An inside look at Lime Rock by Risi
Back in the U.S. with yet another Le Mans GT2 championship trophy in hand, Risi Competizione hopes to get back in the habit of winning in the American Le Mans Series. First up is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. As is tradition, team technical director Rick Mayer takes us through the preparation and strategy for the week on the Risi Ferrari F430 GT.
Car count will be up again, as at Miller Motorsports Park in May, with the addition of some slower GT3 Porsche Cup/ Challenge cars which changes the complexion of the race a bit compared to last year. This is a short circuit - 1.51 miles - with a 55-second lap for GT2. This year the LMP traffic has been less of an issue with the larger performance difference between the LMP1s and P2s, and with reduced numbers. This was a big issue last year in traffic and caused us to pit early for a cut tire in the race.
Track particulars: The pavement has seasoned now (repaved last year) and should have more grip. We’ll run the same circuit configuration as last year and the track should still be smooth so bumps won’t be an issue. It will still be all right turns with one left plus the two chicanes - the chicane curbs are important for a quick lap time. Turn 1 will still be the biggest passing opportunity, and the hill leading down onto the front straight will still be important to get a good run.
Setup: As at most tracks this year we’ll run the car at the legal ride height limit of 55mm (as opposed to higher). Depending on the car, you’ll also run some cross weight; normally more right-front weight will let you trail brake longer (or more aggressively) into T1 without inside-front wheel lockup, and it also helps reduce the mid- to exit understeer. The cross weight is good as long as it doesn't make the car oversteer on the right turns; RF weight also increases LR weight. You run the right side cambers significantly lower (less negative camber) than the lefts, as the predominant direction is right.
In saying that, the chicanes are important and you need some right side camber for these. It goes without saying you run maximum downforce here; top speed is quite low, about 150 mph. For GT2 cars that means run as much wing (rear downforce) as you can to balance with the front downforce. More downforce (at Lime Rock) increases the exit speed in the last corner and actually increases the front straight top speed. Trimming aero actually reduces top speed here. The two key corners are the first and last; you need a good exit off the last for maximum speed on the straight and good braking and entrance stability into Turn 1 to overtake.
Competition: It still looks like a Porsche vs. Ferrari battle although the BMWs could surprise here as top speed doesn’t come into play; we’ll see if they get the setup right. Their drivers all know this track well and that’s certainly to their advantage. For the No. 62 this is a new track for Pierre (Kaffer), but it’s not hard to learn.
The race: Calling the race (race strategy) with the cautions is tricky here. The green lap is so short that the caution laps are only 100 seconds. If your strategy is to wait for the wave-by (on the cautions) you’d better hope you’re up in front of the queue on the wave-by. By the time you hustle around to pit after the wave-by, there isn’t much time before the green. It takes roughly 30 seconds to traverse pit lane, 30 for fuel and around 12 for tires. Not a lot of change left from the 100 seconds, and where you come out on track all depends on where the pace car is when you get the wave-by and how fast the queue is moving in front of you toward the pits. Each stop isn’t automatically full service if you want to stay on the lead lap.
The team (crew, drivers and the owner) is pumped from the repeat win at Le Mans and the double podium. Hopefully that will help the momentum and keep the good results coming. We need some luck in the States now…Sebring was too long ago!