James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra claimed GT Le Mans class honors for the returning Risi Competizione outfit at Motul Petit Le Mans.
The Houston-based Risi squad took victory on its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race appearance since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January.
Additionally, the same driver lineup that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE-Pro class with Ferrari earlier this year picked up another endurance racing major for the Italian manufacturer.
Calado, who was a part of Risi’s 2016 Petit-winning crew, led going into the final half-hour when the field was bunched under a full course caution following a clash between two GT Daytona class cars.
This forced the Risi driver to defend a two-second gap to Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT in order to seal the victory.
While Briscoe initially ate into the difference, the Ford driver was unable to get close enough to make a pass for the win, leaving Calado to cross the line first by a margin of 7.7 seconds.
It marked the Houston-based team’s first WeatherTech Championship victory in exactly three years, and its third in the post-merger era.
Briscoe, who partnered Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, finished 14 seconds up the road from Tom Blomqvist in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, while the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller came through in fourth.
The Corvette restarted from the late caution in fifth, but moved up a place when the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR had an off-track moment after contact with the eventual overall race-winning No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Pipo Derani.
Despite losing the position, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor still ended the season as drivers’ champions in the top-five with their endurance co-driver Mathieu Jaminet.
The second Porsche of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki finished sixth, as the first car off the lead lap.
Saturday’s race was largely a fight between Ferrari and Ford, with Risi locked in a battle against the two Ganaasi cars for much of the ten hours.
Calado started from class pole before handing over to Pier Guidi, but the Italian slipped to second behind the No. 66 Ford during a round of pit stops in the third hour.
The No. 67 car also came into play in the opening half of the race and ended up leading the No. 66 Ford and the Ferrari in a tight three-car train until Dirk Mueller spun the second-placed Ford into the Turn 1 gravel just before the midway point.
This opened the door for the No. 25 BMW to enter the equation, with De Phillippi settling into third place behind Westbrook and Pier Guidi in the eighth hour.
It was at this time that the Risi Ferrari returned to the front, when Pier Guidi drafted past Westbrook’s Ford into the Turn 10a left-hander.
Risi never relinquished its advantage after that, with Calado steering the car into the final hour and beyond the last restart to secure the win.
While BMW got one of its cars on the podium, the German marque’s No. 24 machine was the first GTLM entry to falter with mechanical issues forcing it to spend an early portion of the race in its garage stall.
This marked the only major loss of laps in the field, with the sixth-placed No. 4 Corvette coming through three laps down and the No. 66 Ford recovering to finish seventh.
RESULTS: Motul Petit Le Mans