The No. 89 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro will start the 87th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race from the 17th position in class. Luis Felipe "Pipo" Derani, Oliver Jarvis, and Jules Gounon are drivers for this year's running of the twice-around-the-clock Le Mans 24hr
Coming into this week's official practice and qualifying sessions, the Risi Competizione team had a deficit of track time after the official Test day on Sunday, June 2. With all three drivers missing the early Driver's Meeting due to traveling to Le Mans from other racing events, and an electrical issue that lost over two hours of potential track time, the usual benefits of the Test day were not gained for the Risi team.
Le Mans on track action started Wednesday night at the Circuit de la Sarthe under a drizzling sky with Derani at the wheel. A broken splitter lost valuable practice time as the team replaced it and waited out the weather and a long red flag. Therefore, the Risi Ferrari clocked just 24 laps in the four-hour practice.
The second Wednesday night session was part of the three-session qualifying effort and Gounon was first at the wheel. The Frenchman is a Le Mans rookie this year and the team wanted to get his mandatory five laps completed in Wednesday's night qualifying session. Once completed, the Risi team cycled through Jarvis and Derani, while gathering valuable data on set up, tires and more. All three drivers got better acclimated to the Ferrari 488 GTE, and Gounon completed his rookie lap requirements, while the team managed a pre-race limited lap count game plan. Thursday's qualifying sessions saw the Houston, Texas-based team pit for adjustments as the drivers continued to cycle through and feel more comfortable in the cockpit. Although the final combined qualifying time for the Risi entry was below their usual lap chart performance, it is not indicative of the potential of the blue Prancing Horse Ferrari.
Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
"Our Le Mans race week started on the Sunday Test when we missed four hours of eight hours available track time. The drivers had other obligations with other series and the make-up Driver Meeting was very late, unfortunately, and not very accommodating to the drivers that weren't in WEC. Then we had an engine electrical issue that shut the car off. We lost a lot of time Sunday so we're on the back foot a bit.
We have good drivers and they are very competent and capable drivers, but they are not as familiar with the car as say other Ferrari drivers are that are factory drivers. They all need laps in the car to get acclimated and we were shortened on laps on Sunday. Then we had some inclement weather on the long session on Wednesday. We tried to put some remnant of a session in on the qualifying session on Wednesday, but again we were still playing catch up from the Sunday and Wednesday.
Today we made a couple of changes and the car got better. We seemed to be a little happier with the car. Not that we were unhappy with the car and then we just tried to play catch up but never got there. We've had some equipment issues and other small issues that have just compounded. I don't think we have a bad car; I think we have a good car. We just need to see what we can do before the race to fix some of these small things and get back on pace. I don't think our qualifying position is indicative of our pace; it's faster not slower."
"Pipo" Derani, driver No. 89 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro:
"I think it hasn't been an easy weekend, but that's part of our sport. Sometimes we try to understand things a little bit beyond what can be understood. We are working hard to make a better car for the race, but unfortunately the race weekend hasn't been according to plan. It's a 24-hour race and we're going to work hard. It's been a pleasure to work with Giuseppe and the whole team. They are very dedicated. It's not ideal at the moment, but we still have 24 hours to go and we'll give our best."
Oliver Jarvis, driver No. 89 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro:
"We're a bit behind on our set up but we actually have a pretty good car for the race. Starting behind the curve and playing catch up has been challenging but this is a strong team and set of drivers and we'll all get there. Our qualifying pace may have been off but for a 24-hour race and it's more important to get the small issues worked out and be ready to drive a strong race."
Jules Gounon, driver No. 89 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro:
"It's been a really hard two days. We had a few issues that have carried over, so we are on the backfoot at the moment and trying to catch the delay that we took. We have a good race pace. For sure we are starting far back, but I think from the Risi history they have started last when they won in the past. It's a 24-hour race. Nothing has happened, only qualifying so let's stay positive for the race."
The 24-hour race starts at 15:00 local time on Saturday afternoon and is expected to run under partly sunny skies all weekend.