Risi Competizione chases GTLM glory at home event in Austin

The Houston, Texas-based Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTLM team will look to dominate the GTLM class in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series race, the Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), May 4-6.

Risi Competizione is proud to call COTA their home track and will be competing at the relatively new circuit, home to the only American Formula One race, for the fifth time in as many years. Their best finish was second place in 2015 with Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer. This year Fisichella and Toni Vilander will pair for the second year in a row, seeking the top step on the podium. Last year the duo suffered a rare mechanical issue which sent the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari from first to last in class in the final 20 minutes.

This years’ two hour and 40-minute WeatherTech series race on the beautiful 3.40-mile, 20-turn road course runs counter clockwise and features 40 entries in four classes, including nine in Risi’s GTLM class and is Round 4 on the 2017 IMSA calendar.

The history of the Risi Competizione team at COTA includes one podium (2015) in the Ferrari 458 Italia GT, an eighth-place finish in the 488 GTLM last year, a fourth place finish in 2014 and sixth place in 2013, both in the 458 GT Ferrari. This year will be Fisichella’s fifth consecutive time to compete at COTA with three being in IMSA and one in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 2013. 2017 is also Vilander’s fifth entry at COTA with only one other in IMSA (2016)and the remaining three in WEC, two of those with third-place finishes (2013, 2014).

This year is the 70th anniversary of Ferrari and Ferrari factory and Risi Competizione drivers Giancarlo Fischella and Toni Vilander long for a victory. The Risi Competizione team has scored impressive podium finishes at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring (third place at both) but the top step has so far been elusive.

Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer: 

How is the Ferrari 488 suited for the 3.40 mile, 20-turn COTA circuit? 

“The high speed flowing nature of this circuit suits the Ferrari. We had a good car here last year and we expect an even better car this year.”

Cautions, or the lack of them, could play a major part in the planning and outcome of the race. Share your thoughts on how you engineer the race as cautions play out throughout the 2 hr 40-minute race.

“In the Pro classes its easier as there’s no minimum drive time. You have to be prepared to take most of the safety cars, as the goal is to have the shortest last pit stop to try and gain in the pits, which hopefully puts you up front on the track. We don’t expect many cautions at this event, this track has so much run off.”

The COTA race has moved from the hot September date to a tad cooler May date. How do you expect that to affect the performance of the car?

“It all depends on the weather. We hope it is cooler for the comfort of everyone. But the GTLM Ferrari has historically been easy on tires. We feel slight hotter weather for the race might be an advantage for us. We will just have to see how it plays out.”

How has the car improved since last year? 

“The BoP has come our way since last year’s race, and we were competitive last year. We’ve learned a few things to better optimize the setup. We should be in good shape to fight for the win.”

Talk about how you prepare and deal with tires and the many possibilities at a track like COTA – rain, heat, grip changes, etc. during the race. 

“Tires are the biggest unknown currently. Michelin has three excellent dry options that overlap all possibly track conditions. We just have to figure out which compound to use in which conditions. The field is tight, a few tenths of a second a lap is significant.”

You are expecting some Risi Competizione and Ferrari of Houston and Ferrari of Austin guests out to cheer the team on. Is it more motivating to have local fans? 

“It’s nice as our fans are always super positive and enthusiastic. That’s such a great morale booster for the entire team. It’s always a positive atmosphere at COTA.”

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

How do you think the Ferrari 488 is suited for the COTA circuit? 

“It think it is suited very well. Last year we were leading so looking forward to doing so again.”

How has the car improved since last year? 

“We just know the car better and know how to get more out of it this year.”

How do you like racing in the rain here? 

“Normally things work out quite okay in the rain, but let’s hope for a dry race.”

What’s your favorite part of the COTA circuit and why?

“I personally like the first sector with all the fast corners. It’s fun to drive.”

You expect some Risi Competizione and Ferrari of Houston and Ferrari of Austin guests to cheer the team on. Is it more motivating to have local fans? 

“Already last year we could see all the Risi fans cheering for us. It is nice to see all that support for our No. 62 Ferrari.”

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

 How do you think the Ferrari 488 is suited for the COTA circuit?

 “It is a nice circuit, built for F1, with lots of run off and nice European style turns. I like it and am looking forward to drive it again.”

The track grip changes at COTA as the 2hr 40 min race progresses. How do you manage the Michelin tires? 

“I leave that to Rick, my race engineer. The Risi team is very good and all the crew do a good job.”

What’s your favorite part of the COTA circuit and why? 

“I like especially the first part, the high-speed corners. It’s a very challenging circuit and reminds me of the European circuits. I have raced here in the past several times in both IMSA and WEC so I know the circuit well and am comfortable here. I’m looking forward to it.”

You expect some Risi Competizione and Ferrari of Houston and Ferrari of Austin guests to cheer the team on. Is it more motivating to have local fans? 

“It is always great to have fans cheer you on and give you extra motivation and power. This is good for a driver to see fans cheering for you around the circuit, and since it is the home race for the Risi team, it is very important that we get on the podium.”

The first practice session begins Thursday morning, May 4 at 9:45 a.m. for an hour with Practice 2 from 2:55-3:55 p.m. Practice 3 is on Friday at 8:55 a.m. for an hour and GTLM class qualifying is 12:30-12:45 p.m. The Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown race runs on Saturday, May 6 from 1:35-4:15 p.m. Live timing and scoring is available for all on-track sessions at IMSA.com and the IMSA Smartphone app.

Risi Competizione Press Release