North America’s most successful Ferrari GT team, Risi Competizione, is just one week away from making its competitive return to the American Le Mans Series at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Florida.
The Houston, Texas-based team took a year’s hiatus from the ALMS in 2012, but will once again be re-claiming the iconic ‘62’ entry number for its red Ferrari 458 Italia amid the highly competitive GT field.
While there is much within the team that will be familiar to rivals and fans, such as the marque, the color, and senior team management, there are also new faces and returning faces plus a new look and a renewed determination for success.
For Sebring, the opening round of the 10-race championship, the recently announced full-season pairing of Olivier Beretta and Matteo Malucelli will be partnered by Gianmaria Bruni. The Italian, who won the Florida classic in 2010 with Risi Competizione and has claimed GTE pole position at Sebring for the last two years, is passionate about racing in the USA and is enthusiastic about joining the vastly-experienced team again.
Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi, is buoyant about being back at the track, but is all too aware of the challenges ahead. “Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Porsche and Viper: these are all names which have an association with prestige and success – just as Risi Competizione and Ferrari has. The GT category certainly hasn’t got any easier since we’ve been away, but we are at our best when challenged hard and we are better prepared than ever before.
“We don’t underestimate the task ahead,” continued Risi, “but we’re confident we’ve got all the elements in place to be able to fight at the front. We’ve made considerable changes in the way the team is run, and to our crew, and I feel sure that, to the onlooker, there’s won’t be a single indication that we weren’t racing with everyone else last year.
“Of course, in a long race like this, you always need that little bit of luck on your side too. In Olivier, Matteo and Gianmaria, we have a hugely experienced and talented driver line up and I know they will all want to put Risi back where it belongs, in the winner’s circle.”
Risi will have for 2013 a new F458 Italia which Bruni, among other Ferrari factory drivers, has been testing and developing over the winter. The most noticeable change comes in the front-end, which now sees a cut-out section in the middle of the splitter. Other developments include new dive planes at the front and rear of the car, revised front louvers and relocated brake ducts.
“Ferrari and Michelotto did quite a bit of aerodynamic and track testing,” Risi Competizione chief technical director Rick Mayer explained. “Gimmi Bruni, who did a lot of the testing, thought it was a very positive improvement.”
Risi Competizione has enjoyed spectacular success at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in the past, including the legendary 2007 GT2 class finish which saw Risi win by just 0.202 seconds on the last turn of the final lap. Last on the top step of the podium in 2010, everyone within the Risi team recognizes the special significance of the 2013 event – the final time that the American Le Mans Series’ competitors will race at Sebring before the series merges with Grand Am.
The 41-strong field will feature 12 prototypes which mean that the drivers of the 12 GT entries will have to spend as much time looking in their rear-view mirrors for fast-approaching LMP cars as they do looking ahead for their next over-taking opportunity.
What is certain is that the class result will be as unpredictable as ever before, and that Risi aims to be a key part of the action from flag to flag.