RISI COMPETIZIONE – 2015 PETIT LE MANS ROAD ATLANTA
Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia GT No. 62:
Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA)
Pierre Kaffer (DEU)
Toni Vilander (FIN)
Braselton, Georgia (October3, 2015)…The 17th annual Petit Le Mans IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship finale at Road Atlanta was one for the history books. The race, which was rain-shortened to seven hours and 51 minutes, instead of the scheduled 10 hours, featured 10 caution flags and a red flag stoppage for one hour and five minutes.
The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia started the unique race from the third class position and finished fifth in class and ninth overall with hardly a scratch on the Rosso Corsa (racing red) Ferrari.
The overall race winner of the 199-lap race was the No. 911 GTLM class Porsche, who also captured the 2015 GTLM Team and Driver Championship with driver Patrick Pilet. Attrition was certainly a factor in the overall race finishing positions, as many of the 37 starting cars hydroplaned off into the rain soaked grass and slid into early retirement or lengthy pit stops.
Team owner Giuseppe Risi credited the superior skills of his professional drivers, Giancarlo Fisichella, Pierre Kaffer and Toni Vilander, with the fact that the Risi Competizione team had an unscathed Ferrari at race end to take home to the team shop in Houston, Texas. Hydroplaning was an issue for everyone, with all cars struggling to stay on track. Once again, fast and accurate pit stops were performed by the Risi crew and positions were gained during the green flag laps.
Fisichella was the starting driver and rotated to Kaffer, who then rotated to Vilander, all posting single stints for the first round each. On Lap 148, nearly five hours into the race, Fisichella, who was on his second driving stint, reported the inability to see out the front windscreen. He and the No. 63 GTD Ferrari touched wheel-to-door briefly as Fisichella had to nearly drive blind to the pits. Removing a tear-off on the windscreen solved the viewing issue after oil had hindered his ability to see out. A small wheel mark on the right door was the only blemish on the 458, quite an accomplishment after the extensive damage suffered by many teams.
International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) race officials red flagged the race at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT, five hours and 20 minutes into the race. All race cars were parked on the front straight for over an hour. Racing was then resumed for nearly 90 minutes, with two caution flag periods. After 14 lead changes and more rain falling, IMSA finally showed the checkered flag at 7:01 p.m., prior to nightfall.
Today’s Petit Le Mans race concluded the 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series season. The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari team finished fourth in both the Team and Driver’s Championship.
PIERRE KAFFER, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia, Risi Competizione Driver:
“I think that this was a real old school race. It was really hard and we had a lot of rain to keep the car on the track for Giancarlo, Toni, and myself. Even to drive it on the straight, especially at the end, I was really worried. Thanks to my team for the great season and to Giuseppe (Risi). I think we put a lot of effort in this season and it only makes us stronger for next year. We deserve an even better position in the championship for how we worked and have done so far. I really appreciate Giancarlo; we are a great team and we stick together and when we hand the car over we fight for the victory. I am really happy for Ferrari and Giuseppe. Even here we scored fifth and we could even beat other manufacturers. Now I am really looking forward to the next season and hopefully with Risi again.”
TONI VILANDER, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia, Risi Competizione Driver:
“I am really happy. I have never been so happy to finish fifth in my career. This was one of the most difficult races I have driven. Just the amount of water and the conditions out there and the visibility made it really tough. It was difficult to just jump in the race and race rhythm and not to have a single test with a team whatsoever. Road Atlanta is one of the most demanding tracks in the race calendar. There is no margin for error and today we saw there were a lot of crashes. The pure performance was probably not the best for us but we showed our experience and kept the car clean.
“I want to thank Mr. Risi for the opportunity and it is always a pleasure to come in to the races in the U.S. It was a great job from the whole team. I have found a team with a great spirit and really efficient all of the time. It was difficult all week with no real practice track time. Coming in beside Pierre and Giancarlo, I had a certain responsibility to perform, but also to not make a mistake. One lap here and you could end up in the wall and look stupid. I am happy for the work we have done. For IMSA it is the last race of the season, but our championship is still on in FIA WEC and we still have three races to go. I am really happy for the team and we will see what happens in 2016. You never know. I always love the U.S., so we will see what happens.”
GIANCARLO FISICHELLA, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia, Risi Competizione Driver:
“When there was standing water we had aquaplaning. It was important to just keep the car on the ground. Today the condition of the race was dangerous and it was undrivable. I am disappointed a little at the decision of IMSA. We ran for seven hours for nothing. It was so dangerous for everybody and it was risky for everybody. I think it was much better to stop the race much earlier than they did. We did our best and everybody did a good job so let’s see what happens next season.”
RICK MAYER, No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
“I have never had any race where it was so treacherous out there. It was just horrendous. The drivers were aquaplaning all over the place out there. The fact that we had no damage to the car was pretty impressive considering a lot of other people weren’t as lucky. Of course we had three of the best pros in the world in the car and they managed to keep the car on the track and not harm anything. At no time were they taking excessive risk to gain positions, as we had nothing to gain in the big picture relative to the championship hunt. We were just hoping our pit stops, with some consistency, would give us a decent finish. We knew we weren’t going to be particularly competitive here, wet or dry, just because of how the BoP (Balance of Performance) is.
“We had no major off-track excursions as other competitors had. We had one situation where Giancarlo couldn’t see and had to come in to the pits to remove a windscreen tear-off due to oil from a competitor. The boys gained time in the stops and that is what we count on when racing these kind of races. But we had a respectable finish here today with the horrible weather and the car in one piece.”
Risi Competizione competition plans for 2016 have not yet been announced.
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