The 24 Hours of Le Mans
They call it the world’s toughest test of man and machine. The 24 Hours of Le Mans in France is the crown jewel of international sports car racing and Ferrari is one of the two most successful auto manufacturers in the race’s 85-year history.
This year, the winning Ferrari in the GT2 (Grand Touring) class was run by the Houston based Risi Competizione team – current American Le Mans Series Champions. The red (what other color for a Ferrari?) F430 GT beat off some tough opposition and a wide mix of challenging weather conditions to take the checkered flag at 3pm on June 15 in front of some 258,000 people. The green flag had dropped exactly 24 hours earlier, at the command of astronauts in space no less, and Risi’s driving team was soon working through its carefully planned, “no risk” race strategy. It led the race for nearly 22 hours.
Gimmi Bruni of Italy, Brazilian Jaime Melo and former Ferrari F1 driver, Finland’s Mika Salo, performed faultlessly throughout – as did their new Oakley triple-layer, fireproof race suits and those of the 26-strong team of mechanics, engineers and other personnel. The car completed 326 laps of the 8.5 mile track; that’s 2700 miles on a track which is made up mostly of public roads, at an average speed of over 100 mph.
The 27 pit stops carried out by the team included re-fueling of the car at every stop, new tires at every other stop, and a change of driver every two to three hours, depending on the time of day or night. While the drivers get a massage, shower, clean clothes and a bed to rest in after each stint in the car during the race, it’s a different matter for crew members. They start work at 7 am on the Saturday and finish at about 7pm on Sunday with no break. They catnap between pit stops, but it’s a long, tiring, and dirty job. Like we said, a true test of both man and machine.
Salo said after the race, “GT2 is fun – especially when you win! To have four Ferraris in the top six cars is impressive but we proved who is the best. I like the traditions of Le Mans and there are more and more people here every year. It’s a big win for sure.”