In the late 1970s, Federal laws in the United States were changing to ban private automotive importers; Ferrari would become the sole distributor of its road cars, the newly established Ferrari North America taking over from the successful Luigi Chinetti Snr. Risi had connections to the Prancing Horse, notably through Mauro Forghieri, the chief engineer of Ferrari’s racing operations for much of ‘60s and ‘70s, as well as via a friend who was a Ferrari importer in Spain. This led to an offer to establish a new dealership in Texas, USA in 1979.
‘It’s just one of those things,’ he humbly recalls. ‘I’m not an engineer or mechanic, but back then, selling 25-30 cars per year, you could learn and build yourself up. I’m tremendously passionate and respectful of the Ferrari brand, and I’ve always hired extremely good people around me. You surround yourself with the right people, and build it into what you have today.’ Which, modestly, is nothing short of two renowned Ferrari dealerships, and an international racing team with wins at Le Mans, Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
Risi spent two decades focused upon his new business, but the racing bug never left. ‘You can’t get away from it,’ he smiles. ‘I watched a few races, then we did a few events with the local Ferrari club – and then we were looking in earnest for a Ferrari F333 SP sports-prototype…’
At the same time as establishing a highly successful effort for his clients in the burgeoning Ferrari Challenge in North America, Risi purchased F333 SP chassis 17 and 18 and entered a car into the 1998 IMSA GT Championship in partnership with Doyle Racing. They won the second race of the season, won at the inaugural Petit Le Mans that year too, and finished atop the championship. In-between, their second Ferrari won the LMP1 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In 1999 Doyle-Risi’s F333 SP finished runner-up at the 24 Hours of Daytona, rounding out an impressive two decades in the United States for Giuseppe Risi. How does he look back on that 20-year anniversary? Matter-of-factly: ‘Second is good, but it’s never enough, is it?’
From there Risi took full control of the team, establishing Risi Competizione. Another 2nd overall followed at Daytona in 2003 with the Ferrari 360 Modena, but it was with the subsequent Ferrari F430 that Risi came to the fore.
‘We won everything really. We had great fun with a great car,’ is his neat summation. The longer version is thus: together with factory Ferrari drivers Mika Salo and Jaime Melo, Risi Competizione won the GT2 class in what had then become the American Le Mans Series. A year later, in 2007, they repeated that feat, and eight victories in 12 races handed Salo and Melo the drivers’ title. A class victory at Le Mans was Risi’s in 2008, their second in four attempts, and 2009 saw another Le Mans win, plus triumphs at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
Risi Competizione has since raced the 458, and now the 488 GTE, once again with huge success – but one victory eludes them. ‘Daytona is iconic, but we’ve always been the bridesmaids,’ Risi says, recounting his team finishing just 1.149 seconds off the GTLM lead in 2019.
‘I love motorsport and I love this race. The team always start asking me halfway through the season if we’re doing Daytona again the following year. The banking is spectacular, especially at night it’s real cool. We love endurance racing, we know how to prepare a long-distance racing car. Ferrari has been my life for 40 years, and we’ll keep giving this race everything we’ve got.’
Thanks to Classic Driver for the great story about Yan whos is doing every year the official poster for the Challenge and GT Days
If you watched the 2020 Formula 1 championship, then you’ll probably have seen one of Yan Denes’ latest artworks on Charles Leclerc’s helmet for the Scuderia 1000th Grand Prix. The helmet was ornamented with Yan’s drawings of 15 championship-winning Ferrari single seaters and a portrait of Enzo Ferrari, for a total of 16 drawings to match Leclerc’s race number.
Being directly commissioned by Scuderia Ferrari to create these drawings was the ultimate recognition for Denes: drawing Ferrari racing cars at speed is what he’s known for, and the roots of his ambition go back far. “I’ve always wanted to be an artist, I love American minimal art of the ’60s in particular,” he says. “But I have to confess a strong love of Ferraris since age nine, when I bumped into a Ferrari rally in Corsica, where my family is from”.
The Ferrari crews for the LMGTE Pro class of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season have been officially announced. Old and new faces will take the wheel of two 488 GTEs fielded by AF Corse.
Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado will again take the wheel of car no. 51. In their fourth world championship season, the crew will launch an assault on the title, looking to repeat their 2017 win. “I can’t wait to get started,” said James Calado, “It’s going to be six hard-fought races against the Porsche crews. We saw last year that we are capable of winning both individual races and the championship, and so we’ll try to do everything in our power to claim the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for Ferrari again”.
“Given that we’ll be competing with Porsche for the title”, echoed Alessandro Pier Guidi, “I hope that the Balance of Performance can be revised from last year, to allow us to fight on equal terms, for the benefit of the show on the track. From our side, we have the advantage of stability and harmony within the team, and good competitiveness on all tracks. Therefore, we are setting off to try to win the title. It’s not the number of cars that determines a championship’s level, quite the contrary. With fewer cars at the start, a zero in the ranking could be decisive for the final outcome”. The third driver for the rounds involving them will be announced later.
The second AF Corse crew has a new number and new line-up. Spanish driver Miguel Molina and Brazilian Daniel Serra will share wheel in car no. 52. The two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in particular, is eager to start the new series. “My goal was to race in the WEC,” commented Serra, “and I am delighted to be heading into the 2021 season. I know the team and my teammate very well, and I think we can do well together. I’m preparing myself as best as I can to be ready when the season kicks off”.
“I’m delighted to be back in the WEC after my first full season, which was very useful for gaining experience”, said Miguel Molina. “The championship is very competitive, and I’m satisfied with what I achieved. I’m happy to share the 488 GTE with Daniel because he is so fast and we have a great relationship. I also want to thank Davide because in these years he has been an exemplary teammate. I have had the chance to learn a lot from him, and he has pushed me to improve”. Davide Rigon, who has been involved in the world championship since 2016, will join the pair in the long-distance races, seeking to win the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and Asian Le Mans Series titles. In addition to his on-track duties in the GT world, he is confirmed in his role as simulator driver for Scuderia Ferrari, which he has held since 2014.
Credit: HERE at races.ferrari.com