Victory. That was the only thing on the minds of the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT Le Mans (GTLM) team today. Every member of the Houston, Texas-based team had their sights set on a win at the 19th annual Petit Le Mans Presented by Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort race at Road Atlanta. After 10 gruelling hours and a perfect performance by the drivers, the team and the car their long awaited goal was realized.
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado couldn't be any prouder than to walk up to the top step of the podium and collect the Petit Le Mans trophies for Team Principal Giuseppe Risi and the entire Risi Competizione team.
After starting from the third position on the grid, the No. 62 Risi Ferrari never dropped below that spot and actually led the majority of the race in class. Fisichella took the lead on Lap 40 in his first stint and the red Prancing Horse rarely relinquished the top position except during pit stops for the entire 398 laps they completed of the 412-lap race.
The Risi team leveraged the five caution sessions to their advantage and did not disappoint with their perfect pit stop performances. In the end the No. 62 Risi Ferrari led 153 laps within three lead changes.
After suffering heartbreaks in the previous four races, Risi Competizione was certainly a fan favorite for the final round of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series.
At the halfway point of the 10-hour Petit Le Mans race the No. 62 Risi Ferrari was leading while under caution. The green flag was flown for a restart less than 10 minutes later and the popular Ferrari from Houston, Texas continued to dominate the GTLM class. As the team cycled through their driver rotation from Vilander to Fisichella to Calado at the designated pit stop times, the mid-engine twin turbo Ferrari kept consistently fast lap times with the precision of a Swiss clock. A late race caution on Lap 402 raised the blood pressure of every team member but in the end closing driver Fisichella held onto the lead to the checkered flag.
On top of today's GTLM class victory at Petit Le Mans, Risi Competizione was also the recipient of the DEKRA Green Challenge award for the fifth time this season. The trophy is awarded for fuel efficiency and was previously presented at Sebring, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Lime Rock Park and Road America.
Today's victory was the fourth Petit Le Mans win for the Risi Competizione team with their previous victories in 2009, 2008 and the inaugural race in 1998. Both Fisichella (2011) and Vilander (2012) celebrated their second Petit win. Today's race was Calado's first victory in the IMSA WeatherTech Series and his first in America.
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
"Obviously, it was a good race for us. I have to say this victory was well earned. I think the car was good. We worked on the balance for the night. All the drivers did a great job. Nobody had any issues in traffic or contact to speak of and the pit stops were all flawless. It just all kind of came together. I think we did everything right, stayed out of trouble and came out on top and I'm happy and hoping we continue this next year."
Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
The weekend has been fantastic. From the beginning we were always competitive. We did a fantastic job on the set up work. The car balance was very consistent from the beginning to the end. I'm really pleased. The crew did a fantastic job on the pit stops. Toni and James and myself all did our maximum and I think we deserve this win because we have been very unlucky during the season. It's maybe one of the most important races of the season and we won it!
When we had the full course yellow at the end I was really nervous, but I knew the car was good and the pace was good. It was important to overtake just a couple GTDs in front of me, which I did. And once I overtook them I brought a big gap and went to the end of the race.
Toni Vilander, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
What an awesome day! The last two hours were probably the longest of my life. After all we've been through this season, I just wanted to see that checkered flag. The yellow in the end raised my heartbeat to the top, but this one goes to Giuseppe Risi for the whole program. It was a team effort and we need to thank him for believe in us and giving us such a nice environment to work and drive the car. Basically, the last four or five races we've been up there and something always happened and it almost felt like it wasn't real.
This is a good way to end the season and we had a lot of people from Ferrari Italy here and I think today we showed our true potential and showed how we can perform. We went to Europe and did well in Le Mans. This is one of the big races here in the U.S. and we needed this result. I want to also thank Giancarlo for the whole season. We've known each other since 2010, but this year we became really close. We spent a lot of time together and we work really well together. James came for this race and what a professional and what a talent to come to this type of circuit and have the pace he had, it shows all his qualities.
James Calado, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
I'm quite speechless. I'm just so happy for everyone on the team. Obviously it's only my first time here, but I understand it's been really unlucky for them up until now. This just shows, a true pace and true representative speed for what these guys could have done throughout the year. I'm so glad to be a part of it and hopefully one day I'll be back.
Dave 'Beaky' Sims, Risi Competizione Team Manager:
It is absolutely fantastic. After some of the disappointment we've had this year we knew the capability of the team and we knew we could do it. Everything went perfectly between the engineer's strategy and the team for the pit stops. Between all of us, it went super well and all the way through it was a prefect performance. We were consistent and stayed out of trouble for 10 hours and got a brilliant result. On top of that we won the DEKRA Green Challenge Award for the fifth time this season. What a day!
Giuseppe Risi, Risi Competizione Team Principal:
After a very difficult year this win is pretty well deserved. I'm very happy for everyone and with all the effort that was involved. I want to thank the team, the drivers, Ferrari, Michelotto, as well as all our friends and sponsors who supported us all season.
Today's race was the final round of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Risi Competizione team has not announced any plans for 2017 at this time.
Risi Competizione Press Release