As new cars take center stage in the GT Le Mans class, starting with this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, one of the other notable storylines comes with the biggest absence in class: Risi Competizione’s new Ferrari 488 GTE.
Risi is in a race against time to make the Rolex 24 at Daytona with its new twin-turbo car, and any delay would significantly hinder the team’s projected timeline.
The team will receive its new chassis from Michelotto on race week, and as Risi team manager Dave Sims explained, the time crunch – even with an extra week compared to last year between the Roar and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener – is coming to a head shortly.
“We have to hope the shipping goes as smoothly and as quickly as possible. We’ve got a couple guys over there,” Sims told Sportscar365.
“We have to hear from Michelotto as soon as possible what the date of shipping is, because any delay would hurt.
“The ideal thing for us would be for us to have our truck pick it up – either in Miami or Orlando where it would arrive, we don’t know yet – and bring it here to transport to Daytona.”
Some of the Risi crew is on site at Daytona with one of the team’s transporters, in a fact-finding and gathering mission about the new 488 GTE.
Risi is paddocked next to Scuderia Corsa, who debuts its own new 488 GTE this weekend ahead of the first race of its new Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup program.
Meanwhile three crewmembers are in Michelotto watching and assisting in the final build of Risi’s chassis.
A shakedown is planned at Fiorano before Risi’s chassis arrives Stateside, at which point it will be sight unseen to some of the crew going into the race itself, assuming all goes to plan.
Sims also noted the fact that compared to other tracks, the fact the new car would be arriving at Daytona means it’s not necessarily guaranteed it could go immediately into the track when it arrives.
There could be certain hours where the car can be unloaded into the facility that are more amenable than others.
Of the 54 cars entered for the Roar, and presumably the Rolex 24 itself, only Risi is absent with any car.
The team presses ahead regardless, and Sims noted the positivity of having Toni Vilander back in the team full-time. He’ll join Giancarlo Fisichella for the season with Davide Rigon and Olivier Beretta added for the Rolex 24.
Surprisingly, Ferrari factory ace Vilander hasn’t been Stateside full-time since 2011, when he teamed with Jaime Melo at Risi in the American Le Mans Series.
“He’s magic. He’s just so good all around,” Sims said of Vilander.
“It’s fabulous to have him back. He’s already made it back to Florida this week, and he’s here with his family. He’s really looking forward to it.”
Sims also noted the abnormality where Risi’s new 488 GTE, hypothetically, could go through a 24-hour race before it ever has a first full test beyond a shakedown.
“The test in February at Sebring is going to be very important for us,” he said. “Literally it’ll be the first time we’ve tested with the new car.
“(Sebring) is a good place for us to test. That’s where you want to test. If it’ll break, it’ll break there.”