The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a pressure packed, twice round-the clock-journey at the best of times, but for Risi Competizione this year, new tires and a new car have made for a bigger challenge.
The Risi team finished second last year and are quickly adapting to a lot of “new” variables thrown at them so far—they set the fourth fastest time in the second qualifying session, making them the second fastest Ferrari in the GTE-Pro class.
The Texan Ferrari entry typically competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with their Ferrari 488 GTE, a car which didn’t make the journey across the Atlantic.
Instead, a brand-new Ferrari 488 was waiting for them in France – a new car which needed to be fully customized by the team before the fast approaching race weekend.
Also new for the team this weekend is the FIA World Endurance Championship-spec Michelin tires.
“The other Ferrari teams have had a chance to tire test with those tires, and race them, which is a big deal,” Risi Competizione Team Manager, Dave Sims said.
“We haven’t, which for us has just doubled things for us. It’s a combination of setup versus the tire, and we have to get it together.
“On our normal setup, they’re moving around a little bit more than normal. It seems like the sidewalls are different, but we’re adapting to it.”
Compounding the tire learning curve for the team is the very “non-Le Mans” weather that is expected for the weekend. Saturday and Sunday could see temperatures in the upper 80s (32°C) and the tires are only second to the driver in terms of components affected by heat.
“It’s going to be harder on the tires and the drivers. I don’t think you’ll see double-stinting here like in IMSA,” Sims said about the strategy changes the team needs to make with the warmer weather.
“When you’re doing a two hour 40 minute, or even a six-hour race, you can double stint. We can’t do more than 14 laps anyway with the fuel that they give you, so it will be a driver change every time, without a shadow of a doubt.”
The increased number of pit stops also means increased risk of penalties. The rules concerning pit stops in the FIA World Endurance Championship are strict—tires may not be rolled, they may not be thrown over and crew members in the garage may not so much as touch the tires to help them get back inside. Fumble on any of the regulations and the penalty, according to Sims, would be fatal to the ultimate result.