Rear View Mirror: The 2015 Risi Competizione Season


The season starts at Daytona. The No. 62 roars into the night at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

The year for Risi Competizione starts with the 24 Hours of Daytona. The long-distance endurance race came back on the competitive calendar when ALMS/IMSA were taken over by NASCAR. It’s a long race that comes at the very beginning of the racing season, although there is a “Roar before the 24” testing session before the big race. This year, the testing session was on January 9th-11th and the race itself was on January 23-25. Risi brought the by-now-familiar Ferrari F458Italia, No. 62, in Rosso Corsa, and four drivers to handle the 24 hour race time span: Pierre Kaffer, Giancarlo Fisichella (the regular Risi Comp drivers for 2015), Olivier Beretta (a Risi Comp regular from seasons past) and Italian Davide Rigon. Kaffer did the qualifying work and took Q6. The team started sensibly and well, and by 11:00PM—approximate halfway point—they were actually leading, but then an electrical connection issue arose, the car was taken behind the wall, and the decision was made to keep it there, ending the race for the team.

Working it at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Against all odds (and a bunch of factory team cars), Risi Comp finished 2nd. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

If it’s March and you’re racing sports cars in America, it’s the 12 Hours of Sebring (19-21 March). Risi Comp was back at The 12 in 2015, where they have won 3x times in a decade. This time, the driving team of Kaffer and Fisichella had a new (but familiar) face to take some stints: Andrea Bertolini. You may remember Bertolini from his previous time with Risi Comp, which was back in 2005 when Risi Comp was campaigning the Maserati MC12 for Maserati Reparto Corse (the Maserati factory racing team) in ALMS. Bertolini knows his way around a race track: he was FIA World Champion in a Maserati MC12 in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Fisichella put the car on the grid in Q5 and after the 12 Hours were finished, the No. 62 Ferrari took it’s first podium of the season, finishing 2nd, despite long odds fighting the factory Porsches, Corvettes, and BMWs and nursing an engine that had some temperature issues through the last stages of the race. The team also won the first of many DEKRA awards for flawless pitstops and performance efficiency.

The Long Beach Street Course. Never easy. Always dramatic.
The Long Beach Street Course. Never easy. Always dramatic. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

The series’ annual trip to Los Angeles for the Tequila Patron Sportscar Showcase at Long Beach (the Long Beach GP for short, or, for even shorter, “Long Beach”) was held the third weekend in April, from the 17th to the 18th. The race, like the time period, is compressed. Not a lot of practice time. Not a lot of space in the pits. Not even a very long race (one hour and 40 minutes). The course at Long Beach is 1.968 miles long and, as with all street courses, packed with right hand turns, a couple of nice straights, pavement that is uneven and unpredictable (at best). Fisi and Kaffer were behind the wheel as the team settles into the start of the “regular” season run. Fisichella put the Ferrari into 3rd on the grid and when the final checker dropped, the team took it’s second 2nd of the year, finishing only 2.9 seconds behind the winning BMW factory team. As an added bonus, Risi Competizioen took home their second DEKRA award for clean, fast, and efficient pit stop performance. The performance of the team in pit stops will become one of the highlights through the season.

Risi Comp’s F458 Italia goes down, down, down through the signature turn at Laguna Seca–The Corkscrew.

May means Laguna Seca (officially, Mazda Raceway) and the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda. Stick with Laguna Seca and everyone will know what you’re talking about, but…nomenclature aside, this is always one of the best stops on the circuit because the track is challenging and beautiful and it’s located in one of the very best places in America to race (or play golf when you’re not on the track). For 2015’s race at Laguna, the team had new and high hopes as the latest ACO-Homologated Aero Package for the F458 Ferrari had just been approved. Drivers were again Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer. Kaffer handled qualifying and put the car into 3rd on the grid. After the race had run its’ full (and normal) time of two hours and forty minutes, the team finished fourth. It did, however, pick up yet another DEKRA award (that’s three in a row). Racing would now be put on hold for the annual June “Le Mans Break” to accommodate those teams making the trip to France for the 24 Hour Classic.

