Risi Competizione, No. 62 Looks Ahead to Sebring

f259dc3f-12f8-4256-8eef-de7cbd0d7ba0 (2)

Houston, Texas – (March 11, 2015)…Rick Mayer, race engineer of the Risi Competizione No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia team, takes a look ahead at the upcoming Mobil 1 63rd Annual 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida race, March 19-21, 2015 at the celebrated Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.


Pilots of the Risi Competizione Ferrari for the 12 Hours of Sebring include Pierre Kaffer (Germany), Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) and Andrea Bertolini (Italy).


Risi Competizione
race engineer, Rick Mayer

General: The field of 47 cars for this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring’s is reduced from the 66 cars of 2014. This will be a more manageable car count on the 3.74 mile 17-turn track. A smaller car count should reduce the cautions as the reduction is mostly in the Pro-Am classes. Pit boxes will still be tight but an improvement from last year.


GTLM Competition: There are NO weak cars, manufacturers, drivers or teams in GTLM this year. The #3 Corvette won Daytona, in a convincing fashion, but none of the others had a clean run. We certainly didn’t. All the GTLM manufacturers; Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, Corvette and Aston Martin will have super competitive cars and second to none driver lineups. You can do this race with two drivers but all will have at least three on their entry list. We won’t know the comparative inter-class pace until race week with the cancellation of the long standing Sebring IMSA winter test days. This has unfortunately forced all the serious competitors to organize expensive private test days at Sebring prior to the event week. The BoP (Balance of Performance) from Daytona may or may not suit Sebring. Unfortunately TUDOR’s first three race tracks are anomalies; Daytona, Sebring, and Long Beach. You would have to give the BMWs a slight advantage at Sebring, with the current BoP. All they needed last year was a bigger engine restrictor, which they got this year. The Porsches will still be strong as they still have the highest downforce in the GTLM field via their BoP, while still maintaining good power and speed. You can’t count the Corvettes out as they are always fast here and have a favorable BoP. The Aston Martin is a bit of an unknown. They’ve been very fast here in the past, have a favorable BoP but went out so early in Daytona that their true pace is still unknown. They are quick in Europe so we’d expect them to be quick in the States as well. The Ferrari has typically been fast here with a good finishing record (last year excluded), and should be competitive this year as well.


The Track: Sebring is a historic track hosting the longest running endurance race in North America; it’s also one of the toughest tracks to get the setup right. You’re always chasing the setup as the track changes throughout the week. It’s super bumpy in sections, which means you want to go in a softer setup direction. There are numerous near-threshold braking zones that require good platform support and two sections where change of direction is important, which doesn’t suit a soft setup. So it’s a conundrum. You need very good braking here and that’s a main area for gains, and the brakes need to be consistent and last 12 hours. The drivers need confidence in Turn 1 and Turn 17 on the bumps and a good platform in Turns 3-4 and Turns 15-16 for the change of direction. Good power down out of Turns 5, 7, 10, 13 and 16 aids in a quick lap, as they all lead on to relatively long straights.


The Setup: Sebring is a compromise. You need dampers that support the car but are compliant, with enough high speed damping to settle and control the car through the bumps. Too much low speed damping upsets the car on the bumps but not enough and you lose platform support/control. Ride heights are typically higher than the legal minimum to keep the car from bottoming, mainly in Turn 17. The typical GTLM 458 Ferrari direction is moderate springs with anti-roll bars on the soft side. GT cars, in general, struggle with rear stability under braking at turn-in, and this is the worst track for this tendency. A soft setup tends to aggravate this tendency. The Ferrari 458 is no exception. Good power down is important with the many long straights; most are not actually ‘straight’ but are long full throttle sections. If you get the rear stable, the tendency for off-brake mid-corner understeer becomes the next problem, which delays the ability to go to power. Sebring is bumpy. Sebring is low frequency large amplitude bumps (inputs), just the opposite of a track like Long Beach, which is more high frequency low amplitude.


The Race: The last several years have seen the end to the classic endurance race strategy where you’d save the car to make it to the end. The cars are all so reliable now that long races are just long full-on sprint races. The safety car wave-by rules are intact from Daytona, which should again keep the class fights competitive to the end, as this race will likely be caution filled. Pit boxes will again be small and crowded. This track doesn’t have the best runoff area and with the large car count, patience on the track will be very important. You have to finish strong to win and penalties for avoidable contact are steep; you’ll go down a lap easy in the penalty box.


This is my favorite track and it’s been a good track for Risi Competizione with numerous podiums and three GT class wins. Let’s just hope our series of bad luck and poor results in recent long races comes to an end.


On Track: Practice session one begins Thursday morning, March 19 at 10:15 a.m. EDT, with GTLM class qualifying scheduled for 4:45 p.m. EDT, Friday March 20. The race start will be Saturday, March 21 at 10:40 a.m. EDT. Live timing and scoring is available for all on-track sessions at IMSA.com and the IMSA Smartphone app.