James Calado says Risi Competizione has “no excuse not to be at the front” of this weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans despite the Ferrari team missing the last nine GT Le Mans races.
The Risi squad is making its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race appearance since the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, where it finished second in class.
For its return, it is fielding this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE-Pro winning lineup of Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra in a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, as the only entry from the Italian manufacturer in IMSA’s top GT category.
Calado, who helped Risi to its Daytona podium finish, reckons the team can be instantly competitive against the full-season GTLM entries at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I think Risi always go into it because they want to win, as do we as drivers,” the Englishman told Sportscar365.
“So we want to win, and we’ve won here before. We were second in Daytona and that was really close between us and the BMW, so the goal here is to win again.
“They’re an experienced team and they’ve been doing it for many years, so there’s no excuse to not be at the front.”
Calado said he and his co-drivers will likely take some time to re-acquaint themselves with the 2.5-mile Road Atlanta course, but expects them to be on the pace after that.
The Ferrari GT factory driver hasn’t raced at the circuit since 2016, when he won the ten-hour enduro for Risi with Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander.
“We’ll probably take it easy to start with,” said Calado. “But we’ll get a lot of practice and there’ll be no risk-taking.
“It’s just a matter of common sense, really, and finding a decent balance. The track’s going to be green early on so we’ll just take it easy. There’s no point going crazy.
“It’s a track with a lot of changes in direction and there are a lot of high-speed corners, so it’s not easy to overtake.
“Managing the others, especially the GTDs where they’ve got a lot less grip, and finding the right way to overtake is quite important. It’s more of an experience thing than anything.
“I love Road Atlanta because a track where you’ve got to be a bit brave is always quite nice, because the driver can make a bit more of a difference.”
Calado added that it’s exciting to see Ferrari’s Le Mans-winning driver lineup reunited for another endurance race this year.
“We know each other really well and we’ve got similar driving styles,” he said.
“We’ve got similar seat positions too, which is important for the fast driver changes in IMSA. Looking at it, I think we’re in good shape. We’ve got a good lineup and it’s great that Risi are back again.
“It’s always good to see a Ferrari fighting in the top-level GT class.”