At last, Risi Competizione has some fine timepieces.
A successful competitor in sports car racing since 1998, Giuseppe Risi’s Houston-based team has claimed multiple class victories over the years at Le Mans, Sebring and Petit Le Mans. But until Sunday, it had not celebrated victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado teamed to drive the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 from a fifth-place start in the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class to victory by a lap over the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (992).
Among the spoils for the veteran Risi foursome are the customary Rolex watches awarded to class winners at the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opener.
“This is the race that I was missing, that I really wanted to win,” said Serra, who drove the final stint. “Today is one of the happiest days of my racing career.”
Laurin Heinrich, Seb Priaulx and Michael Christensen brought the pole-winning AO Porsche home in second place, with the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 finishing third with co-drivers Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen and Sheldon van der Linde.
The dominance of the No. 62 Ferrari, which survived a fire in the pits in the first six hours of the race, was on display in the closing stages of the race. The car led the last 82 laps, 130 of the final 136 and 215 overall in the race.
“It’s never easy, you know?” Serra said. “You start to hear some noises in the car and you think that everything is out of control in the last few laps.”
The race tested the mettle of the GTD PRO cars and drivers almost from the start. Just minutes into the race, the 2023 GTD PRO champion was involved in a crash that relegated it to an 11th-place finish. Mike Conway was piloting the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 when Dennis Andersen’s Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) entry spun in front of him at the exit of Turn 1.
With just under two hours remaining in the race, the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW stopped for a brake change while running second behind the No. 62 Ferrari. The brake issues returned shortly after van der Linde returned to the track, and the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche moved into second in class.
In the end, the win and the Rolexes went to Risi Competizione, which started to show the strength of the Ferrari 296 GT3 in its debut last season. It was the first Rolex 24 win for Serra, Rigon and Calado, while Pier Guidi picked up his second watch following a Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) victory in a Level 5 Ferrari 10 years ago.
“Giuseppe deserves it,” Calado said of the team owner. “He’s wanted it for a long time. I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for us. It’s a great way to start the year and puts us in good stead for the rest of the year.”
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service