Road Atlanta, the historic road course nestled in the North Georgia mountains, has been home to the iconic Petit Le Mans race since 1998. The Houston, Texas-based Risi Competizione Ferrari team has been part of that history since the inaugural race.
That first year of the 1,000-mile/10-hour “mini” Le Mans race was won by the Risi Competizione Ferrari 333 SP team of drivers Wayne Taylor, Eric van de Poele and Emmanuel Collard during the World Sports Car era.
Giuseppe Risi, founder and Team Principal of the Risi Competizione team, has brought race cars to the Georgia circuit nearly every year since, with a total of 24 entries in both the Petit Le Mans and the Grand Prix of Atlanta sprint race during the 1998-2005 years.
This year the Risi Competizione Ferrari team will field the No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia with drivers Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy), Pierre Kaffer (Germany) and Toni Vilander (Finland) for the 10-hour IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship finale on Saturday, October 3. All three Risi drivers lay claim to being previous winners at Petit Le Mans.
With five podiums in nine races, including three second place finishes (Sebring, Long Beach and COTA), and two third place finishes (Road America and VIR), victory has not yet come to the fan-favorite Ferrari team this season. But with three victories, 10 podiums and six poles at Road Atlanta, and all victories taking place at the Petit Le Mans race, the Risi team is seeking to repeat history and finally step onto the top of the podium stage this weekend.
Kaffer, who has been driving for Risi Competizione off and on since 2009, has a stellar Petit Le Mans history with two victories (2009, 2011) and one further podium (2004) in just five appearances. Four of those entries were in Ferraris GTs, with one podium and a second place finish with Risi Competizione.
Fisichella, a former Formula 1 driver, will be making his fourth appearance at the Petit Le Mans race; he captured a win in 2011 with teammate Kaffer and Gianmaria Bruni.
Vilander, will also be making his fourth Petit appearance, two of those with Risi Competizione, has one victory in 2012 and a podium in 2010 with Bruni. He also captured a pole position in 2012 with Extreme Speed Motorsports.
GIANCARLO FISICHELLA, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia, Risi Competizione Driver:
What is the most challenging part about Petit Le Mans and about the Road Atlanta circuit?
“It’s a fantastic track. It’s not very long, but the shape itself and the shapes of the corner, with the ups and downs, makes me very excited. I like to drive here and Turns 3 and 4 and the last corner before the start/finish, Turn 11 are very good. I like the elevation change. I won here in 2011 with Kaffer and Gianmaria Bruni and I think we have a good pit crew and good drivers line-up to do it again and think we can get a good result.”
PIERRE KAFFER, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia, Risi Competizione Driver:
You have won here at Petit Le Mans (2009, 2011). What is your favorite part or turn at this circuit and why?
“Well, Atlanta is always a nice place to be, especially in combination with Ferrari. I won here a couple of times with the 430 and 458, including with Risi, and that gives me a good feeling for this weekend. We’ll see what weather we will have for Saturday. I think it will be very competitive and I’m looking forward to driving my Risi Competizione Ferrari race car. Hopefully, if every driver can see the pit exit lights better than last year, because it was a shame how we had to end the race. Apart from that I always have positive memories about this track and am looking forward to it.”
Tell us about Toni Vilander joining you and Giancarlo this weekend.
“I really appreciate that Toni is with us. I have driven together with Toni in Spa a couple of years ago and I’m really looking forward to driving with him here in Atlanta.”
TONI VILANDER, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia, Risi Competizione Driver:
Welcome back to the Risi Competizione team and share your feelings about being back.
“I’m happy to be back with Risi Competizione. It’s going to be a tough week, a tough race as well. I haven’t raced in TUDOR since Daytona, but it is good to be back. I cannot wait to get back in the car. That’s when the real work starts – with the first impression when I get in the car and get back to driving.
I have worked with Giancarlo very well. I haven’t raced much with Pierre but he’s a professional guy. We’ll do a seat fitting first and see how I fit in the car and then do the normal procedures. I’m not sure about the championship chances but we’ll try to do a good race and score as many points as we can to fight for the top three. It is good to be back with Risi.”
Tell us your thoughts about the Road Atlanta circuit.
“It’s a demanding circuit. The lap is really short and demanding without a lot of time to relax. The back straight is long and the last part and turn are very demanding and a bit particular. Traffic is very intense. I enjoy going downhill on the fast corners. It’s a nice layout when driving alone and very demanding. Last time I was there we won (2012), so I will try to repeat.”
RICK MAYER, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
This is the season finale and it’s Road Atlanta, which has been a good track for Risi Ferrari. What’s your feeling going in?
“We’re looking forward to it because it’s the last race of the season. The red Risi Ferrari has had good history here in the past and we hope that will continue. The year hasn’t been too kind to the Ferrari with the way the rules situation was and the mechanical issues we had at Daytona. But, we’re hoping to wrap up the year with the last running of the 458 on a positive note.”
DAVE SIMS, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia Risi Competizione Team Manager:
Risi Competizione has had a lot of success at Road Atlanta in the Petit Le Mans race. How’s the feeling going into this weekend?
“We’ve had good history here and we’ve been very successful. We’ve also done not so well here, a couple of years ago, and especially last year with the Porsche. This year, subject to the weather, we plan to do well. We’ve got three really good drivers and a really good balance. Saturday, especially if it’s dry, we have a really good chance of winning this race with these three drivers. So, we’re really looking forward to it.”
Talk about Toni Vilander as a third driver this weekend.
“Toni is so good at coming into the team with the other two drivers without actually changing everything on the car. He’ll come in and adapt very easily to the two other drivers’ style, so it’s a huge plus for us that we got Toni.”
Tune-In Information:
Live TV coverage of Petit Le Mans will start on October 3 from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 2, then broadcast via the internet on IMSA.com from 12:00-2:30 p.m. From 2:30-7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2 will again broadcast the race. IMSA.com will show the 7:00-8:30 p.m. broadcast and FOX Sports 2 will carry the last hour live through the podium ceremonies from 8:30-9:30 p.m. On Sunday October 4, FOX Sports 1 will broadcast a three-hour highlight of the Petit Le Mans race from 1:30-4:30 p.m EDT.
For more information, please go to www.risicompetizione.com and follow us on Facebook/RisiCompetizione and Twitter @RisiComp.
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