In front of the pack at Watkins Glen, in one of the rare moments that ran was not coming down.  Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

From a classic West Coast race track to a classic East Coast race track, the team spans the nation to participate in the IMSA/TUDOR series. This month, the action is at Watkins Glen, former home of the U.S. Grand Prix for so many years, for Sahleen’s Six Hours Of The Glen, June 26th-28th. Drought may be a problem in California but was not in upstate New York, where Watkins Glen is located. There was so much rain that qualifying was cancelled, with the cars placed on the grid according to their position in the overall standings. Rain plagued the entire race and Fisichella and Kaffer finished 5th. The good news was that the team did not suffer any damage (other than a good soaking) during the very treacherous and long race.

 Coming out of the famous Moss Corner at Mosport. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure
Coming out of the famous Moss Corner at Mosport. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure

After Watkins Glen, the next stop would be another storied track, this one in Canada: Mosport. (Officially Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) . The race was the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix sponsored by Hawk Performance and it was held on the 10th-12th of July . Race time was back to the norm for the series, two hours and forty minutes. Back to drive for Risi Comp were Fisichella and Kaffer. The car was qualified in fourth and ran as high as 2nd on the high-speed/high-downforce track, but finished the race in 6th position. With four races left on the schedule for 2015, the team headed home and started prep for Road America.

Road America: a classic American race track . Pit stop speed once again made a difference in the race. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

August had two IMSA/TUDOR GTLM races scheduled. First up: Road America at Elkart Lake, Wisconsin, for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, on the weekend of August 7th-9th. This is a very high speed track that that has worked, in the past, to Risi Comp’s advantage. This year, Fisichella qualified the car in 3rd and he and teammate Kaffer brought the No. 62 Ferrari to the checkered flag in 3rd , picking up another podium. Once again, the team posted the fastest pit stops in their class. All year, the Risi Comp team has put up fast pit stops to help the drivers and, once again, they were rewarded with another podium.  The team picked up it’s Fourth DEKRA award of the season at Road America.

The rolling hills of VIR suit the No. 62 Ferrari.
The rolling hills of VIR suit the No. 62 Ferrari. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

After Road America, the team went south and east to Virginia International Raceway (Danville, Virginia) for the Oak Tree Grand Prix race on August 21st-23rd. Last year, the team won at VIR. This year, it was a little different. Kaffer qualified the car into 3rd position on the grid and he and Fisichella brought it home in 3rd, for another podium finish. Along the way, Kaffer collected the fastest lap (1.42.457) . Next up: home to race COTA in Austin, Texas.
Daulton Venglar
The Risi Comp Ferrari at COTA. Photo (C) 2015 Daulton Venglar (YJP Program member)

Circuit of The Americas (COTA) could be considered Risi Competizione’s home track. Team Managing Director Giuseppe Risi owns the Ferrari of Houston dealership and the Ferrari of Austin dealership, and the team was looking forward to a short trip to Austin and the chance to race in front of the home crowd. COTA is a high downforce track—it was designed with Formula 1 cars first and foremost in mind—and, throughout 2015, high downforce has not be a performance advantage for the Ferrari F458. With the factory teams (Corvette, Porsche, BMW) in full force, Risi Comp qualified in 8th position, but took 2nd in the race, due to superb pit stop work (again). It was a somewhat unexpected result and one that was richly deserved. Now, to the season finale.

The rains of Petit Le Mans. Frequent. Heavy. Dangerous. Threatening. Photo (C) Regis Lefebure.

Petit Le Mans was the season ender for the IMSA/TUDOR series, a 10 hour/1000 mile endurance race held October 1-3 at Road Atlanta (Braselton, Georgia) in which the team has traditionally scored well. In fact, Risi Competizione won the very first Petit Le Mans in a Ferrari 333SP in 1998. This year, however, the familiar track was to take on unfamiliar overtones, as a huge rain storm, a byproduct of Hurricane Joaquin, blanketed the entire southeastern United States. The team qualified in 3rd position but finished in 5th position, in a race so hampered by rain and flooding (and accidents and offs) that it was shorted to five hours and 20 minutes.
And with the end of Petit Le Mans, that was the end of the 2015 Risi Competizione IMSA/TUDOR Season (and the final campaign for the Risi Competizione No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia…Next year, the 488GTB will be the weapon of choice).  The tally: three seconds, two thirds, four Dekra awards.

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