Risi Competizione ready for return to 24 Hours of Le Mans

The popular American-based Ferrari team settled into their garage no. 44 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in early June, set for all the activities that surround the 84th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race, June 18-19, 2016.

The Test Day on June 5th garnered the needed information for set up after many laps in the new Ferrari 488 GTE, which is making its Le Mans race debut this year. Risi Comp full season drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander were joined by former Risi hotshoe Matteo Malucelli, all Ferrari factory drivers, for this year's twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.

This year's No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro class entry will be Team Principal Giuseppe Risi's 12th Le Mans entry over seven years dating back to 1998. The last time Risi waved it's Rosso Corsa colors for all the Tifosi Ferrari fans at La Sarthe was in 2010. Risi has three victories at Le Mans -- 1998 in the Ferrari 333 SP and 2008 and 2009 with the immensely successful Ferrari 430 GT -- and three additional podium finishes.

Former Formula 1 ace Fisichella, who has six Le Mans appearances, and Finnish superstar Vilander, who has seven, have co-driven to victory together twice, in 2012 and 2014 in the Ferrari 458 Italia. Malucelli will be making his sixth appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe and claims two podium finishes in the Ferrari 430 GTC in 2008 and 2009.

Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:

Share a little about the things accomplished at the Le Mans Test Day and how you feel going into the race week.
"The drivers were happy quite quickly with the setup. We only made a few minor changes. They are also happy with the comfort of the car and feel they all have the pace (and experience) we need to be competitive. All the systems that normally can be picky worked well; telemetry, voice radios, timing and scoring, the ACO special telemetry and electronics, etc. That's all a bonus. That takes a lot of pressure off the team when you get such a good start."

What will the team be concentrating on the most for race preparation?
"We'll be concentrating on making sure everything is perfect and race ready. The car is very complicated this year with the turbo engine and the packaging is quite different than the F458 race car. The crew does an outstanding job in all aspects. The preparation is meticulous."

You have three professional Ferrari drivers on your team working together for the first time for a 24-hour race, but each with previous successes. After the recent Test, how well do you feel they work together?
"Giancarlo and Toni have a good history and success in Europe. Matteo fit right in and did a great job at the Test. I'm sure each will be equal in pace and skill. They all know how to win this race. They are all very professional and know what the goal is. Toni's Italian is perfect so there's no language issues at any level between the drivers. It's certainly a competitive GTE grid, the most competitive ever. We are definitely at the top end with a very competitive car, drivers and crew."

Risi Competizione has three victories at Le Mans; Toni and Giancarlo have combined for two wins and Matteo has two second-places -- all in Ferraris. That's a lot of Ferrari success just for this one team. What makes the Ferrari so good at Le Mans?
"The Ferraris have been well suited in the past for Le Mans. The GT car gets designed and built with a large emphasis on Le Mans. Ferrari has a very long history of racing at Le Mans and understands what it takes to build a car that can endure and win."

Much of this year's story is about the Ferrari vs. Ford battle. Will it be a repeat of 1966 with the American car manufacturer taking the win?
"Not if we can help it. Risi, AF Corsa, Michelotto and Ferrari are all collaborating to ensure Ferrari has the best chance at Le Mans. I feel we are prepared the best we've ever been for Le Mans, from a Risi and Ferrari standpoint. This should be a battle for the GT history books. All the manufacturers have top efforts here. There are no weak drivers, cars or teams in GTE-Pro. It should be an outstanding race!"

Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
At the recent Test you drove the new Ferrari 488 at the Le Mans circuit for the first time. How did it feel and how well suited is the car for the long circuit?
"It was a very good test. We did our program and the car balance was quite good straight away. We made a couple of adjustments in the right direction. The lap times were quite close but we were comfortable and confident. Toni and Matteo are all happy as well. We found a good car, good behavior, all in good shape. It's going to be very tough because the other competition is very quick but it was a good test for us and we are quite happy coming to Le Mans."

