Le Mans: Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) Privateer Returns for its 13th Race
Risi Competizione returns to Le Mans with its 13th entry over 8 years for the 85th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 17-18, 2017 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France.
The formidable driver line-up includes Ferrari factory sports car drivers Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) and Toni Vilander (Finland), along with former Risi driver Pierre Kaffer (Germany).
The Houston, Texas-based Ferrari team come to the 2X-around-the-clock endurance race with 2podium finishes under their belt at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring races in the US (both 3rd place) in the competitive International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GTLM class.
This year’s Le Mans GTE-Pro class features entries between many of the same teams and drivers who regularly compete against the privateer Ferrari team in IMSA – Corvette, Ford, Porsche.
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 gruelling 24-hour race.
As Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) celebrates its 70th Anni in Y 2017, Risi hoped to add to its 3 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 second place last year.
Former Formula 1 Ace Fisichella, who has seven Le Mans appearances, and Finnish sports car superstar Vilander, who has 8, have co-driven to victory together 2X, in Ys 2012 and 2014 in the Ferrari 458 Italia.
Kaffer will be making his 11th appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe, having claims 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 popular American Ferrari team.
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer
“You have a brand-new car for Le Mans this year that was shipped directly to the Le Mans Test from Maranello with only a shakedown. The Risi Team previously dealt with something similar when your very first Ferrari 488 was shipped directly to the 24 Hours of Daytona in January 2016. What are the things you must be concerned about with a new car going into a 24-hour race?
“We ran the car as it was delivered for the Pre-test. Between the test and the race week the crew went through the car and gearbox to alter, adjust and change various items to our preferences; pretty much every nut, bolt, hose, and wire was touched. The car was disassembled and reassembled, we are happy with the build of the car and confident for the race.”
Share what changes must be made between the IMSA series Risi Comp normally competes in and the ACO regulations for Le Mans.
“The biggest difference from a competitive stand point is the change in the pit stop regulations. In IMSA, we fuel and change tires simultaneously. In WEC fuel first then change tires. But, this is the same for all the IMSA teams here at Le Mans. The crew has been practicing hard to be competitive on wheel changes. I’m sure we’ll be ready for the start of the race.”
Pierre Kaffer is back with the Risi Team to drive alongside Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander. Talk about the strengths of your formidable driver line up.
“Pierre is no stranger to Risi. He has won Le Mans with us before. He fits right into the team. I think we have a very strong driver line up. All the drivers are Le Mans winners and know what it takes to repeat that.”
It’s predicted to be much warmer during the race week than at the Test Days. How do you transition from the set up created at the test to a warmer weather set up and what is affected by the heat that needs review?
“We will need to revisit the Michelin tire compound options in race week testing to see what the transition temperature is. 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.”
Last year was a Le Mans race for the history books. The small privateer Risi Team went up against the Goliath factory teams, and was able to split the podium positions with the factory Fords. Talk about that David vs. Goliath battle and what’s ahead for this year.
“It will heat up a notch this year. Both AF Corsa Ferraris went out early last year and that’s unlikely to happen again this year. The BoP for this event so far has all the players very close. There are no weak cars, teams or drivers in this class. This race has the potential to again be decided by a few seconds at the end of 24 hours. It will be more than just Ferrari vs Ford, the entire GTE-Pro field is super competitive.”
Toni Vilander, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro
At the Test, you drove the new Ferrari 488 at the Le Mans circuit for the first time. How did the car feel?
“We had a brand-new car at the test day. The car performed really well, but as you know with a new car there is always small things that require change. We were happy with the handling at the test. Obviously, the team has rebuilt the whole car. 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 and hopefully that brings us more performance on the track. Last year was the first time we raced with the 488 and we had a strong pace. So, there’s no reason that cannot happen this year. Porsche has a new car so there’s a few unknowns with the competitors, but at the same time we don’t concentrate on that we just do our job and try to be fast and reliable.”
