Melo & Salo It Is For Risi
They’ve been on the entry list for Houston for a couple of weeks, and now it’s confirmed in a press statement: having driven for the AF Corse (factory) team at Silverstone last weekend (where Melo won, with Matteo Bobbi, while Salo came third, behind the lead Ebimotors Porsche), ex-F1 man Mika Salo and factory test driver Jaime Melo will be in the Risi Competizione Ferrari for the balance of the American Le Mans Series season – which presumably means they’ll miss a couple clashing of FIA GT events.

Melo drove for the team at Sebring, where the Risi Ferrari finished third on its debut – a race it looked like winning.

“I could not be happier,” says team owner Giuseppe Risi. “We are delighted to have Mika back with Risi Competizione and racing a Ferrari. He has started 110 Grands Prix and is widely recognized as one of the best drivers in the world. He raced the MC12 in the ALMS series last year and also a Ferrari 575GTC in the FIA series in Europe. His track effort and off-track insight into the setup of the car were invaluable. Pairing Salo with Jaime Melo in the 430GT gives us an extraordinarily potent combination of racing drivers who can, we believe, realize the full potential of this extraordinary Ferrari race car.”

That unfortunately means no drive for Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro. The long arm of Jean Todt has allegedly been at work here.

“We know that Jaime Melo is one of the fastest young drivers in the GT2 class in ALMS,” continues Risi. “He proved this by his times at Sebring, and by setting the lap record for the GT2 class. He is a splendid young talent, thoroughly professional on and off the track. Melo blended instantly with our team and he delivered lap after lap at Sebring, in one of the most tightly contested races in modern history.

“With Mika Salo, we gain a world-class driver with experience in all forms of racing, a man with deep roots at Ferrari and a strong will to compete at the highest level. He and Salo will be a formidable pair on the track and a delight to spectators and fans off of it. In the 430GT, we have a car that realizes the full extent of these driver’s talents; the fans and the television audience are going to see some wonderful racing this year.”

We’re still convinced that Melo’s Christian name is pronounced exactly the same as the French “j’aime” – because that’s what he told us at Le Mans in 2004, when he made his debut there in a JMB Ferrari 360.

Here they are (Melo and Salo - on the right) on the podium at Silverstone on Sunday afternoon - with AF Corse Team oener Amato Ferrari.

In other ALMS news ahead of this Friday’s R2 at Houston, Scott Atherton has categorically denied speculation that “I might be nominated to head a unified open wheel series.”

“To be suggested for such an important position is personally flattering, but I believe it is the result of the success that the American Le Mans Series has achieved. Don Panoz has entrusted me with the stewardship of his varied motorsports interests including Elan Motorsports Technologies, which is designing and building the next generation Champ Car – the Panoz DP01.

“Panoz Motor Sports Group, which I have the honor of leading, remains committed to providing the best service to all our partners. It is my sole focus at the moment and for the foreseeable future.”

 

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