here you have to keep an eye in the mirrors as much as you look ahead of yourself. It adds more complexity to it. It's very difficult because the prototype cars come up on you so fast. The speed difference between the two classes is enormous. This is especially the case when you start going into the dark hours of the race, like at Sebring. It's so hard to judge distance with the lights. As long as it is daylight, you can see the car. But you can't really see the car when it gets dark. You can just see lights. That's extremely hard to judge. It's much harder to drive a slow car in a field where you have fast cars around you then it is to drive a faster car.
Maybe it sounds a little weird but you are in control and you can decide when you are going to make a move to out brake or power by them. That's something that people need to keep in mind when you see trouble on the track. It's often because there is such a large speed difference and it's hard to judge for both classes. The slower guy has to let them by and vice-versa. It's all about give and take. I think most people at this level of racing are going to have enough experience to respect each other, respect the speed and also respect the sport itself. I hope everybody takes that into consideration to be safe, but also at the same time be competitive."
Your teammate Eric has won Sebring twice...how special would it be to you to win Sebring? "Sebring is one of the biggest races every year in sports car racing and has been for many, many years. There is a huge history there. I think the biggest race in sports cars in the world is Le Mans. After that I would say it is probably Sebring. Sebring has such a grand history with a lot of good drivers and manufacturers being successful there. It goes back to the 1950's with Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, and lately Peugeot and, of course, BMW. It is a very special race. To win there would mean to check off one of the boxes that are on your priority checklist to win. Even to compete in it is very fortunate. I've been fortunate to compete in this race and even have a couple of podiums but I've never been able to climb on the top step of the podium. That would be very special to do that together with Tracy and Eric in the Ferrari."
ERIC VAN DE POELE, Risi-Krohn Ferrari Driver:
You are returning for another year at Sebring with the Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430 GT. Talk about your past successes at Sebring, including 2 victories and your 3rd place finish last year with Tracy & Nic in the Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430 GT.
"Sebring is really a race I love very much because every time I go there it is a fantastic race with a fantastic crowd and fans. Usually I have quite good success there. I won twice but also I was surprised last year when we were on the podium in GT2. I think to be up another step on the podium would be fantastic. Again, we will go with something we know. Last year was new for me because it was the first time I drove in GT2, especially in Sebring. Now I know what to expect and I know we have a new car and everything looks fantastic. I'm happy to share again my car with Nic because we are again driving together. It's very good to be again in the same car with him and of course with my big brother, Tracy.
What about your hopes going into the 2009 race? "I really believe we can race for the podium because it's a very long race but it's very tough and like a sprint. All the guys in front will be full-speed with no present to each other. I think we should be a little bit behind but we will be there if one of them has a problem, exactly what happened last year. We're going to be there. I really hope for a podium finish."
What is it like and how difficult is it to be in the lowest horsepower class at a demanding track like Sebring?"It's very difficult, especially at Sebring, because the track is very narrow. You cannot make a mistake because if you put one wheel on the grass, it's over....you touch the wall somewhere. Of course you have to watch in the mirrors and you have to lose time when the fastest cars are passing you. It's going to be more in groups though because there are more cars in the category. Maybe we will be in the majority compared to the prototypes. We will give them a few hard times. It's going to be hard for them too to get around us so maybe we'll have more space."
How special would it be to you to win Sebring again? "It is something different when you win overall. But when you are in the race and in a lower class category and realize how hard it is in the category, I really think if you have the chance to win the category, especially the GT2, it is really, really hard. It would be an absolutely fantastic result. I don't think we are there yet though because we are a little of an outsider because we don't have enough training yet with this car and don't run this series on a regular basis. I think if we finish in the Top 5, it would be a fantastic result!"