What is your favorite part of the Le Mans circuit and why? (13.6 km/8.4 mi Le Mans circuit)
“Le Mans is a long lap. Double or triple to even some circuits so you need to have a good rhythm. There are some difficult, hard-breaking zones, but you come sixth gear 300 kilometer per hour and you need to slow the car down to 80 or 90 and those are challenging parts. Porsche Corners on the last sector are an impressive set of corners. You need to get the car running well on low downforce and have the grip on the braking in high speed corners. So, it’s a challenging track, set-up wise. The last few years, the track really grips up during the race if the track stays dry.”
Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro
Talk about the GTE-Pro battle at Le Mans and the challenges the small privateer Risi Competizione team faces.
“It’s going to be a tough race. It’s stiff competition when comparing teams. I think it’s more than last year because there is the new Porsche that is very good. There is Corvette which is back again and very competitive compared to last year. I think we are there and close to the other manufacturing here, but it’s going to be a tough race.”
Risi Competizione has 3 victories at Le Mans, including one with Kaffer as a driver; You and Toni have combined for two additional wins, both in Ferraris. This is Ferrari’s 70th year. How important would it be to bring home a Le Mans victory to the Prancing Horse this year?
“It’s an important season for Ferrari. 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.”
Having been a former Le Mans winner, tell us what it takes to be successful at this challenging race.
“It’s a tough race, physically, mentally; for the drivers, the crew, the car. Obviously, you need reliability and the consistency during the race. You need to keep your car in one piece especially for the last few hours. At the beginning of the race you need to be gentle, but keep pace with the other cars. Then you need to be lucky and you need to stay concentrated.”
Pierre Kaffer, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro
At the Le Mans Test you drove the new Ferrari 488 at the Le Mans circuit for the first time. How did the car feel and how does it feel to be back at Risi and with your old friends and teammates?
“At the test, I drove the 488 GT for the first time and I have to say, it’s an incredible car compared to the 458. It’s a big step and straight away I felt comfortable in the car. Even when we didn’t run much at the pre-test and I did a lesser number of laps, I felt really comfortable in the car and I’m happy to be back in a car with Risi Competizione. For me it’s a bit like getting home. With the mechanics, Rick and everyone on the team I really appreciate being back and being a small part of this big race. I’m really happy and looking forward to the race.”
Risi Competizione has a very formidable driver line-up with you, Toni and Giancarlo but you’re up against many factory drivers and teams. How challenging is the GTE-Pro class competition going to be this year?
“Well I have to say our driver line up is really strong. I’m really going to enjoy driving with Giancarlo and Toni. In the past, I had the opportunity to drive with Giancarlo in America for two seasons and we really enjoyed our time together. Giancarlo, Toni and I have driven Petit Le Mans together and I think we are home again as a driving trio as we really like to drive together. Compared to other teams and other cars, I must say, Le Mans is the toughest race. When you see the other driver line ups from GTE-Pro I think it will be a battle and a sprint race from the first to the last second this year. I’m ready for it and I’m sure my teammates are, as well and I’m sure the 488 has proven it’s ready, as well.”
What is your favorite part of the 13.6 km/8.4 mi Le Mans circuit and why?
“Le Mans is very unique. You run on three quarters of the track on normal road which is open to the normal public. This is very special when you go out and drive on these types of tracks. It is very unique and there’s a special feeling on the straight when you take the first part of the track or the last part with the Porsche Corners it’s quite challenging in the GT car. It’s difficult for me to pick just one corner.”
Having been a former Le Mans winner, tell us what it takes to be successful at this challenging race.
“Well, first of all you need a very strong team. I’m 100% confident we have everyone who is ready or who is capable to win this race. From the team side, we have the car and you also need a small portion of luck on your side, which you always need in motor racing. Like I said, it’s a tough category this year. We will give our best and I’m pretty sure in the end we will be ready to win, but you also need a bit of luck on your side.”
Source: Risi Competizione
|NYSE:RACE||87.91||16 June 2017||0.36||88.55||88.82||87.86||349,439|
|HeffX-LTN Analysis for RACE:||Overall||Short||Intermediate||Long|
|Bullish (0.49)||Bullish (0.30)||Very Bullish (0.51)||Very Bullish (0.67)|
Enjoy the racing this weekend.