The return of Risi
Allen Moody | Highlands TodayThe American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patron is known for its impressive looking racecars with their colorful livery. Yet one of the most recognizable cars in the entire series elects to forgo many of the visual theatrics. It is the GT car of Risi Competizione and to many people, it is simply known as "the red Ferrari."
Published: March 12, 2013
Published: March 12, 2013
The red Ferrari is back after a one-year absence and there have been some changes since the last time Sebring fans saw the team in action. Most notably, Giuseppe Risi's team has a pair of new drivers in Olivier Beretta and Matteo Malucelli.
"I'm very happy to see Risi back," Beretta said. "We missed Risi last year. I think everyone missed him and it's very good to have one more Ferrari back in the championship."
Beretta is well-known to Sebring fans, having been one of the factory Corvette drivers for a number of years before the two had a bit of a falling out after the 2011 season.
"At the end, we had a different idea and it was time to split for both sides," Beretta said. "I have a lot of friends over there. Not all, but 99 percent of the guys are my friends."
Beretta raced for AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship last year, which included a first-place finish on the WEC side of the GT class at Sebring.
The 28-year-old Malucelli may not be familiar to Sebring fans, but he is an Italian GT champion, and when you have the recommendation of the likes of Giuseppe Risi and Beretta, there is no question that he can get the job done.
"Matteo is a good driver and doesn't need advice on what to do," Beretta said.
Malucelli had been to Sebring in 2007 and admitted to being unfamiliar with the stops on the ALMS schedule.
"For me, all tracks are new," he said. "The circuits are different."
With Extreme Speed Motorsports making the late jump to the LMP2 class, Risi will be one of just two cars carrying the Ferrari banner in the ALMS this season. The Team West/Alex Job Racing/Boardwalk Ferrari entry is the other.
"I'm happy to race Ferrari; I'm half Italian," Beretta said. "I think the car will be competitive."
The Risi name has quite a reputation in the United States, as the team won the 2006 and 2007 and has several victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring, including 2007's memorable GT2 victory over Flying Lizard Motorsports, in which Risi won by .202 seconds.
The Risi name also carries quite a bit of weight overseas.
"I know Risi," Malucelli said. "When I drove in Le Mans in 2008 and 2009 I arrived second, always behind the Risi cars. So I was thinking I wanted to drive for them because they were always ahead of us."
Beretta said Sebring poses plenty of challenges, with the top-notch competition in the GT class among the most obvious.
"Most people would think that Sebring is an endurance race and that we have time to make up for mistakes," he said. "But it is a sprint race from the first lap to the end so testing is very important here. We have seen many times cars in the GT class finish the race on the same lap and, a lot of times, close together. It's a very difficult track and the competition is very high. Everyone wants to win this race."
The team has some other new faces behind the scenes, but Beretta said that everybody knows what they are doing and the team will be just fine.
"Risi is just coming back, Matteo is new to all the tracks and I'm just coming back to America," he said. "Everyone is new, but everyone has experience. At the end we'll be OK."
Malucelli agreed that there are plenty of new things for everybody to get accustomed to, but he was looking forward to the challenge of racing in Sebring.
"We are here to run," he said. "The bumps are here for all the cars. I can see the people are very friendly. For me it should be a good experience."
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