While tomorrow’s opening practice session for the Rolex 24 at Daytona will mark the first laps for Risi Competizione’s new Ferrari 488 GTE on U.S. soil, the Houston-based team isn’t heading into the complete unknown this weekend.
That’s because Risi — the last of the three Ferrari GTLM teams to take delivery of its new turbocharged Prancing Horse — has been getting a helping hand from both Scuderia Corsa and the AF Corse-run SMP Racing squad in getting up to speed with the new car.
As Risi technical director Rick Mayer tells Sportscar365, data gathered from the Roar Before the Rolex 24 — where Mayer, team manager Dave Sims and one other crew member were present — has proven crucial heading into the car’s debut weekend.
“Michelotto collected all of the data from the test and went through that information from the teams and from the drivers and sifted that down to what they think is the best setup,” Mayer told Sportscar365.
“[At the Roar], I listened to Scuderia Corsa’s radio and was in the AF Corse [SMP] pit the whole test.
“I knew what both teams were doing, so I think I had a pretty good handle of what was tried and tested in that regards. I feel pretty comfortable with that.
“We’re also pretty aware of any issues that they’ve had with any reliability concerns, the placement of things that could be damage-prone, etc.
“Little things like that are the normal things you’d pick up when you had a car for a month or two and went through a couple of tests.”
The build of Risi’s chassis was completed last week at Michelotto and completed a successful rollout with drivers Davide Rigon and Olivier Beretta at Fiorano, completing more than 100 miles.
“We sent two mechanics and Don, our data engineer, over to Michelotto when the car was being built in order to see all of this stuff, make lists of things to change,” Mayer said.
“You just do the best you can with that stuff but I think that the group we have are highly skilled people and are probably the best in the business.”
Mayer said he’s been in regular communication with the engineers from the two other teams, with Risi also benefiting from Michelotto’s 488 GTE test car engineer, who has been embedded with the team this weekend.
As for the goals for the weekend, the veteran engineer has remained realistic, knowing the hill they’ll likely have to climb in just getting acclimated, and admitted they’ll likely not focus too much on setup.
“The main thing is going to be able to get all the drivers through the car, work on driver changes, comfort in the car, common knowledge of the components, working on race/radio communications and making sure they understand things,” Mayer said.
But with the strong lineup of Rigon, Beretta and the team’s new full-season pairing of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella, the longtime Ferrari squad — which has fielded every generation of Ferrari GT car to date — shouldn’t be completely counted out in GTLM.
“To our advantage, all four drivers have driven before at Risi, recently,” Mayer said. “All four drivers have driven this car in this spec. And all four drivers have been in this race several times.
“They know the cockpit, they know the controls and know where all the switches are.
“They know how the team operates. They know what my voice sounds like. They’ve all worked with each other, in some capacity or another.
“I think we have a pretty good handle on it, so we’ll see where we end up.”