DESERT STORMING RISI WINS IN UTAH Risi Competizione's Gianmaria Bruni and Jaime Melo brought the ...
DESERT STORMING RISI WINS IN UTAH
Risi Competizione's Gianmaria Bruni and Jaime Melo brought the #62 Ferrari F430 GTC home in a convincing first place in the highly competitive GT class in today's Utah Grand Prix. The win marks its return to the ALMS podium for the first time since Sebring in March, and moves Melo and Bruni back into the lead of the GT Drivers' Championship.
They were joined in the points by the #61 Ferrari, driven by Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander, who finished in sixth place after having come through from the back of the 34-strong field following a post qualifying technical infringement. Also in the top eight were the two Extreme Speed Ferrari 430s.
The #62 car has topped the time sheets in every session this weekend, but the pressure and intensity of the field meant that nothing was assured until the checkered flag fell, despite the gap of 21 seconds between Melo and second placed finisher, Bill Auberlen in the #92 BMW. The team performed flawlessly throughout the 2 hour 45 minute race, and all three of the team's pit stops -- only one of which was for new Michelin rubber - took place without a single hitch.
Giancarlo Fisichella was at the wheel of the #61 car at the end of a hot and dusty Utah Grand Prix, having very much enjoyed his debut in the American Le Mans Series. Temperatures rose by 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) during the race, taking them to the mid nineties, so the 986 Cooling vests worn by all the Risi Competizione drivers were much needed.
Toni Vilander took the start and, despite some difficulties in passing slower cars, drove a storming stint and was placed as high as fourth in class before their third and final pit stop which dropped he and his team mate back to sixth by the finish.
The victory for tired and over-heated Jaime Melo was his 16th ALMS career win and he paid tribute to his team mate, Risi Competizione, Ferrari, Michelin and all involved before continuing: "Gimmi did a very good job in the first part of the race. We went for the hard Michelin tires here and found we could get very consistent lap times with these. I managed to get past the #92 BMW at the re-start after the second full course yellow period, which was a good move for us, and could then get into a rhythm.
"The car was very, very good on this track, and it was very important for us to get a good result here after the disappointment of Le Mans. With four Ferraris in the top eight, it's great not only for Risi and Michelin but for Ferrari too."
Asked about having the benefit of a second highly competitive car alongside him, Melo continued, "If we have a second car at future races it could be very helpful for the Championship. It was difficult for Fisichella and Vilander here as they did not know the track before this weekend, and they were just getting up to speed with the series and how we do things. I hope they can continue for more races in the season."
Taking his second GT class win in the ALMS was Melo's Italian team mate, Gimmi Bruni. "We needed this victory," stressed Bruni. "Jaime and I have had such bad luck the last two or three months, wherever we've been. We've had three consecutive pole positions in the ALMS and more in Europe but we had to win -- we couldn't finish second. We dominated every practice, qualifying and the race, leading unless because of a pit stop. We had to win, there's no question about it.
"I had a great battle in the beginning, keeping ahead, and getting past slower GTC cars.
Jaime did a really good job, for such a long stint in the heat, to bring the car home and I'm very happy."
With 231 F1 Grand Prix starts to his name, Giancarlo Fisichella is certainly not short of racing experience, but he faced new challenges here in the American Le Mans Series with a different style of racing, an intensely competitive manufacturer-led class, and the desert heat.
"We have to be happy with sixth place; the team did a fantastic job. The other car won the race easily and with us, because of yesterday's penalty we had to use a different strategy and had a different race. Despite a drive through penalty I think sixth was a fantastic result. I'm sure we could have got on the podium today if we had started higher up.
"It was bad for the temperature but I was consistent. It was good when I was alone on the track, I could keep a good pace, but when I was in traffic it was a nightmare. You go off line and pick up rubber then you need two or three laps to clean off the rubber. We need to understand yesterday's problem because it cost us for sure a podium."
Toni Vilander had passed all the GTC cars and picked up four places in the GT class by the end of the second lap, and went on to drive a superb stint in the #61 car. His delight at his performance was, however, tempered by making a mistake in overtaking a competitor which resulted in a stop/go penalty for avoidable contact.
"I am sorry for Giancarlo and for the team. It was my fault as I was too optimistic in overtaking him. Unfortunately I got the nose of my car hooked under his car and he spun round.
"I enjoyed the race very much though, especially the re-starts after yellows. As soon as it went green I started racing and even managed to overtake a prototype in front of me. The car got better and better during my stint as the fuel load came down. I could push a bit more until towards the end when the tires were wearing. I didn't want to have a penalty but I think that sixth place is good considering all these things."