Current joint GT Championship leaders, Risi Competizione, together with its Krohn Racing partner, this week heads for one of the USA’s most challenging road circuits – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – for the third round of this year’s American Le Mans Series, taking place on Saturday, May 22.
The 2.23 mile track, set in the popular Monterey Peninsula, California, is a favorite for drivers, teams and fans alike, but this year’s race will differ in two significant ways from previous visits. Extended from four to six hours in duration, running into the night, the event is also being held in May rather than as the final round of the series in October. This will potentially bring differing weather conditions and temperatures into play, and race strategy will be even more critical in what has historically been a caution-filled event.
The Risi team is delighted to welcome back Krohn Racing for the second of their planned outings with the Houston-based endurance experts. As the California race is the final stop in the schedule before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, at which Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson will be joined by Eric van de Poele, the event is an ideal, and timely, warm-up for the French classic.
Risi regulars, Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni, who are leading the GT Drivers’ Championship jointly with Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long of Flying Lizard Motorsport, are going into the race weekend with one simple aim – to consolidate their position in the Championship tables with a high-scoring finish in their Ferrari F430 GT.
Brazilian Melo, who is domiciled in Milan, Italy, acknowledges that a strong finish is critical: “This race will be very important for the Championship as there are more points available than in a normal 2h45 race. To win is our target, obviously, and we’ll have to see how it goes. It will be tough because of the strong competition and also the chances of having many caution periods, but I think Laguna is our track.
“Last year our car was working really well there,” continues Jaime, “so the base set up will be pretty much the same and we expect to have a quick and well-balanced car. The Ferrari is good on changes of direction and in high speed corners and I am confident we can be better than last year. It’s a good track for Ferrari but at the same time the Corvettes, Porsches and BMWs will be strong, as in the past. Gimmi doesn’t know the track but I’m pretty sure we’ve got enough time to make him understand and learn about it; I’m not worried about that. We have to be careful with our strategy and pit stops, and save fuel during the race. Consumption is important for these kinds of races.”
Italian Gimmi Bruni will be making his debut at Laguna Seca and, despite his lack of local knowledge, is relishing the challenging of the Corkscrew and the other ten turns that make up the circuit on the former US Army base: “I don’t know anything about the track except what I’ve watched on some races on TV, and on my computer, but I’ll have more practice and track time compared to Long Beach which will be great. Even there my lap times were okay, but it will be good to be at Laguna Seca. It’s a great circuit, as far as I know from its history; one of best tracks to drive on so I’m looking forward to being there.”
Houston-based businessman and Grand-Am team owner, Tracy W Krohn, is looking forward to returning to the California track and views the 6-hour race as a good practice run or precursor event for Le Mans. “We had a problem with the firing sequence in the motor at Sebring,” he says, “so this is a bit like an extended test for Le Mans. We do expect to accomplish consistency with the car, and the team, as we really get into the most intense part of the race year. But make no mistake, we also expect a good result!”
The tall Texan and his Georgia-based Swedish team mate are looking forward to plenty of seat time in their distinctive Krohn-green Ferrari. “Clearly this much seat time is a real plus for me, but it also gives us some time to make sure that the setup on the car is as good as we can make it and that the team is in sync with all the tire changes and driver changes that will occur. Since this is not what I do for a living, it is very important for me to get as much seat time as I can not only pick up a rhythm, but also work on race craft in traffic. This track will be very busy due to the general low grip and sheer number of cars and four different classes!”
Krohn’s feelings are echoed by Nic Jönsson, his long time team mate and endurance driving partner, whose first ever US race was at Laguna Seca. “The goal is to get back up to speed in the Ferrari; we haven’t driven it since Sebring. We will be familiarizing ourselves again with the Michelin tires and the whole package of the Ferrari 430 as well as working with the team we are going to Le Mans with. It’s great for both Tracy and me to get real valuable seat time but it’s very tough competition because we are going up against factory cars, team and drivers. These are some of the best teams in the world. We don’t have any expectation but a good result would be to finish the six hours in one piece and have a good run and good feedback to go into Le Mans.
“We’re very pleased with the Ferrari package and the Risi Competizione team that prepares the car for Krohn Racing for the ALMS races and Le Mans. They have done a stellar job for us over the last four years and we expect the same again, as far as preparation and support. That’s what we’re really looking forward to – to get plugged in to a team that runs full schedule. We can benefit from the work and development they do because we’re running the same car [as the #62] with the same upgrades.”
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