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Sebring Risi Competizione Race Report
The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Pierre Kaffer, Jaime Melo and Mika Salo won the GT2 class of the 100th American Le Mans Series race in a dominant fashion today – leading the 2009 season-opening Twelve Hours of Sebring from the second hour until the finish.  Finishing eighth overall, they led home a Ferrari 1-2, and the team’s Krohn Racing drivers Tracy W Krohn, Nic Jönsson and Eric van de Poele rounded off an excellent day for both the team and Ferrari with a sixth place finish.

The #62 Ferrari’s achievement was all the more remarkable as it had started from the back of the grid, and because one of its drivers didn’t arrive at the track until the early hours of Friday morning so had missed most of the valuable build-up time.

It took Mika Salo less than 50 of the 332 laps that the #62 Ferrari completed today to get from it starting position of 10th to the head of the class, a place it never relinquished.  The win, Salo’s 14th and Melo’s 13th,was the second in three years for the pairing (following the record-breaking 2007 GT2 finish), and Kaffer’s first on his debut with the team.

While the Krohn Racing drivers were not able to repeat their podium finish of 2008, they had a relatively trouble free run through to sixth.  Bad luck essentially prevented them from finishing in a stronger position.

Risi Competizione’s Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, said of the victory:  “It always takes a while for this kind of thing to sink in, especially when you mentally prepare yourself for the worst.  We dominated the race, had absolutely no technical problems at all with either of the cars so it was a perfect result, and the team did a fantastic job right from the get-go.  All six drivers did a superb job and it’s a perfect start to the season.  I’m also proud to say that three Ferraris started and three finished, all in the top six which is a testament to the product and how these cars are prepared.  I’m very happy.” 

Jaime Melo: “I got here at the last moment this week so I need to really thank Mika and Pierre who worked all week on the set up of the car and did such a good job on it for the race.  They also had to make a big sacrifice for me which was their grid position for the race so I thank them for that as well.  Mika made a great start for us, and the car was very consistent throughout and we managed our tire situation and strategy well. My ankle was really painful towards the end [Melo broke his ankle in November] so Mika and Pierre had to do more hours in the car than I did, but I’m still happy to get the win.  One more is one more!”

Pierre Kaffer:  “For me it’s really special as it’s my third time at Sebring and my second win here so that’s a good statistic.  [Kaffer won overall in an Audi in 2004].  I want to say I’m really pleased to be part of the Ferrari family and the Risi Competizione team – they have helped me a lot this week and I’m looking forward very much to the rest of the season with Jaime and in the ALMS.  I hope we can win more races and fight for the Championship.”

Mika Salo:  “We won last time [in 2007] from the back of the grid too so it must be lucky for us!  It was a perfect race, but you know with fewer cars on the track it can make it more difficult not easier.  It means that sometimes you can do six or seven laps and not see anybody else in your class and it’s difficult to keep concentration.  It would have been easy to screw up but none of us did.  I had a few close calls with some prototypes – well, the Peugeots – but we don’t have a scratch on the car and we won by two laps so that’s a good result.  The Porsches may have been faster over a lap, as we saw earlier in the week, but our car is very consistent and in the long run we can beat them.”

Tracy Krohn, Risi-Krohn Ferrari 430 GT Driver and Krohn Racing Owner:  “This was a particularly clean race at Sebring. We only had three yellows. There was very little damage for anyone – which is good. It was a quick race. Our car, the No. 61 Ferrari, was mechanically perfect the entire race; every system worked, every switch, everything electrical and mechanical on the car worked. Risi did a great job preparing this car. I thought everybody did a great job driving today. We had a few unfortunate things, which is just how racing is, and we ended up sixth in class which is quite an accomplishment with this kind of field. It was a very competitive field, so we’re real happy. It’s always nice to finish this race which is a particularly difficult race in that physically it is always demanding.”

Nic Jönsson:  “First of all I have to thank Risi Competizione and the Krohn Racing team. Everybody did a fantastic job again preparing our Ferrari 430 GT for us. The car ran flawless all day. It’s just that we had a few mishaps in the middle of the race when we went a couple of laps down because we didn’t stay out to get a wave by under yellow. That got us two laps down and that’s where we ran the rest of the day basically. Otherwise the last two to three hours we really had the pace of the leaders. I’m very pleased although not 100% happy with our result. I think this looks very positive for Le Mans; if we have as good of preparation and pace there, we have a very good chance of being out front as well.”

Eric van de Poele:  “We tried hard. Except for a few seconds lost for small reasons, there was no big problem. The car was very reliable. We tried our best. Nic did an incredible job and did a lot of stints. Tracy had very good laps as well. What we know is that GT2 is really the hardest competition in the ALMS Series. Unfortunately today we couldn’t do much better than we did. I’m always very happy to race with Giuseppe Risi. It’s really a fantastic team, always very reliable.”

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