Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) was at the wheel of the number 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro when it passed the cheqeured flag in second place to finish what was an exciting and gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 84th running of this iconic event will go down in history as a classic with an action packed 24 hours. However, for the Houston based team it will be remembered as one in which the car showed remarkable reliability and the team barely put a foot wrong.
This was Risi Competizione's seventh visit to Le Mans, the first time being in 1998 and the last 2010. They have three wins to their name and today's second place finish is Risi's third additional podium. Fisichella and Toni Vilander (FIN) have two victories each as teammates; Fisichella now has three additional podiums and Vilander four. For Matteo Malucelli this was his third podium, all second place finishes.
The team led the event for many laps and their story of the final three laps. Three minutes after the 18-hour mark of 09.00, and at the end of lap 252, Matteo Malucelli pitted the Ferrari 488 for fuel. He was still leading the event with a gap of 33 seconds to the Ford, and went out again for another stint to continue his mission to defend that lead. At the end of lap 266 at 10.00 Malucelli pitted again for fuel and tires and remained in the car to do a triple stint. He retained his lead, but by the next lap the gap was down to just six seconds ahead of a hard charging Ford.
When he got out of the car at the end of lap 280 for Toni Vilander to take over, the Risi Ferrari was second, having been overtaken by the Ford on lap 272 at 10.30. For Vilander the team refueled the car but left the previous set of tires on that Malucelli had used for his third stint. Unfortunately on lap 272 a track anomaly caused him spin and he lost some valuable time to the leading Ford. He came in immediately for fresh tires and fuel, which was a couple of laps earlier than planned. This dropped him to just over two minutes behind the leading car, but that was reduced to 36 seconds three laps later when the leading Ford pitted with about three hours to go.
Fisichella then took over to do the final three stints. At the end of lap 306 at 12.44 he pitted for tires and fuel, and on lap 319 at 13.36 he took just fuel. For his final pit stop at the end of lap 327 at 14.10 Fisichella took fuel and tires. When the checkered flag came out the Risi Ferrari was just a minute behind behind the GTE-Pro class winning Ford.
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
We didn't qualify as well as we would have hoped, as Giancarlo was pushing hard and had an off and we had a lot of gravel in the car that it wasn't prudent to go back out. Then on Thursday we wanted to work on the race set up, and particular race items. We didn't try to better our times and the weather wasn't conducive to it either. The boys did a fantastic prep job on Friday, did the warm-up on Saturday. We started the race on Saturday and it seemed we were pretty racy and competitive. The Fords obviously had something of a BoP advantage on us, but we were still able to race with them. We moved up the chain for quite some time, led the GT class for a good portion of the race, and then it was just inevitable that the Fords would get by us at some time; they had the speed which we just did not have. I thought we had a legitimate podium car and finishing a kind of controversial second but it was well earned I think. The boys did a fantastic job because they gained in almost every sequence when our competition did the same thing, so it was a good race and we will see exactly how it washes out in the end with the sanctioning body.
Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
It's been a fantastic race - tough mentally, physically, with the car and for the mechanics. We achieved a good second position finish. The pace was very good all race. We did the best from every side and need to be proud of it. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.
Toni Vilander, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
I tried hard. I had a second stint on those tires and was catching a little bit at a time. I was on the pace and totally on the limit. When I spun I would not say it was a lack of concentration, but my head was already in the next corner. Before the inside kerb, which I have taken a hundred times, is a darker hole, the dirt had gone so the tire went into the hole and it upset the car. I tried to spin it to keep going but I could not do anything. I am sorry for myself, but more I am sorry for the team. I tried but at the end of the day I made a mistake and I am sorry for that. It has been the best car that I have ever driven at Le Mans. The competition is really high and it was a great race.
Matteo Malucelli, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
I have really enjoyed my race. The guys have done a fantastic job, we didn't make any mistakes and were on the pace. When I had my last stint with four hours to go our car seemed to be the best performing car on the circuit, so I was hoping something could happen to help us. At that point we had less grip, and the car was starting to slide. It was difficult to have the pace on old tires, but with new ones it was not bad. The team did a great job and we were still fighting for a victory right to the end.
Following the race the team was fined €5,000 for failing to respond to the black and orange flag that required them to pit immediately.
Risi Competizione Press Release
Photos: Ferrari Media