Risi Competizione chases a Ferrari GTLM victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona

The Risi Competizione Ferrari GTLM team bring their 2016 Petit Le Mans winning driver line-up to Daytona for the 55th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 28-29, 2017, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The outstanding trio of Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy), Toni Vilander (Finland), and James Calado (Great Britain) will drive the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTLM in the inaugural race of the 2017 International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series.

As 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, Risi Competizione hopes to start the year with a strong victory in one of the most challenging races of the season. A victory at Petit Le Mans and second-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year proved the small independent team out of Houston, Texas could hold its own in the toughest endurances races in the world against the GT Le Mans class factory teams of Ford, Corvette, BMW and Porsche.

At last year's Rolex 24 Risi Competizione had just taken delivery from Michelotto of their Ferrari 488 just days before the 24-hour race. Their debut of their new twin-turbo 488 produced a strong sixth-place finish despite damage to the diffuser and being down on power for the final six hours of the race. This year will be Risi Competizione's 14th time to enter the Rolex 24 twice-around-the-clock race with their best finishes in second place (1999 and 2003).

Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
Were you able to achieve all you set out to complete during test days at Roar Before the 24? "I think we did for the most part. The weather wasn't ideal but we also attended the mandatory manufacturer's test for Ferrari in December where we did the majority of the setup work. It was good to get all three drivers through the car and start working on fine tuning and ergonomic items. During race week, there isn't much testing time to do much and you can't control the weather. The Roar is really your last chance to change anything significant."

Do you feel you have your setup well sorted going in to the week or do you still have some work to do this week before race start?
"We mainly just have small items to work on. The crew completely stripped the car after the Roar, changed the engine and completely rebuilt the car to be race ready. All the parts are very consistent for this car (part for part), but there's always a small difference build to build. The track is always evolving as well, but I think we're close to where we want to race."

What are you most looking forward to about this first race of the race season...and a 24-hour one?
"For me personally, the best part about the 24 Hours of Daytona is when it's over! It's a gruelling race for everyone. People who know me well know 24-hour races are not at the top of my 'fun to do' list. There are huge challenges on many fronts; mental, physical and machinery. It takes a specific mindset and approach to 24-hour races that's much different than races that are 12 hours and shorter."

The GTLM class is always a challenging class. How are things shaping up for the Rolex 24 competition this year?
"Every manufacturer ran competitively at the Roar, but certainly all have a bit in their pocket. For sure some more than others, whether that's 2% or 10%, we might not know until noon on Sunday starting the final stints. I think we have a meticulously prepared and competitive car, a great driver line-up, and a very seasoned and experienced crew/team."

At last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans it was a Ferrari vs. Ford battle. Do you see more of the same at Daytona this weekend?
"Any of the 11 GTLMs can win this race. We hope to be in the mix for a win with the Risi Ferrari. Historically Risi Competizione has been very strong in 10, 12 and 24 hour races. We don't expect that to change. Ford has four cars, with Ferrari having one. Statistically Ford would have an advantage but we'll see where we are come Sunday morning in race. A lot can happen in 24 hours, and a lot you can't control."

This is the same compound tire you raced with later last year but not at Daytona. How do you think these Michelin tires will be for this year's Rolex 24 race?
"The current spec of Michelin tires started at Laguna last year. We feel the current Michelin tires suit our car a bit better than the options at last year's Daytona. It's the same for all GTLMs as we're all on Michelin's, each manufacturer has tested and picked their tire options for the season. From our two tests at Daytona I think we are in good shape and happy with what we have."

You've chosen to use three drivers instead of four. Do you think this will help or could it maybe be more of a challenge at the Rolex 24 when most other teams are using four drivers? "Most of our GTLM competitors have selected three driver line-ups. All three of our drivers get on so well together. They really are a coherent group; that's rare and we're very lucky. Le Mans is always a maximum of three drivers and all our drivers are used to this format. It requires a certain mind set and discipline to pace yourself (driver and crew). All three drivers have won major endurance races and all know what it takes. We're very happy with the driver line-up we have."

Toni Vilander, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is the most prominent race in this series. What expectations do you have going into the event?
"I would love to win this race. It is a tough one with traffic and it takes a lot of patience to get through the night. We have very strong line-up and the team has one full season with the 488 so on paper everything looks good."

What are your favorite things about the Daytona race and the race circuit? Do you like driving on the banking?
"It is a different kind of race track and a lot of the lap is on full throttle. You need to have a fast car on the long straights; the banking is quite easy flat but it always takes some extra concentration."

The Risi Competizione team has won Le Mans, Sebring and Petit but never Daytona. How special would it be to bring a victory home for Mr. Risi as you nearly did at Le Mans and you did at Petit last year?
"It would be really special for all of us, to everyone at Risi, Ferrari and Michelotto."

