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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Riley Ferrari lacked "oomph" to fight works GTE Pro cars

Riley Motorsports' privateer Ferrari lacked the "oomph" needed to seriously threaten the six works cars competing in the GTE Pro class in the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend, admits team owner Bill Riley.

#74 Riley Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE Pro of Felipe Fraga, Sam Bird, Shane Van Gisbergen

The American outfit was the only non-factory entry in the final year for the GTE Pro class at La Sarthe as race organisers transition towards a new GT category starting in 2024 based on GT3 machinery.

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However, the #74 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo shared by Sam Bird, Felipe Fraga and Shane van Gisbergen qualified at the rear of the seven-car Pro field and never showed the pace needed to lift itself from the bottom of the division, finally finishing fifth in class and three laps down on the winning Porsche.

Looking back at an uneventful race for the squad, which had a virtually trouble-free run despite having only taken delivery of its Ferrari the month prior to Le Mans, Riley admitted that a lack of horsepower amid concerns about engine life meant challenging the works cars was always unlikely.

The #74 Ferrari was the slowest of the GTE Pro cars in the speed traps at 306.5km/h (190.4mph), around 6km/h down on the class benchmark.

"I think we took a more conservative approach on the engine life than some of the others," Riley told Motorsport.com. "We saw some issues that we didn’t like right off the bat, so we were just a bit more conservative on stretching engine life.

"Then we tried some stronger maps that could hurt the engine more and we still didn’t have the pace. The drivers say the car was handling great, but we just didn’t have the ‘oomph’ we needed.

"To be honest, it’s probably the most boring Le Mans I’ve ever done. Every stop it’s just been fuel and tyres. Ferrari gave us a great car from Michelotto, the guys did a great job putting it together, and we’ve been just driving it around.

"We haven’t had the car in the box for any unscheduled items. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace to keep up."

 

Fraga, who was part of Riley's previous Le Mans effort in 2019 with Ben Keating's self-entered Ford GT in the GTE Am class, said that the team should be proud to match the works Ferrari on pace at certain points during the race.

The Brazilian told Motorsport.com: "We were really slow when it was hot. I started the race, and I had no pace. Also the other Ferraris were struggling, but us even more. When the night came there, we were there, still off, but at least we could keep the pace of the [factory] Ferraris.

"I gave my heart during all my stints, I was driving 110 percent, pretending I was fighting for the win. It’s the first time Bill [Riley] runs a Ferrari on his own here. It’s a relationship you have to build, you can’t come here and expect to win first time. I think we can be proud and I had a lot of fun."

Riley added he hopes to return to Le Mans next year and continue his team's association with BeeSafe Racing, an offshoot of a storage company owned by American Ferrari Challenge racer Roy Carroll.

"I hope we can do something with BeeSafe again, because it’s a great sponsor and the Carroll family is a great family to be associated with," said the veteran team owner. "I’m just fortunate to be with them this year and hopefully they will want do more with us in the years to come."

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