Risi Competizione heads to hometown COTA circuit seeking a strong result

Houston, Texas-based Risi Competizione is pleased to return to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for its hometown race this weekend. The Lone Star Grand Prix race at the 3.4-mile, 20-turn Formula 1 road circuit in Austin, Texas on Saturday, September 17, will be the penultimate race of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The Houston, Texas-based Risi Competizione pilots Italian Giancarlo Fisichella and Finn Toni Vilander are ready to overcome their recent bad luck in the debut of the twin turbo mid-engine No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTLM for success on the teams' hometown Austin, Texas circuit.

The Risi Competizione team has competed at COTA three times since 2013 and has one podium result last year (2015), with Fisichella and teammate Pierre Kaffer finishing second after qualifying eighth in GTLM class. Fisichella also competed at COTA in 2014 with Kaffer to a fourth-place finish. All COTA entries have been in the Ferrari 458 GT.

This year will be Toni Vilander's first IMSA race and third time competing at COTA (2013, 2014 and 2015). Vilander has two World Endurance Championship (WEC) podiums (2013 and 2014) with AF Corse in a Ferrari 458 LMGTE Pro class.

Both drivers will be making a special appearance in downtown Austin on Wednesday, September 14 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. at Pop Austin, a champagne bar. Giancarlo Fisichella will be using his internationally acclaimed DJ skills as he performs live as DJ Fisichella turning EDM tunes for race fans. Toni Vilander will assist his teammate as emcee for the evening. Special guests and prizes will be part of the evening pre-race festivities to promote the IMSA Lone Star Grand Prix.

Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:

What makes COTA challenging for the Ferrari and what about the track plays to the Ferrari's strengths?

It has two relatively long straights, the high speed esses, the long carousel and many first and second gear slow corners. It's a very long lap so each practice session will not yield many actual laps. This track is very difficult to setup for. The Ferrari is fairly easy on tires and this track is hard on tires. That could give us a slight advantage if the race stint yield long lap runs.

Is the team looking forward to racing in front of a hometown crowd with Risi Competizione?

Home races have the advantage of a lot less travel time and a relatively short drive as opposed to all day in airports. That's always a welcome start and end to a home event. Many of the teams' friends, family and many employees from the dealerships will be there to cheer the team on. Hopefully we'll have some home race luck!

What do you think will be the key to success in the COTA race?

Very difficult to say, certainly not just one thing. You need good general pace and quick pit work and, of course, some good luck. We've been a bit short on that lately. Good tire life will help if the race stints are long.

Does the team have what it takes to keep persevering despite the unfortunate and disappointing events in the most recent races this season?

We look at each race as a separate challenge and event. We go to each event as we did the first. This is the best crew I've ever worked with and they don't give up or cry over spilled milk (so to speak). We are here to race and win, nothing less.

There's only two events left this race season. What do you most want to accomplish in these final two races?

To win both events is the only real goal for us. Other teams may be looking forward to 2017 and be working different agendas. Balance of Performance (BoP) is so important now; it's a constant concern now and in the future.

Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:

You've raced both the WEC 6 Hours of Austin and IMSA Lone Star Le Mans race events. What do you think about the circuit and the two races?

First of all, I like COTA. It's a very nice circuit, a last generation circuit. It has some very nice corners, especially the first part, the high speed corners, where it is left right left right. It's a very challenging circuit. It could be a good circuit for us. In the past I raced with WEC and the last couple of years in IMSA. I'm looking forward to it.

How do you like the COTA Circuit and do you enjoy racing on a Formula One circuit again?

Yes, I never raced here in a Formula One car, just GT cars. It's a nice circuit. We expect a lot of fans and I'm happy to race here this weekend.

There's only two events left this race season. What is your strategy going into this race weekend?

I think we have a little extra boost for the engine from the BoP, so this is good. It could be a good step to fight for the podium for sure. The last couple of races we were there but unlucky. The pace has been good. This weekend we will fight to win the race. This is very import to us. We are looking forward to a first win of the season. The crew will do a great job as usual on the pit stops. I am really looking forward to this and last race at Road Atlanta too.

Are you looking forward to racing in front of a hometown crowd with Risi Competizione?

I enjoy that. It will be extra power for us. It's very important for us to have people around the circuit cheering for us. It is our home grand prix and very important for us to get on the podium.

How do you like the town of Austin and do you have any fun plans? 

Austin is very nice place, a nice town. There are lots of fantastic restaurants, especially the beef is very good. I have been there for F1 weekends and it's unbelievable. Wednesday there is a big event for my Risi Competizione team at a champagne club and discothèque and there will be lots of people and we will raise money for charity. I will do the DJ, which is my hobby. I like it. I think we will enjoy this event all together with our team, with other racing people and our fans.

Toni Vilander, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:

You've been on the podium twice at this circuit. What are your favorite things about racing at COTA?

I like the track, especially the first sector is very nice.

You've raced only in the 6 Hours of Austin WEC race events. This being a shorter race with IMSA competition, what can you do to ensure staying out front and ahead of the tough GTLM competition?

We must have a good, solid race. Pit stops here have been quite good. It would also be nice to have a race without major contact.

Are you looking forward to racing in front of a hometown crowd with Risi Competizione?

Yes, it is great to be back racing in COTA and with our many Risi fans.

What is your overall feeling going into the final two races of the season?

We want to win them both!

How do you like the town of Austin and do you have any fun plans?

I like it. There are great restaurants in downtown. I'm looking forward to see how Giancarlo's DJ gig goes on Wednesday night. We should have some fun.

Practice for the Lone Star Grand Prix at COTA begins on Thursday, September 15 at 10:25 a.m. CDT for one hour and again in the afternoon from 4:35-5:35 p.m. Friday will have a one-hour morning practice session, followed by a 20-minute qualifying session for the GTLM class at 4:10 p.m. A Saturday early morning practice from 8:00-8:20 a.m. CDT will be followed by the start of the 2 hours and 40-minute Lone Star Grand Prix WeatherTech race, which runs counter-clockwise, at 11:35 a.m. Live timing and scoring is available for all on-track sessions at IMSA.com and the IMSA Smartphone app.

Following the IMSA race will be the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) six-hour enduro race starting at 5:00 p.m. and run into the night.

Risi Competizione Press Release