If the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTLM Team didn't have bad luck, it wouldn't have any. The popular Houston, Texas-based team suffered another heartbreak today. After clearly having a strong car and fine driving to make a convincing run towards their first victory since August 2014, an electrical connection issue sent the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari from first to last in class in the final 20 minutes of the Lone Star Grand Prix race.
The penultimate 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at the Circuit of the America (COTA) is the hometown race for Risi Competizione and the team came to the Texas track ready to produce strong results and recover from the disappointment of bad luck from the past two races. At both Road America and Virginia International Raceway, a podium finish was snatched from the grasp of the privateer Risi Ferrari team in the final minutes of the race.
Finn Toni Vilander qualified and started the Risi Ferrari from the outside front row after he and co-driver Italian Giancarlo Fisichella ran strong in the three practice sessions on Thursday and Friday. Vilander was determined to take the lead from the polesitting factory Ford GT on the first lap and skilfully did so in Turn one.
Vilander drove the first 19 laps, all from the GTLM class lead, before pitting under caution on Lap 19, about 45 minutes in to the two hour and 40-minute sprint race. Fisichella was able to continue the class lead briefly after another perfect pit stop performed by the renown Risi team, although he lost it a few laps later. He hunted down the class leader and eventually passed him 10 laps later to again take the GTLM class lead. At the next fuel window, Fisichella returned the cockpit duties to Vilander on Lap 45, again in the lead.
Toni continued to run strong and the Risi team appeared destined to finally break their spell of bad luck with a local victory, only to have an electrical connection problem on Lap 60, just 20 minutes from the end. Power was lost while Toni was on track between Turns 11 and 12. He got the Prancing Horse restarted and shuffled into the pits. Although the Risi Competizione team was able to rather quickly reconnect the electrical connection and send the car back out, they lost a lap and their chances for victory. The Risi Comp team finished the Lone Star Grand Prix race in eighth position in class and 19th overall in the 39-car field.
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
Unfortunately, it was looking good, then at the end it didn't work out for us. We had an electrical connection in the car that was critical, that came loose. We're looking into why, we're not sure of the situation. It forced us to pit because we lost all power in the car. Otherwise, I think we had a good car. I actually think we had the best car on the track most of the time and we led a good portion of the race. That is something we can be proud of. Both the drivers did a great job. Tony qualified second and was able to grab the lead on the start and then just maintained the gap. Once things settled in he was able to pull enough of a gap to make a comfortable stop for us on a yellow and we changed [drivers] to Giancarlo. He was able to pass for the lead and then maintain the lead until we stopped for Toni. We had a good race in that regard until we had issue with the electrical connector. The crew did an awesome job. Every stop was perfect."
Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
We did our best. Everything was perfect. We were quickest and pulling away with over ten seconds to the Porsches. And then we had an issue. It's really frustrating. It was really important for us, for the guys, and for the fans, for us to win and get a first victory of the season. We are here in our home circuit. It's a shame. Very frustrating. We did our best anyway. We have a good package to do well for the next race and looking forward to going to Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta."
Toni Vilander, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
"We had a good performance during the whole weekend. We had our doubts because in the past this track hasn't always been the best for Ferrari overall. We made good choices and did really good work. Even in a short time we got a good direction where to go and from there we were building our speed. Qualifying was really good in P2. It wasn't probably the best lap but qualifying seems to be always be difficult. Then going into the race I wanted to come out of turn one in P1 and I managed to do it. We had great pit stops and great calls on the tires and overall everything worked well until we had an electrical issue between [Turn] 11 and [Turn] 12. The car just shut down. I lost the radio, I lost the power steering, I lost the power to the engine. I don't know how I got it restarted because I still didn't have any power steering when I drove the car in. Then the guys found the issue, but unfortunately that was it. Now it's one race to go and we'll try to do a good result there."
Giuseppe Risi, Risi Competizione Team Principal:
The drivers did a great job. The team performed superb pit stops and chose the right tires. It's truly a disappointment today.
The next race for the Risi Competizione Ferrari team is the final round of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia on October 1.
Risi Competizione Press Release