The number 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro will start the 84th Le Mans 24 Hours from seventh in class on the grid of the world famous race. The weather played an important part in determining the outcome of qualifying on the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, with intermittent heavy rain storms disrupting the on-track action for the race that starts at 15.00 on Saturday, June 18.
The drivers, Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Toni Vilander (FIN) and Matteo Malucelli (ITA), will be sharing the car on June 18-19. There is a wealth of experience among the drivers, with this year's race bringing it to a total of 21 starts between them - Fisichella seven, Vilander eight and Malucelli six. Fisichella and Vilander have been on the podium together four times in the last five years, and two of these have been on the top step for their class.
The track action started for the Le Mans cars on Wednesday afternoon with a four-hour free practice session from 16.00 to 20.00. Vilander was first in the car, followed by Fisichella and then Malucelli at the very end. The session was a mixture of wet and dry running. At the end of the session the number 82 Ferrari was second quickest with a time of 3mins 54.180secs, which was 0.347secs behind the fastest car, also a Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro. After a two-hour break, the cars were on track from 22.00 to 00.00 for the first qualifying session. About half an hour into the session, the car spun at the Porsche Curves on its sixth flying lap with Fisichella at the wheel and ended up in the gravel trap. The session was red flagged and the car was able to return to the pits under its own steam. This put an end to the team's session as it cleaned out the gravel and did some minor repairs. The car was eventually classified seventh with a time of 3mins 53.176secs. Quickest in class in this session was a Ford GT with a time of 3mins 51.185secs.
The final two qualifying sessions were held on Thursday night from 19.00 to 21.00 and 22.00 to 00.00. Rain again played an important role and meant there were no improvements in the times from the first qualifying session on Wednesday, so those times settled the grid. In a rain affected Q2, Vilander and Malucelli did about half an hour each, while in Q3 Malucelli managed all but one of his obligatory five night laps before the session was red flagged due to aquaplaning. After nearly an hour the session restarted, he did his one lap before handing over to Vilander for his five laps. In the last minutes of the session Fisichella went out for a few laps.
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
Today went okay and we got a bit of dry running early to validate the car build and new components. Then we got some wet running to get a handle on our wet tire pressures and the drivers could get acclimatized to the balance of the car in the wet. We got all the drivers through their minimum five obligatory night qualifying laps they have to run. At the end, Giancarlo got a feel for the car, even with the red flag which shortened the session. The car is good, the drivers are happy and we are ready to go racing.
Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
I only did one out lap tonight to see how the car was in wet conditions. I felt very comfortable straightaway and there was a good balance. I am really happy with the car, and the mechanics did a very good job after the small damage yesterday. I am looking forward to the race, but, unfortunately, because of the rain today, we couldn't improve our grid position, and I am sure it was possible to do better than where we are now. But it is a 24-hour race, everything can happen and it is important to get to the end of the race.
Toni Vilander, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
It is difficult to get into the rhythm while the rain is all the time interfering with the test program. I am quite confident in the car, but it is really difficult to judge the speed the others are doing. Overall I would hope for a dry race, but it seems these conditions may continue until then. It was good to have a night run in the last qualifying and in the rain, as that is sort of the worst combination.
Matteo Malucelli, driver, No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro:
It was really difficult because we had the wet tires and not the full wets and it started to rain really hard. We were also very lucky as I spun on the straight because I was aquaplaning. I did go out in the first qualifying, but while it was dry I had two cautions, so I only did two laps - one clean, one with traffic and then there was a red flag. It is okay, the race will be 24 hours so I have time.
This is the Risi Competizione team's seventh time competing at Le Mans. The first visit for the Houston (USA) based team was in 1998, its last in 2010 and between those years it won three times.
Press Release and photos from Risi Competizione