You and Giancarlo have won several 24-hour races together. What makes a good teammate in endurance racing?
"A consistent, not selfish; adapt quickly to changing situations; calm and team work type of driver."

 This is the 70th anniversary of Ferrari. What makes the Ferrari brand so special and loved by so many people and Tifosi around the world?
"History, passion for racing, great drivers and great battles for the titles. The heart of Ferrari is about racing."

After running the Roar Test earlier this month, what new things did you learn to help in either the set up or your personal race craft for this year's race?
"We did less laps but more quality. We went through the whole test program Rick had made for us. Small changes on the set-up were made but nothing radical. Let's see when the race starts and everyone is on the top of their game."

Giancarlo Fisichella, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
This is the 70th anniversary of Ferrari. 2017 is your ninth year as a Ferrari factory driver. What makes the Ferrari brand so special and revered around the world by so many Tifosi?
"It's great. The Ferrari brand one of the most important brands in the world. It's nice to celebrate Ferrari's long history this year and to start the season at Daytona. We had a new Ferrari 488 last year and we're back with the same car and hope to have a great result."

You obviously know how to win long endurance races. Does any special preparation go into an event like this?
"Team work obviously is the most important factor...good crew work. We all together need to build a reliable car. All the crew needs to be fit and ready for the race, for the pit stops. All the drivers must be physically and mentally ready and have a good relationship each other. You have to find the right set up to suit all three drivers. It's very difficult preparation mentally and physically. It's nice to start the first race with the Daytona 24 Hours. I think we have a good, reliable car. On the last day of the Roar Test we found a good setup. Hopefully the BoP (Balance of Performance) is good. We will try to fight and get on the podium, or better yet, win the race."

You and Toni have won several 24-hour races together. What makes a good teammate in endurance racing?
"Good teammates are very important. It's important to find a good relationship and friendship with your teammates. I'm very happy to work with Toni again this year and with James for Daytona. In the last race at Petit last year was the first time we raced together but we found a good friendship and we won the race! For a first race as teammates that is a fantastic result. We hope to continue like that. I'm really looking forward to it."

The Risi Competizione team has won Le Mans, Sebring and Petit but never Daytona. How special would it be to bring a victory home for Mr. Risi as you nearly did at Le Mans and you did at Petit last year?
"Yes, it's a difficult race and we will try to score a good result. I've never had a good result at Daytona before either. We really want to start the season with a good result. To win the race means a lot for the team, the drivers and the start of season. Apart from that there is the Rolex watch!"

This is the same compound tire you raced with later last year but not at Daytona. How do you think these Michelin tires will be for this year's Rolex 24 race?
"We are quite happy with the Michelin tires. Last year we switched the tire compound in the middle of the season and it was much better for us. Even in the recent January test at the Roar we felt a better car balance and the tires were working much better than last year at Daytona. We are quite happy to work with the new compound again this year and at Daytona for the 24-hour race."

James Calado, driver, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTLM:
You have competed in many endurance races around the world. What makes Daytona special?
"Mainly the atmosphere is what's special; Daytona has a great turn out of fans. The track itself is quick and it's difficult to judge the braking points."

How do you physically prepare for a 24-hour race?
"I have been testing a lot recently and just back from Abu Dhabi. Track time is the best preparation but I have also done some work on the bike and in the gym. In the lead to the race I'll eat a bit more as I will burn a lot of energy throughout the week.

Racing on the oval banking of a NASCAR track is a bit different that most of your experience back in Europe. Tell us what that's like for you?
"It's good but the novelty wears off after a while. Most of the fun comes from the infield, especially when you need to push. I'm sure it would be great in a NASCAR car where you really need to be brave. For us it's easily full throttle, even in the rain."

Toni and Giancarlo have been teammates for many, many races. How do fit in when it's a pair of drivers so in synch?
"Very well. We all have similar feedback about the car set up. It's a relaxed atmosphere and this is what you need for a 24-hour race."

This is the 70th anniversary of Ferrari. What makes the Ferrari brand so special and loved by so many people and Tifosi around the world?
"To represent Ferrari is a dream come true. Since I was small I always wanted to drive a Ferrari and to get to do this as my job, I can't complain. Let's hope we can start the year off with a win."

Tune-In Information:
Qualifying for the 55th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, Thursday, Jan. 26 can be viewed from 3:00 p.m.-4:40 p.m. on IMSA.TV.

In the U.S., watch the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. on FOX Network then from 5:00 p.m. -10:00 p.m. and overnight from 11:00 p.m. -12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29 on FOX Sports 2. Final hours of the race can be viewed from 12:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. (All times Eastern.) The Rolex 24 At Daytona is also available on the FOX Sports GO mobile app and IMSA.TV.

Risi Competizione Press Release