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VILANDER: The Ups and Downs of Racing

Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column following last weekend’s PWC round at CTMP…

Photo: PWC

It’s been a pretty hectic few months since my last column, and I’ve been racing with Pirelli World Challenge for R Ferri Motorsport in Virginia, back home to see my family in Finland, commentating on F1 from Spain, a very positive test for AF Corse and Ferrari at Monza for Le Mans, and racing again back in Canada – at the great Canadian Tire Motorsport Park which I first got to know as Mosport.

We had a decent start to our PWC season but the last two events have been a lot tougher with more mixed results.

Up to the VIR race it was going well, with me and Miguel [Molina] having got great results at COTA for the SprintX races and we were feeling confident going to Virginia.

We’d got hit with a BoP change so weren’t sure how things would play out, but we knew that if we raced sensibly and didn’t make any mistakes, then we might be able to get some more wins.

We qualified 6th but, with some good strategy, staying out until the last moment, and reasonable lap times, we got Miguel out after the driver change in 2nd and that’s where we finished.

We didn’t have the pure pace to challenge our competitors but a really good pit stop by the team leap-frogged us up the order.

Unfortunately, the second race didn’t go quite to plan. Miguel started 3rd but had a messy few opening laps and dropped to 6th or 7th.

The team decided we should do an early stop and we ended up spending 74.3 seconds instead of 75 seconds in the pits which meant I had to come back in and serve a penalty. Without this I think we should have been around 5th.

 

We still picked up some points and those, together with our good COTA results means that Miguel and I hold a slim lead at the top of the SprintX championship standings.

Let’s hope we can keep that going in Lime Rock next week… It’s the sort of track where absolutely anything can happen.

Based on what we learned in VIR, we were a bit skeptical about how things would be in Mosport but – as it’s the team’s home race – of course we were going to give it our best shot.

There was a hospitality unit for Ferrari guests, and lots of R Ferri people there to support us which was great for the team.

From the opening day of practice, we could see that it wasn’t going to be easy. I love Mosport, with its ups and downs, and it’s a fast track which is really fun when you hook up a good lap but it can catch you out when you least expect it; you have to respect this track!

Being fast means it’s hard on tires and brakes, and the tires we use for this series are a very hard compound (raced in Europe in 2015) and we’re not allowed to use tire ovens so it can take quite a long time to get some temperature in them if the weather isn’t playing ball.

We tried EVERYTHING on the car but were completely off the pace. We came out of a very wet qualifying session 8.6s from pole and for the first time in my life I was outside the 107 percent – along with one of the other Ferraris and a Bentley.

We couldn’t get any temperature into the tires so had no grip, and nothing we tried seemed to work.

After a two-hour delay because of fog, the race was wet at the start. We stayed on wets and once a dry line started to come we picked up the pace a bit and got the 3rd fastest race lap, quickest of those who stayed on wets.

I was really abusing the tires in the first half and the treads wore right down on the left-hand tires so we created our own slicks…

Race 2 was dry and, from what we learned on Friday, we had to be a bit aggressive with the set up to improve the handling from the start of the race.

As soon as the tire temperatures came up, our competitors were able to pull away but I tried to keep a good rhythm, increase the pace wherever possible and put some pressure on Baptista in the Bentley. It was hard-fought, but another podium is another podium.

So now we’re going off to Lime Rock which is small, tight, and often subject to big rain storms too. Let’s hope we get a bit more back on the BoP – I don’t want more than anyone else, just the same.

Wish us luck for next week and then it’s on to the big one – Le Mans!

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.

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