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VILANDER: Long Beach Debrief

Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Sometimes races fall your way, and sometimes they do not. Long Beach 2017 will definitely be one to forget for me, and I’m sorry about that for everyone as things were looking really good for our Risi Competizione Ferrari.

I think this column will be longer than our race on California’s streets but …hey, who’s counting?

In practice we had been a little bit off the pace, and we weren’t super confident about qualifying and the race but, between the last practice session and qualifying, we did some minor changes to the car plus the track had changed (street tracks change every time you go out on them).

In qualifying I got a really good feeling and got quite close to the pole, just 0.1 seconds from it, and only four-hundredths of a second from the front row.

I had a little spin on my last lap as I was going for pole and, in turn 9, I just gave it a bit too much and touched the rear left on the tire wall.

The damage was more cosmetic than anything, and the suspension and set up were all in the right place, but it was a couple of hours work for the guys.

So, we got to the start of the race. IMSA have decided this year to start all the cars together instead of, in the past, separating the LMP and GTLM. I knew who was in which car, but I wasn’t paying too much attention because – starting from P3 – I thought I’d have other GT cars in front of me to pace the opening laps.

I got a really good clean start and got the chance to get a little bit of slip stream to Jan Magnussen’s Corvette. I moved to the inside, and came out of T1 in P1!

I closed quite rapidly on Ed Brown in the ESM car and, coming out of fountain section going into T5 I dived in.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to mid corner there wasn’t any space any more…I tried to back off but touched Ed lightly, spun, then got pushed to the wall with no way out.

Once I’d made my move I didn’t really have any control over the events which came after, and the damage to the left side of our No. 62 was too bad to continue.

In the end I should have had more patience and waited one more corner, but you only get a split second to decide where to go and I made a mistake.

Ed was doing his max and I respect that and appreciate that fact; I should have been more aware of things around me.

I’m really disappointed for Giuseppe and the whole Risi team, especially Giancarlo. I never want to let them down and always do the max possible.

I’m normally consistent, but sometimes this happens and it’s more disappointing as the grip felt quite good on the formation lap. It turned out to be such a crazy race afterwards, one of craziest ever, you never know what would have happened.

Next week I’m going to Indonesia as part of Ferrari’s 70th anniversary celebrations, and will be back straight after that to concentrate on COTA which is almost a home race for Houston-based Risi. Patience will be my friend there for sure!

Toni Vilander (@Toni_Vilander) is a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner and 2014 FIA World Endurance GTE-Pro Champion, driving for Risi Competizione in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.



  1. Luc

    April 13, 2017 at 7:58 am

    “Ed was doing his max and I respect that and appreciate that fact; I should have been more aware of things around me.” Well said but Ed shouldn’t have been there in the first place. GTLM passing DPi; whole different calibre of drivers. Appreciate the column!

  2. WBrowning

    April 13, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Stupid move but also a good argument for split starts and driver rating requirements in the top class/classes.

  3. Mike S.

    April 13, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Well ESM would go away if that was the case. No monies if you got rid of that AM in top class. Also, everyone forgets although he has been around that Eric Curran is not a pro driver. He is the title defender in the Whelan car with Cameron. But who cares I guess. It ain’t a black and white world.
    Also, Vilander admits fault and it is his. There were times when the GT cars had better mechanical grip in the turns. WeatherTech Mercedes vs Mustang Ranch DPi. The DPi probably hadn’t gotten the temperatures up in the first lap of the race so wasn’t up to snuff yet. If it was another lap or 2 Vilander probably wouldn’t of had ESM car slower in front of him. But he admitted haste as an error. Risi will win just a matter of time.

  4. juneracer

    April 17, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    its the Ed Browns of the world that keep sportscar racing alive. but there were multiple errors i think in hind sight at LB. too many cars, should have been Dpi+GTLM or GTLM+GTD. 35 cars was too many. Ed qual’d slower then all the GTLMs but faster then the GTDs. if you split the start that would have only helped for a little while. once the field is packed up with a SC the same issue will be there. IMSA needs to grid by lap time and not by class. that puts a car where it should be by pace.

  5. TK

    April 19, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Nice that Toni completely owned his mistake.

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