This year’s race features the largest field (45 cars) for any Series race in more than seven years. Only once has the event seen more cars on the starting grid and that was in 2002. Petit Le Mans is one of two races in the world where class winners are able to earn automatic invitations to the following year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The other is Le Mans itself.
For the first time in Series history, championship title chases in all classes are going down to the wire. Thirty points go to class winners at Road Atlanta. Risi needs to win the race and have its nearest rivals – Flying Lizard Motorsports and BMW Rahal Letterman to finish 6th and 5th (or lower) respectively to clinch the Teams’ Championship. It’s a challenge but this team likes nothing better than a challenge.
This year’s Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA 2 is the second round of the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, a global sports car racing championship sanctioned by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) – the governing body of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are three rounds in the 2010 ILMC – Silverstone, which took place earlier in September, Petit Le Mans and Zhuhai, China in November. For 2011, the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will expand to seven events including the two Blue Riband North American ALMS events – Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
Since the weekend’s test session, the Risi Competizione drivers have only been out on track for yesterday’s 90 minutes test session. Despite there being two scheduled practice sessions today, plus night practice, Road Atlanta caught the edge of the tropical storm that has been moving up the Eastern coast of the USA and both the morning and afternoon sessions were wet.
With so much at stake, it was decided that the Risi Ferraris would not run in the wet – a decision echoed by many of the teams up and down the paddock. Having recorded the top two fastest laps yesterday – Bruni on a 1:20.719 and Fisichella on a 1:20.937 – the team feels secure that its ‘rookie’ drivers (Bruni, Fisichella and Vilander) have now learnt the track and are reasonably comfortable with the cars’ set up.
Jaime Melo commented: “It was a good session for all three drivers and Giancarlo did a 1:20.937 on the last lap – the quickest of all of us in the #61 car. I’m pleased with how things went in testing and we are where we want to be. I did my time on new tires but with a full fuel tank so we had good data for the race.”
Giancarlo Fisichella was enjoying his first experience of the 2.54 mile Road Atlanta: “It’s a good track. I had a chance to drive Saturday and Sunday in testing. Saturday was a full day and I did enough laps to learn the track and now I feel confident and comfortable here. Today has been a very good day for us, we are second quickest and, considering the amount of laps on the tires when I drove, I was the quickest of the three of us so I am very happy with that. The car looks good, has a good balance and I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
“It’s a very challenging track, especially the first part of the circuit with a lot of high speed corners. It’s going to be difficult I’m sure on Saturday with the traffic, but it’s going to be an interesting race to follow for sure.”
For tonight’s mandatory night practice, all drivers have to complete a minimum of three laps so the cars will be on track no matter what the conditions.
A large number of guests will be attending Petit Le Mans, representing Risi’s sponsors Pennzoil UltraTM and Motorola, as well as 50 Ferrari owners from the Atlanta area who will be bringing their vehicles for a spectacular Ferrari Corral.
Prior to all the drivers making a visit to talk to the guests tomorrow, we talked to Toni Vilander about the relationship between Ferrari, Shell Oil Company (Pennzoil being one a Shell brand) and Risi Competizione:
RC: Can you tell us more about the partnership with Pennzoil Ultra TM?
TV: Pennzoil Ultra TM is a technical partner and the official motor oil of Risi. Did you know that the same Pennzoil Ultra TM 5W40 that we use in our two Ferrari 430GTs is the same you can buy at the store for your car?
RC: Is there a relationship between Pennzoil and Ferrari as well as Risi Competizione?
TV: Yes. I didn’t know until recently that, when the first Ferrari drove out of the factory gates in Maranello [Italy] in 1947, it was using Shell products to power and protect its engine, just like our cars are today. Shell Oil Company currently has a technical partnership with Ferrari and Pennzoil UltraTM and we know for sure that the testing and engineering done with the oil not only cleans and protects our engines, but that it also meets Ferrari’s very, very high standards.
About Risi Competizione
Risi Competizione is a Houston-based Ferrari racing team lead by Managing Director Giuseppe Risi. Official team sponsors include Krohn Racing, Ferrari of Houston, Boardwalk Auto Group, Pennzoil Ultra, Motorola, AdShip, Ferrari Fort Lauderdale/Long Island and Ferrari of Ontario.
The next round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón will be Petit Le Mans Powered By Mazda at Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia on Saturday, October 2. The 1,000 mile race (or 10 Hours, whichever comes first) race will start at 11:15 am EST and will be shown live on SPEED beginning with Pre-Race at 11:00 am EST. Coverage from 11:00 am – 9:30pm EST. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche – a production of Radio Show Limited – as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242.
© RIF | Miller Media-Fiona Miller