While Porsche, BMW and Corvette have all visited victory lane this year, Ferrari heads into this weekend’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-ending Petit Le Mans still winless in GT Le Mans, something Risi Competizione’s Pierre Kaffer is hoping to change.
The 38-year-old German has teamed with Giancarlo Fisichella for five podium finishes in nine races in their Ferrari Ferrari F458 Italia, including a runner-up finish at the recent Lone Star Le Mans event at Circuit of The Americas.
“I think we’ve done a very good job this year,” Kaffer told Sportscar365. “We had a bit of bad luck at Daytona when we had a small electrical problem on the car when we were leading. We then had a problem in Sebring but we were able to finish second.
“Through all these races we’ve always been competitive and we were close [to the win] but in the end we couldn’t make it to score a victory.
“I think we made the best out of it. Ferrari and Giuseppe have always looked that we have the best [equipment] that we can get. The crew has done awesome pit stops, always when it counts. We have great strategy.
“Everything counts in GTLM. It’s very, very tight. It’s a great championship and for me, the GT racing is very competitive in terms of lap times. You always need to be 100 percent.”
With Risi being one of only two non-factory teams in GTLM, Kaffer admits it’s been a challenge, but the Houston-based squad has made the most of its resources.
“For me, I’m really proud to drive for Risi,” he said. “We are always there and have been competitive the whole year. Everyone sticks together.
“We’re a small team compared to BMW or especially Porsche, considering how many people are working. They have a different number in the budget.
“But with what we have, we’re acting like a factory team. You cannot say we’re a proper underdog.
“We have done such great work this year. And when it comes down to developing the car, we’ve always done something that made the car faster and have analyzed things.
“To compete [with the factory teams] and beat them, in the end, makes it even sweeter.”
Kaffer has remained upbeat on their chances in Saturday’s ten-hour enduro, knowing they have the tools in place to end the season on a high.
“One of the keys is to stay out of trouble, like always, but you have to have a good feeling for the strategy,” Kaffer said. “When you fight with the factory teams you always have to stay in touch with them.
“The pit stops are also one of the biggest keys of the race. It’s where I can count on my boys at Risi Competizione. We practice the pit stops so much. For sure, the others do it as well but we’re able to do it slightly faster.
“You could see at the last race in Austin, we [gained] four positions in the pits and I think it will always be up and down with the positions in the race because it’s so easy in GTLM to make a mistake or get stuck in traffic.
“There are so many things that can happen in ten hours but I think the track suits our Ferrari and we’ve always been competitive there.”
While Petit Le Mans will likely mark Risi’s final race with the venerable F458 Italia, with the new 488 GTB set to debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, Kaffer is hoping to continue his American journey with Risi with the new-generation Prancing Horse.
However, Kaffer said nothing’s been signed for 2016.
“I know the new car, the 488, is an amazing car, from what I’ve heard already,” he said. “To be a part of the whole championship again would be amazing.
“I really love the team and we have such a good atmosphere. It would be great to drive again next year with Giuseppe and Giancarlo as a teammate.
“I’m a big fan of American racing. It’s real proper racing and a real challenge. I’d be really happy to continue in America again.”