James Calado said it was the “most emotional feeling in the world” to cross the line and take victory for Risi Competizione in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans 10-hour.
Calado, who shared the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra, took the checkered flag to deliver the Risi squad’s first IMSA victory in three years.
The Ferrari factory GT driver, who along with Pier Guidi and Serra won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, hailed the “incredible achievement” of winning two classic long-distance races in the same calendar year.
“We lost someone really close to us last month, so I was going over the line and letting it all out,” Calado said, dedicating the win to a family member who recently passed away.
“It was incredible, just the most emotional feeling in the world. Something came out of me that I’ve never had before. I gave it everything.
“I knew Ford would give it their all as it was their last race. It was Ferrari vs. Ford. That’s what it’s all about.
“Thanks to the team for an amazing car. The lineup was incredible and what a result. It was a really hard race.”
Calado said the Ferrari came alive in the latter part of the race, as track temperatures cooled around the 2.54-mile Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta circuit.
His co-driver Pier Guidi took the lead in the eighth hour with an overtake on Richard Westbrook’s Ford GT as darkness began to descend, which set up the run to the win.
“We didn’t test so we came into the race as a bit of unknown,” admitted Calado.
“We had serious blistering on the tires to the point that we had to short stint for safety reasons. We were hoping that the temperatures would come down and they did. Not to say it wasn’t over, these tire issues, but it helped.
“The car was amazing at the end. What a drive, what a team.”
Team principal Giuseppe Risi, meanwhile, described the win as a “special” achievement for his privateer squad.
“There was a time when we were used to getting a lot of victories but that went away for a little while, so it’s special for my team,” Risi told Sportscar365.
“I’m really proud of the people because without the team you don’t have anything.
“It’s a very solid team, but it’s not easy to keep good people together as a privateer, that’s the bottom line.”
Briscoe: Ford’s Last Race was “Perfectly Executed”
There was “not much more” that Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 67 crew could have done to prevent the Risi Ferrari from taking the race win, according to Ryan Briscoe.
The Ford GT’s last-ever race outing in factory hands resulted in a second-place finish for Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, who featured heavily in the class lead battle.
“We saw that when the sun went down and Richard was in the car, the Ferrari all of a sudden lit it up,” Briscoe told Sportscar365.
“We had a good gap over them and then he just started coming and coming, and then he overtook us.
“With that yellow at the end, I thought I had one last swing there. I turned up the wick big time, but he turned it up too and was putting up some big lap times.
“We just didn’t have enough for them, but I’m so proud of the guys. It was a perfectly executed race on our part. There was not much more we could do.
“I’m very proud of it – it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve got to thank everyone at Ford for their support all along.”
John Dagys contributed to this report.