What will be the most important areas of race preparation this week for everyone?
"The most important thing is the different rules, especially the pit stop rules between IMSA and ACO. We need to concentrate on pit stops as the rules and order are different; fuel first then tires and just two people on tires. IMSA rules we do all year in North America are different. The guys have already been doing practice and are quite good but we probably need to improve a bit, but they were good straight away. Obviously it is very important to keep the car on the ground. We must all concentrate and be fit. It is a very tough race for drivers and mechanics."

Risi Competizione has three victories at Le Mans; You and Toni have combined for two wins and Matteo has two second-places -- all in Ferraris. That's a lot of Ferrari success just for this one team. How important is the past success for this year's race?
"It's good for Risi , good for us to have this success in our history. It is important to know we have a team behind us that has a lot of experience and know what to do at Le Mans. It is great with the Risi team. The mechanics and crew are all fantastic. We have a good chance to do well and be on podium but the goal is to win."

What is your favorite part of the 13.6 km/8.4 mi Le Mans circuit and why?
"I really like everywhere; the speed at end of straight, the chicanes, the difficult braking points with low level of downforce, but the most exciting part is the Porsche Curves. This is a very challenging part of the circuit."

As a Ferrari factory driver, how proud are you to arrive at Le Mans, dressed in your red firesuit, drive your red Ferrari and carry the Ferrari flag for the many Tifosi fans?
"It's a big pleasure and I am really proud of it, to be an ambassador of the Ferrari brand, and Toni as well. I am very proud to race for Ferrari at Le Mans 24. It is the most important race of the season. We won twice already and were leading the race last year until one and a half hours from the end [when we had] a gear box issue. We are all so concentrated and very focused on it. It's always my target and dream to win the race."

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?
"The car felt really good. It's tough to judge the pace. We need to wait until the race, but at the moment everything feels good and we are ready."

You and Giancarlo have combined for two victories and a further podium in three of three past races run here together as co-drivers. What's your magic? Do you think you can carry that on this year?
"I don't think there is much magic. We are just doing everything the best we can. Hopefully we can have a good run at this year's Le Mans."

How did it go with getting Matteo acclimated in with you and Giancarlo.
"Matteo is a good driver and he was on the right pace straight away. It was a positive test day in every aspect."

How challenging is the GTE-Pro class competition going to be this year?
"It will be tough also this year. We just need to get our things sorted and work well as a team and I'm sure we will have a good race. Let's enjoy the race week at Le Mans."

Matteo Malucelli, 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 it feel and how does the competition look going in to the race?
"The car feels really good, easy to drive and apparently fast. I'm really happy with the 82 Risi Ferrari. I think the Test went well, but we don't really know our real potential. But also we don't know the other competitor's potential, so I'm curious to see the real pace during the race."

As a professional Ferrari driver, you must be very proud to represent the brand and Risi Competizione at Le Mans. Share your thoughts about that.
"Yes, I'm really proud because I'm also one of the seven Italian drivers in this race. I'm proud to drive for Mr. Risi and, of course, with Ferrari. This is the best car, especially for an Italian driver!"

How did you get on with Giancarlo and Toni as a co-driver? Have you ever raced together with them before?
"I raced with Giancarlo before but not with Toni, but I'm happy we had the same feeling and we are working for the same thing."

How challenging is the GTE-Pro class competition going to be this year?
"I think it's the most competitive class every time, but this year it's also worse with such a lot of official [factory-backed] cars inside the game.  However, I think we can have our good chance for success."

What is your favorite part of the 13.6 km/8.4 mi Le Mans circuit and why?
"I think Porsche Curves are the favorite for all drivers; this is the best parts on the circuit to push and drive the car."

Risi Competizione won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in three of six years of entry. The first appearance of the Risi team at Le Mans was in 1998 when Wayne Taylor, Eric van de Poele and Fermin Velez won the LMP-1 class in the Ferrari 333 SP. Risi Competizione collected back-to-back victories in the Ferrari 430 GT in 2008 with Jamie Melo, Mika Salo and Gianmaria Bruni and again in 2009 with Melo, Salo and Pierre Kaffer. The team also made appearances in 2003, 2007; their last entry was in 2010. Risi Competizione entered two cars at La Circuit de la Sarthe five of the six years it competed.

Risi Competizione Press Release