The Alley

Risi Aiming to Return to Top Step

After a ferocious battle with Ford in 2016, Risi Competizione is back at Le Mans again in 2017 with its sights set on the top step of the podium..

This year will be the Texas-based squad’s 13th entry over eight years for the 85th running of the French endurance classic.

The formidable driver line-up includes Ferrari factory sports car drivers Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) and Toni Vilander (Finland), along with former Risi regular, Pierre Kaffer (Germany).

Former Formula 1 ace Fisichella, who has seven Le Mans appearances, and Finnish sports car superstar Vilander, who has eight, have co-driven to victory together twice – in 2012 and 2014 – in the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Kaffer will be making his 11th appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe, having claimed a victory previously for Risi Competizione in 2009 in the Ferrari 430 GTC. Twenty-five years of driver racing experience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans makes for a strong driver line up for the privateer Ferrari team.

As Ferrari celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2017, Risi is extra motivated to add to the team’s three prior victories at Le Mans — 1998 in the Ferrari 333 SP and 2008 and 2009 with the immensely successful Ferrari 430 GT—and four additional podium finishes, including last year’s runner-up spot.

“It’s an important season for Ferrari,” Giancarlo Fisichella said.

“It’s the 70th Anniversary for Ferrari and we want to do well for this reason as well. Last year, we went so close to winning the race, and this year we will do everything to win it.

“It’s going to be difficult, but I think we have good potential to do well and fight for the victory.”

This year the Risi Competizione team came to the Le Mans Test with a just-delivered Ferrari 488 ready for ACO regulation competition.

Between the test and race week, the Risi crew continued to prepare the Ferrari F142M, V8 twin turbo, Michelin-shod car with additional tweaks to prepare for the grueling 24-hour race.

“We had a brand-new car at the test day. The car performed really well, but as you know, with a new car there are always small things that require changes,” said Vilander.
“Now that Michelotto’s car is built, the crew has added some Risi flavor to the car and, if possible, we are even better prepared for the race with small details in every part. Hopefully that brings us more performance on the track.

“There are a few unknowns with the competitors, but at the same time we don’t concentrate on that. We just have to do our job and try to be fast and reliable.”

But despite the team’s preparation, there are still some things that require last minute tweaks, particularly with the changeable Le Mans weather.

“We will need to revisit the Michelin tire compound options in race week testing to see what the transition temperature is,” Risi Competizione Race Engineer Rick Mayer said.

“Some of this we will not know until we get into the race as we won’t have a chance to do a true double stint on tires in race week testing.

“Michelin always has the proper options for each condition, we just have to decide which ones suits us best as the track and weather change throughout the race.”

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