The storyline in GT Le Mans this year has seemingly centered on every team and manufacturer except Risi Competizione and Ferrari.
Corvette Racing got the year off to a strong start with back-to-back wins at Daytona and Sebring, plus a 24 Hours of Le Mans win for good measure. Then BMW Team RLL delivered its own back-to-back triumphs out West, at Long Beach and Monterey.
Team Falken Tire survived the rain at Watkins Glen, and lately, Porsche North America has had it all its way with a hat trick of wins heading into today’s Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas.
Through it all, Risi has been there, but not quite able to pull off a victory.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer have banked four podium finishes – two seconds and thirds apiece – including thirds to the pair of factory Porsche 911 RSRs the last two rounds at Road America and Virginia International Raceway.
Their chase of their elusive first 2015 win continues at COTA with long odds, following a nightmare qualifying session that saw the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia eighth and last in GTLM, exactly 1.6 seconds off the pace of polesitter Patrick Pilet.
The team noted an incompatibility between the rubber laid down from the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race just before qualifying, which affected the Ferrari’s overall balance.
A setup change gone awry has left the team frustrated, but not defeated, heading into today’s race.
“We made a small change before qualifying and I don’t know if that was for the better or worse, but we just had no grip and general oversteer, as well,” said Risi race engineer Rick Mayer.
Team manager Dave Sims said even a third straight podium may be harder to achieve this weekend, given where the team stacks up in GTLM in Balance of Performance.
“As regards to the BoP, it’s against us, but there’s no ifs and buts,” Sims told Sportscar365. “Certain teams have bigger (air) restrictors and fuel restrictors.
“We’re quicker than all the teams in the pits with our boys. We were fifth at the moment (before qualifying), which is unusual for us. It will be harder, but we’re not giving up.”
Sims noted that Kaffer, who is one of three drivers pulling double duty this weekend between the TUDOR Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship, is keeping on task between sessions even as he’s bouncing between two entirely separate cars and teams.
In both cases, the German is on a single-car team as a privateer up against the factory efforts. In TUDOR it’s with the Ferrari while in the WEC it’s in the LMP1 privateer ranks, in the Team ByKolles CLM P1/01 AER.
“You can’t blame the guy when he gets an opportunity like that,” Sims said. “Good luck to him. He was good in LMP1, particularly (Thursday) night. It doesn’t disrupt us, or the logistics, or our performance in any way.”
Compared to a turbulent 2014 season that saw the team begin the year with Matteo Malucelli alongside Fisichella before he lost his ride after two incident-filled races, then Dane Cameron filling in for one race before Kaffer rejoined the team, 2015 has brought needed stability back to Risi.
In the team’s final year with the venerable F458 Italia before the new Ferrari 488 GTB comes online in 2016, Kaffer and Fisichella are tied for fourth in the GTLM points.
At 15 points back of Pilet, they’re a longshot, but not mathematically eliminated from title contention.
“It’s been frustrating at times, but everyone’s done a good job,” Sims said. “The pit stops have been really special, that’s where we’ve gained the podiums!
“As a single car team up against two-car factory teams, it’s tough. But we get there. We push ‘em. Podiums are always possible, and it’s always what we’re going for.”