Thursday, August 25, 2011
First ALMS Win for 458 Italia at Road Atlanta
ELKHART LAKE, WI – The Risi Competezione’s Ferrari 458 Italia won the GT class event at Road Atlanta this past weekend. The prancing horse piloted by Melo and Vilander led the RLL BMW of Werner and Auberlein by a hefty 9.061 sec margin. The BMW of Werner finished second with the second BMW of Hand and Muller coming in third following an aggressive pass of the Flying Lizard Porsche of Bergmeister. The Corvette driven by Gavin led early in the race, but could finish no better than 4th. The second Corvette of Milner was retired from the race due to a crash. The Houston-based Risi team has experienced a series of disappointments this year so the win has special meaning. "We had many problems in the beginning of the year and we were waiting for this win. I don't think it's going to be the last one. It's going to be the beginning of many wins, I think." The elated Vilander continued "It was pretty hard to keep the pace under the conditions. But the team did a great job. The crew is fantastic. The first victory for the Ferrari 458... . I'm really happy.
The LMP1 class experienced tough competition as well with the Muscle Milk Aston Martin driven by Klaus Graf leading the pack with 10 minutes left. With the Dyson Racing Lola Mazda of Guy Smith steadily closing, Graf must have been thinking about last year’s race when with only two turns left in the race, the hungry Aston V12 ran out of fuel costing him the win. This year was different, with the Aston crossing the line with a thin margin of 0.112 seconds! Graf commented, “It was probably one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. They told me to keep pushing and save fuel, so it’s kind of a hard combination! The Autocon Motorsports Lola B06/10 driven by McMurry and Burgess rounded out the podium. This year’s sole LMP2 entry from Level5 Motorsports was a contender for overall winner, but a mid-race pit lane penalty eliminated the possibility.
The LMPC “value-engineered” class entry driven Butch Lietzinger and Rudy Junco Jr scored an impressive 3rd place overall and class-win. It was a stellar performance for the Oreca FLM09 clinching the lead with 33 minutes to go. A jubilant Leitzinger commented, "The PR1 team did just a phenomenal job. At any one point, we would all be together. There was no [team] you could discount and say, 'Oh I'll get by them easily and I won't have to battle them.’ You had to battle everyone, every time for every turn." The GTC class honors went to Black Swan Racing's Jeroen Bleekemolen. The Porsche GT3 came from third to first on an action-packed final lap. "It was unbelievable," Bleekemolen said. "I was catching them the whole time but there was not so much of a difference in speed. Then on the last lap, I got around on Spencer [Pumpelly], who was blocked by the 30 [of Sean Edwards]. Then I could overtake Sean two corners before the end. Then he hit men, so I got a puncture. But still, I could bring it home. It was really close."