While much of the attention in the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be on the performance of Corvette and Porsche in GTLM, with both marques debuting new cars in the race, Risi Competizione’s privateer effort is still a storyline that should be followed.
The American outfit, back with a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo once again, is looking to score its first Rolex 24 victory in its 18th attempt (it has four class podiums to its name), up against the might of three full-factory teams.
For this task it will be supported in part by Ferrari and AF Corse, and run a quartet of factory drivers, with Daniel Serra, James Calado, Davide Rigon and Alessandro Pier Guidi all signed up. Nevertheless, while Risi may look and run like a factory team program, it’s still very much a privateer effort.
Its crew members are more than familiar with Ferrari’s 488 platform, having raced with it since 2016, but the team is running a brand-new chassis in Florida, which it took delivery of last December. The team’s older car is also present, but only for photo opportunities.
Risi opted to purchase a new car ahead of this year’s race to give itself the best chance of challenging the other GTLM teams. Even now, with the race a couple of days away, it still doesn’t have much mileage on it, as before this week had the team only had a chance to shake it down at Adria in Italy before the Roar Before The Rolex 24.
Speaking of the Roar, the team worked with only two drivers, and focused on getting Serra plenty of laps, as he hasn’t driven in GTLM at the Rolex 24 since 2016.
“At the Roar, we had Daniel and James,” the team’s race engineer Rick Mayer told RACER. “I normally would just bring one driver because you don’t need to have all the drivers for that. But Daniel hadn’t had a lot of time in a GT car — he’s had more time in a GT3 — so I wanted to get him a little more acclimated.
“We also had to test the tires, because this year they are brand-new tires that they’re using in the WEC and they’re completely different than last year’s tires. And every GTLM manufacturer has different tires now. There’s no crossovers anymore so we had to turn what we wanted to race on and try to sort our allocation.
“We also wanted to put a few hundred kilometers on the car before the race, because you don’t want to go into these events without ironing out any new car teething issues.”
Mayer feels that the key to success for Risi this week is the weather. The team is hoping that the temperature will stay cool and that rain will fall during the race. Last year, he said in reflection, the team didn’t have the fastest car, but finished second after taking advantage of the rain towards the end.
“Unfortunately it’s supposed to be dry for the race,” explained Mayer. “We have a power disadvantage, and we’re competitive in the wet as it nullifies any outright speed we lack. But we have four of the best pro drivers on the planet so we still have a chance of course.”
With fewer cars than normal — just 38 on the entry list — he says it remains to be seen how this race will play out and how the reduction in traffic will affect the race.
“Usually the cautions here are a result of having gentlemen drivers in fast cars, like Prototype Challenge cars in the past. There are gentlemen in LMP2 cars, but the smaller field may make the race run clearer than usual. The fact that there’s fewer GTLM cars than last year (no Fords) isn’t a big deal though, as it’ll still be a tough race for us.”
All eyes are on a big result here, as looking beyond this week Risi hasn’t got any firm plans for its 488 GTE. A strong finish could go a long way in helping Giuseppe Risi decide what to do next…