Mosport GT thriller gives Risi best result of the season

The Pennzoil-supported Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia GTC of Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander took second place in an extremely hotly-contested GT battle in today’s Grand Prix of Mosport, round four of the 2011 American Le Mans Series.  It is the Houston-based team’s best finish of the season and their second podium in 2011, and the entire event presented a great spectacle for the large number of Ferrari of Ontario guests watching.  The GT race was won by the Nr.4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen.

Jaime (left) and Toni on the podium at Mosport

With Toni Vilander taking the green flag from fifth place, and the 31-strong field starting under hot and sunny conditions, the first 39 minutes of the 2 hour 45 minute race were run exactly as the manufacturer-led entries had started from the grid, with no changes for position within the top eight in class.
The event’s only full course yellow caution period shook up the order somewhat, not least because the red Ferrari had unwarranted contact from the leading BMW at pit exit.  A penalty for avoidable contact for the BMW, plus slick work in the first of two great pit stops from the Risi crew, saw Vilander make good use of his new Michelin tires and start a climb through the field.  At just after the hour mark, there was only 1.4 seconds separating the top four in class, with the Ferrari moving into third place after the No.45 Flying Lizard Porsche was knocked into a spin.
The Ferrari’s second stop saw lightning work from the Risi crew which allowed Jaime Melo, now at the wheel of the F458, to leapfrog the No. 4 Corvette into second place.  The two-time Mosport winner then proceeded to carve his way into the deficit between himself and the leading BMW, reducing the gap to less than two seconds before his tires began to suffer.  Slower traffic helped the Corvette find a way past Melo and it looked as though the team and drivers would have to be content with a third place finish.
The race Gods were smiling down on the Houston-based team though and, when the No. 55 BMW was given a penalty for avoidable contact with a GTC Porsche, Melo regained second place.  He challenged Magnussen hard towards the closing stages of the race, but wasn’t able to make enough headway in the time available to secure victory.
Toni Vilander said after the race:  “There’s always a little bit of tension when you start the race but I tried to take it easy and keep out of trouble.  Our initial strategy with the tires wasn’t perfect but once we’d made a change for my second stint, things were better.  From here on we will work hard – we still have new things to come for Mid Ohio, and we’re still chasing a perfect balance that suits both of us.  It’s a positive result today and we’ll keep going in the same direction.”
Jaime Melo echoed his team mate’s sentiments:  “It’s definitely a good result for the team and Ferrari and this is our second podium finish.  We need to work a bit harder to make the car easier for both of us to drive.  Toni did a great job once again and unfortunately I couldn’t challenge for a better result because of traffic but that’s the same for everybody.  I’m a bit disappointed with second place, to be honest, but we’re now looking forward to Mid Ohio.
“Our right side tires were going off pretty quickly towards the end, but I think we’ve learned something from this race and we’ll take that forward for the future.” 

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