The Risi team history at Sebring is impressive.
Sebring, Florida - The Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia race team rolls into Sebring International Raceway this week for the 63rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida race, March 21, 2015.
The renowned Risi Competizione team boasts a who's who of Ferrari sports car drivers with full-time pilots Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer, and guest driver Andrea Bertolini signed for this year's 12 Hours of Sebring.
The Risi team history at Sebring is as impressive as its driving trio - three victories and two further podiums in eight entries in the past nine years. Kaffer was a winning driver in two of the past three Risi victories (2009, 2010 in a Ferrari 430), as well as another victory in the LMP1 class in 2004. He will be making his eighth Sebring appearance. Fisichella will be seeking his first victory in three attempts including last year with the Risi team, all in a Ferrari 458 Italia. An LMGTE-Pro class winner at Sebring in 2012, Bertolini returns for the fourth year.
Pierre Kaffer, Risi Competizione Driver
You have had much success at the 12 Hours of Sebring including three victories in seven races. What has contributed to your successes at Sebring?
"Sebring is one of my favorite Tracks in USA. It's a track which a driver can do a big difference to other racetracks because of all the unique corners and different asphalt. To drive with a Ferrari is always a pleasure and especially here in Sebring, and especially with Risi Competizione."
Risi Competizione has often shone brightly at the 12 Hours of Sebring with numerous victories against some very hard charges by other competitors. What qualities does the Risi team have that makes them excel in this sport?
"For me is the best team in the USA they are so professional like a factory team. For me it's pleasure to be a small part of that great team! Thank you to GR to give me the opportunity to drive his car!"
After seven times of driving in the 12 Hours of Sebring what do you feel is the most challenging thing about this track and what do you like best?
"The most challenging for sure is the car! Our Ferrari 458 GT2 is very reliable and I'm sure that's one of the keys to fighting for the victory here in Sebring. Beside that it's having the right strategy and to staying out of trouble for 12 hours. As a driver, I like turns 1 and 17 the most. It's where a driver can make a difference and squeeze some time out of the car."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Risi Competizione Driver
There have been some epic battles against manufacturers at Sebring. Why do you put your money on the Ferrari?
"It's the second race of the championship and one of the most important races. We are looking forward to doing well. I think we have a good package, a good crew and good driver line-up, as well. I am looking forward to the weekend and we will try to do our best and I think we can fight for the podium."
Last year Risi Competizione had a difficult race at Sebring in your first Sebring race with them. What do you think will be different this year to get the Risi team on the podium?
"I think compared to last year we have a better package and better set up. Last year there was a different driver line-up and this year it is completely different. I've already raced with Pierre [Kaffer] for all second half of the season last year and I know Andrea Bertolini very well, so it's great! It's a good team to do well."
Andrea Bertolini, Risi Competizione Driver
In three times competing at the 12 Hours of Sebring you have a victory, a fourth and a fifth place finish. Why have you had so much success at Sebring when others have failed so often?
"I was always with competitive cars, good teammates and strong teams like will be this year with Risi, and of course, I like to drive at Sebring."
Last year you had an incredible drive at Sebring in the Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 and nearly helped put that privateer team on the podium against the factories. How do you get into the proper "zone" as a driver at a track like Sebring?
"Well, last year it was fun and, of course, it was a good result with a private team like Krohn. Honestly, at 20 minutes to the end we were P1 and for myself it was a shame not to be on podium but we lost some important seconds during a pit stop."
What do you like about Sebring and what is the most difficult thing about this track?
"I like the atmosphere during the week and traffic is a key for a final result."
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer
Risi Competizione, with you as the race engineer, have amazing successes at Sebring. What does it take to prepare a car to go the distance at a challenging race like the 12 Hours of Sebring?
"A good car setup for Sebring is always a compromise, the bumps and surface changes are always challenging to find the correct setup. The team all know what it takes to win here as we've experienced it. The crew that Risi has this season is the best ever. They prepare a perfect car every time and that's what it takes to do well here. They consider every facet of the car and have every spare assemble prepared to the same standards. There are no weak links in the team. It's the proverbial well-oiled machine and they work as a 'team'. It's not just a collection of exceptionally talented individuals. That's what it takes to win here."
Ferraris have traditionally done very well at the 12 Hours of Sebring. What makes them the car to beat here in the GTLM class?
"The Ferrari is a good base car to start. It's also the only mid-engine car in the field so it's better genetic base to start. The Ferrari will still be fighting for the class win this year but with the BoP (balance of performance) process that has been utilized the last few years by the ACO and IMSA, it puts the Ferrari more in line with the other cars in the class due to the rules based enhancements of our competitors. There are no weak cars or weak makes in this class. It will be a hard fought race until the end."
You have three of the best Ferrari GT drivers in the world in the cockpit of the Risi Competizione Ferrari this weekend. Is there a synergy between the drivers and the crew that motivates each other for a challenging race like this?
"We do have three of the best Ferrari GT drivers in the world for this race. All three have driven together and around each other for years and all have driven for Risi. They all know Sebring and the F458 GTLM car inside and out; there's no acclimation time needed. It takes not just a line-up of exceptional drivers to do well but a line-up that understands it's not about them individually, but about the team and the goal of winning the race. All three are not only fast but understand the Risi team dynamics and are familiar with the way we run a car."
Three practice sessions get underway, starting Thursday morning, March 19 at 10:15 a.m. EDT, followed by one practice session Friday, March 20, with GTLM class qualifying scheduled for 4:45 p.m. EDT. The race start is Saturday, March 21 at 10:40 a.m. EDT.