Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 No. 62:
Davide Rigon (ITA)
Daniel Serra (BRA)
James Calado (GBR)
Rick Mayer, race engineer of the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTD-Pro team, gives us a preview of this year's 25th Annual Motul Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta, September 29-October 1.
The Risi team previously announced its driver line up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale race as Italian Davide Rigon, Brit James Calado, and Brazilian Daniel Serra.
The Track: Road Atlanta is one of the favorite tracks for Risi Competizione and most of our drivers. Favorites tend to be the ones you’ve had success at, and this is no exception. It’s a fast track layout with a variety of different types of corners making it technically challenging for both the drivers and engineers. It is a busy track for the drivers requiring continuous driver inputs of throttle and steering for a fast lap. You have to hustle the car to go quick here.
The requirements to go fast at Road Atlanta are always the same. You need a good platform for the high-speed corners - Turn 1, the Esses and Turn 12. You can gain a significant amount of time using the apex curbs effectively at Turn 3, then you can nearly straight-line Turn 4 and it is important to be able to use the exit curbs of Turn 5. The curbs at both Turns 7 and 10 also yield lap time. However, as much as you need the curbs for a quick lap time, you must exercise caution as using them repeatedly here ‘could’ lead to failed drivetrain components. It’s a long 10-hour race and you need to be somewhat kind to the car; you must finish to win. Top speed is very important as there are few places to pass.
Setup: Stiffer (springs and anti-roll bars) is better for platform support, but curbing is so important here, it is a compromise. A stiff setup also makes cleaning the pick-up off the tires easier as you can load the tires harder. With such a big field and a short track, the number of times that a GT car may experience pick-up by having to go off the racing line will be increased. Numerous safety car periods are common at Petit making clean, hot tires for restarts important. Dampers that give support, but blow-off on the curbs, can make a big difference here, not just in lap time but longevity of the drivetrain components.
Top speed and downforce level will be based on peer group straight speeds and weather. Greater overall downforce is the quicker way around the track and better for tire life, but you can’t let the competition drive around you on the straight. Passing will be difficult, especially in GTD-Pro when the faster drivers are in the GTD cars. The best passing spot will be braking into Turn 10. However, if you can’t keep up on the straight you won’t be in a position to out-brake someone into Turn 10. The track isn’t particularly hard on brakes, but you need the brakes to last the 370+ laps that the GT cars will run during the race.
Keeping the car low to the ground (low running ride heights) is a challenge at Road Atlanta. Your options are to run very high ride heights (Sebring track levels) or stiff springs or bump rubbers and packers to hold the car up in the large compression areas. The main areas where the car will contact the track are the bumps in the middle of Turn 1 (left rear) and the curb in Turn 3 (right side usually), either the curb itself or the landing from launching off the curb. Your ability to setup around these features will ultimately determine how low to the track you can run the car.
Competition: The Ferrari’s (GTD and GTD-Pro) have only done the endurance races and the Balance of Performance (BoP) has changed since we raced at Watkins Glen. Last year’s Petit didn’t have a GTD-Pro class so it’s hard to compare last year’s data or results to this year. The change in BoP compared to Watkins is +20Kg for Ferrari, Aston, BMW, Mercedes, +10kg Porsche and -20kg Lamborghini. Corvette, Lexus, and McLaren are unchanged. IMSA has not made any power changes -- air restrictor or turbo boost.
The Race: Weather could be a factor. Unseasonably cool conditions and potentially wet at some point from Hurricane Ian. Generally cooler is better comparatively for the Ferrari for power. The cooler, and likely cloudy conditions will make getting heat in the commercial tires tricky. If it’s a lot of rain, power tends to be less of an advantage as you struggle to put power down in the wet, historically IMSA will keep the race going in what most would consider too much water to safely race.
Traffic will play a large role as always at Petit, particularly with the large car count; keeping out of trouble will be crucial for success.
Pit work needs to be only fuel, tires, and driver changes with the occasional addition of engine oil. Anything extra or slow pit work will put you at the back of the field quickly. It’s so hard to pass same class cars; you can’t lose positions in the pits.
Qualifying is less important at these long races then the sprint 2 hour and 40-minute events but keeping up in the lead pack will always be vital due to the level of competition and how difficult it is to pass at Road Atlanta. The current caution rules should keep the GTD-Pro front-runners on the same lap.
Risi run Ferraris have fared well at Petit over the years; it’s one of the team’s more successful venues. The BoP update will slow all the Ferraris down a bit from Watkins Glen, but comparatively how much? Let’s hope we can end the season on a high note. The last race Risi won was here in 2019. Maybe this is our lucky track!