Competizione was thrust into the full programme of the 54th 12 Hours of Sebring when the official practice sessions got underway this morning. Risi Competizione arrived at the Sebring track in Florida with the GT2 class Ferrari F430GT last...
Competizione was thrust into the full programme of the 54th 12 Hours of Sebring when the official practice sessions got underway this morning.
Risi Competizione arrived at the Sebring track in Florida with the GT2 class Ferrari F430GT last week, the brand-new car racing car having arrived by air-freight from Italy, just days previously. Based on the dramatic road- going Ferrari F430 Coupé, the latest in a long line of potent Berlinetta models to emerge from the Maranello factory, the F430GT will be making its global competitive debut on Saturday when the green flag drops to signify the start of the 54th running Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, one of the world's most important and prestigious long-distance sportscar races, and one in which Ferrari have a great track record of success.
Risi Competizione is the leading North American Ferrari racing team having built a decade-long tradition of winning, flying the Maranello standard with great success against the toughest of opposition. And that opposition this week will be tough no doubt: with eight Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entries (including several factory-backed teams) and a pair of official BMW E46 M3 runners likely to provide the sternest test for the single #62 Ferrari entry. As well as these two German brands, further on-track rivalry will come from two factory Panoz Esperate GTLM entries, while the Spyker Squadron will be present with two of their C8 Spiders. "GT2 is going to see the most competitive racing in sportscars this year," said Guiseppe Risi earlier this year, and this certainly seems to be the case.
Working against the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT will be the fact that there car is brand new "out of the box" as it has never been raced in anger yet - until this coming weekend. However, the team has been highly impressed with the F430GT ever since they pitched up at Sebring last Monday to start testing, and with a week-long development programme now completed, they faced today's first official practice sessions with renewed confidence and enthusiasm.
"We simply just can wait to get this new car into the fray," says the team's Chief Engineer Rick Mayer yesterday. "It has so much potential and we are really excited by the whole package. Everyone in the team believes it can be a sure GT2 class winner. We have been working on the overall set- up as well as tyre analysis over the last week and I think we have made pretty good headway. We have learnt a lot already," he adds.
The team's progress has been greatly helped by the inclusion of Jaime Melo in the driving line-up for this weekend, the rapid 25-year-old Brazilian joining Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro at the wheel of the #62 car for the season opener. Jaime arrived at Sebring last Thursday and has been able to provide a wealth of experience to the team as he was involved in the factory development of the new F430GT.
"Jaime's pace and technical ability has been a revelation," says Guiseppe Risi, "he came highly recommended and so far has lived up to this. With his experience in developing the F430GT project he has been able to provide invaluable feedback to our engineers. We already know Ralf and Anthony have the speed, now Jaime completes what I believe to be a very strong driver line up."
Risi Competizione's 2006 American Le Mans Series participation is supported by Lucien Piccard (LP Italy) Stratosphere, AMD, Putnam and Boost/Motorola.
The 2006 ALMS 12 Hours of Sebring officially got underway this morning with the first official practice session from 1020-1120 (all times are local times), with a second session running at 1245-1345. (Both sessions were open to all classes). GT2 qualifying will take place tomorrow (Thursday) from 1435-1500 (the session shared with the GT1 runners). The traditional night time practice which gives drivers the chance to acquaint themselves with the circuit in dark conditions, will take place between 1930-2100. Friday sees the teams free to undertaken final race preparations before the 54th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring starts at 1043 on Saturday 18th March, with the race scheduled to finish at 2243.