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Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column following COTA…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

I couldn’t believe it. We were aiming for a good result for our home race. Everything was perfect until that moment.

Let me take you back in time first…

I have raced at the Circuit of The Americas a couple of times before, but in WEC. I like the COTA circuit and it was good to be racing there with my teammate Giancarlo and with Giuseppe and his team.

There is not really a big difference between racing in WEC and in IMSA. Everyone on the Risi team just does their job the best way possible. I have so many friends in AF Corse so that was cool to see them after Le Mans too.

It was especially great because the Lone Star Grand Prix was a home race for Risi because they are based in Houston. Actually it was great to see so many Risi fans wearing our t-shirts and caps. That kind of support gives us more energy and we want to perform even better for our fans.

The Risi Ferrari 488 GTE car was good. I was the qualifying driver and qualifying is always difficult because we find completely different track conditions compared to our free practices, especially because qualifying seems to always follow a race with very different tire compounds than the Michelins we use.

My fastest was quite a good lap but not perfect. COTA is a cool track but I think the performance was there because of our really good teamwork at Risi. This is a good and experienced team and all the guys really pitch in the make the car the best they can for every session.

I qualified second, which was our best qualifying time for the season. I felt pretty good about my time but just couldn’t beat Ryan [Briscoe] in the Ford GT.

It was exciting to start on the front row. I had a plan from the start to get the lead on the first lap. That was my goal and I was pretty happy to accomplish it in the first turn. COTA has 20 turns so I was hopeful I could manage it somewhere. When I got the lead in turn one I was really pleased.

The Ferrari was strong, really good. I was able to lead my entire first stint, which was about 45 minutes. We had a perfect pit stop from me to Giancarlo. He drove a strong race and although he fell back to second early in his stint, he got it back after a good battle and also led the race.

We pitted again and I got in to finish the race. Everything was going really well and I know everyone on the team was hoping our bad luck from the past few races was going to be broken in Texas.

Everything was perfect until that moment. I lost the dash and the car just shut off on the back straight. I don’t know how I got the car restarted and managed to get to the pits. The crew guys searched around and figured it was something electrical and we got the car back out.

The disappointment was huge though because we lost a lap and our chances for a win. Even a few tears came down because it was so emotional.

I know Giuseppe Risi was hoping for a win. We all were! We tried and we came close but it just didn’t happen for us in Texas as we hoped.

After the race all the Risi guests came to the paddock to say hello and it was so sad to not have delivered a win or at least a podium for them.

We have one more race left – at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans. This is the only race I drove with Risi last year, with Giancarlo and Pierre Kaffer.

Between now and then I will be training in Florida and preparing for the season finale. We will be fast again there.

Please keep supporting our red No. 62 Ferrari. We appreciate our fans and really want to give you a victory this year!

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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