By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
BRASELTON, Georgia — For about 15 minutes during Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, Risi Competizione had no idea what was going on with its GTLM class-winning Ferrari 488 GTE.
A computer failure meant that the team lost all telemetry data to the car, but the team were able to rectify the problem during the 10-hour contest at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“We lost all kinds of things, but that’s motor racing,” said team owner Giuseppe Risi. “It’s the strength of the team. I’m extremely proud of my team.”
The Houston-based squad announced their intention to compete at Michelin Raceway just 11 days before the race began. It was their second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of 2019 and the No. 62 Ferrari responded by qualifying for pole position with a lap of 1 minute, 15.639 seconds.
James Calado started the race and the Ferrari led 63 of the first 68 laps, but faded a bit as the afternoon dragged on. The team had issues with tire wear, but when the temperatures cooled, the Ferrari got faster.
“It was a bit of surprise with tire issues in the cooling conditions,” said Calado. “That caught us out a bit. We were a little bit concerned. The temperatures went down and car came back to us. Then it was a great fight, Ford and Ferrari right there at the end. Shame to see go, but it was a great win. It’s great for the team, it’s great for Ferrari.”
Calado shared the Ferrari with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra, the trio having also win the GTE-Pro class at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was also Calado’s second victory at Petit Le Mans for Risi Competizione, the other having come in 2016.
The team asked IMSA to look at the Balance of Performance situation for the Ferrari heading into the weekend, feeling that they were not competitive with how the BoP was arranged. The team received a five kg break in weight and an additional three liters added to their fuel tank capacity.
“I’m glad that IMSA addressed the BoP situation, which makes us competitive, and that’s all we asked for,” said Risi. “We just asked for a level playing field, and that’s what I think we got this time.”
The only other race that Risi’s team competed in this year was the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January. They are the only privateer team in a class full of factory programs, but the team is looking for whatever backing they can get from Maranello.
Especially when someone from senior management is at the race.
Louis Colmache, Head of Motorsports for Ferrari North America was in the Risi pits during the weekend and the team’s eponymous owner was keen to impress.
“You know, this plays a huge part for Ferrari,” said Risi. “Everybody that has a 488 in the United States can be very happy and very proud because that car is not a prototype like a lot of these other cars. You know, the Ford started its life off as a prototype, you can’t buy a BMW like the ones they race, you can’t go and buy a Porsche like the ones they race, you can’t buy a Corvette like the ones they race, but you can buy one of these things like we race. I mean, you can!”
Despite being away from IMSA competition for nine months, the team never missed a beat when going against teams competing for the GTLM championship. That made Risi proud of his team.
“This is a team with foundation, and when a team has foundation, that’s the strength of the team,” said Risi. “The team is not in me as the owner. The team is in the people that surround me and that’s the most important thing. You cannot have results without people so that’s number one.”