Is Risi Ferrari team favorites at LeMans?
It’s easy to see why Risi Competizione is one of the favorites in the GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four straight wins to open the American Le Mans Series season - including the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring - speaks volumes. But nothing would establish the legacy for Risi and its F430 GT more than a class win at the world’s most prestigious auto race.
That’s exactly what the team has done eight times in the last 10 Series events dating back to Mosport last September.
“It’s nice to be able to say that we have had so much success here,” said Risi’s Mika Salo, a veteran of 111 Formula 1 starts. “There is no point in going there and being happy with second place. We are going to win.”
Salo, Jaime Melo and Johnny Mowlem will reprise their winning roles from Sebring in the team’s lead Ferrari. Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn and Colin Braun will team in the second Risi entry in partnership with Krohn Racing.
Risi’s streak of five consecutive wins in the Series ended two weeks ago at Utah when the Salo/Melo car retired with a mechanical problem nearly two hours into the race. But that has done little to dampen the team’s confidence. Ferrari is unbeaten in the last six Series events, and Risi has shown itself to be the premier Ferrari team in the Series if not the world.
“The Risi team is very strong, as we proved at Sebring,” Mowlem said. “I am really optimistic about our chances to win at Le Mans. We have work to do during the test (Sunday) to be sure we have the car properly prepared, but the Risi team is well organized and very good at this.”
The one category where the team may be lacking is Le Mans experience. Mowlem has four starts at Le Mans (the most recent last year in GT1 for ACEMCO Motorsports). Melo drove one stint for JMB Racing in a Ferrari 360 in 2004 before it retired with transmission issues. That’s better than Salo’s lone appearance at La Sarthe; he didn’t log a race lap in 2003 when his Audi R8 retired just shy of the five-hour mark.
“This car is much more competitive and we have it working very well,” Melo said. “The most important thing is the consistency of the drivers. Driving with Mika and Johnny is good because we have almost the same feeling for the car.”
The trio of Jonsson, Krohn and Braun showed potential at Sebring. Krohn and Jonsson drove at Le Mans last season (the first for both) while Braun will be making his first start. They finished ninth in class at Sebring after running in the top five early.
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on Saturday, June 16 from the Circuit de la Sarthe. SPEED will provide 17.5 hours of coverage in North America starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16. MotorsTV will air week-long coverage throughout Europe. Live coverage can be found on Radio Le Mans through americanlemans.com.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. CBS Sports will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.