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VILANDER: Heading in the Right Direction

Toni Vilander checks into Sportscar365 following last weekend’s PWC round at Portland…

Photo: PWC

Hi everyone and sorry for the radio silence over the last month or so. It’s been a really, really busy few months of racing and time off has been at a premium…with three young boys I wanted to give my wife a bit of help when I could and there wasn’t much time for writing!

Road America wasn’t too bad for us although I didn’t so a super good job in qualifying. We had great balance in the car but lacked a bit of straight line speed but I got a great start in the first race and finished 2nd which was great for championship points.

In the second race I started P4 and finished 5th – a safety car helped make things a bit tighter but it’s difficult to overtake cars of a similar pace.

So now I’m on my way back to Finland after Portland, a new circuit for me and Miguel [Molina] and one which gave us good, and nearly perfect, results.

Like the majority of the field no one in the R Ferri Motorsport team had been to Portland before, and I liked the track – it had some similar characteristics to Lime Rock and we thought before we went that it could be good for us and our Ferrari 488 GT3.

Photo: PWC

When I did the track walk before practice, I admit I thought ‘hmm, not sure how things is going to work’ but in the race it all went great. It was super-hot but same for everyone and those conditions seemed to suit our car.

Practice 1 went well and once we’d changed the set up a bit we nailed it in FP2! Qualifying was very close and we started in p2 behind the Christensen/Pumpelly car which was important for the championship and points-scoring opportunities.

Once we got some heat into the new tires the car performed really well and we were able to follow Christensen well; a safety car helped zero the gap and then it was all about the strategy and pit stop.

With some super teamwork by everyone, Miguel exited the pits just ahead of Pumpelly and remained out front for the rest of the race to win by 1.5 seconds. It was great to win again and was a great reward for the guys who gave us a very quick and reliable car all weekend.

Photo: PWC

For Race 2, Miguel started on pole and everything was looking perfect. We’d made a minor change to the set up and managed to pull out a lead of about 2.5s but then we had a safety car just around the time of the pit window.

Unfortunately it was late coming out and didn’t pick up the leader which caused confusion, and then we had a poor pit stop to top it off. We had an issue with the air jack and lost time…it all went a bit downhill from there.

I got a radio message to go but the car was still in the air and then when we did leave there was an air hose hanging on the top of the pit wall and we were given a drive through penalty as a result which was a new rule for this weekend.

Photo: PWC

To make it worse at the restart I got a big hit and had to overshoot the chicane which meant we got a further three-second time penalty after the race although this didn’t affect our end result. From a team point of view the communications between the Race Director and the teams is not always clear and confusions can compromise everyone’s race.

We dropped from the lead and what should have been another win to 7th as a result of the penalty and I wasn’t happy!

I thought the penalty was too harsh and that we should have been given a time penalty after the race instead of the drive through but there doesn’t seem to be consistency throughout the season with changes to rules each weekend which is obviously not popular with the different teams.

Having said all that, when we look back at the weekend overall we have to be satisfied with it and the crew deserve a big thank you for their hard work and great car.

We are leading the championship standings with two race weekends to go so we’ll push to the max and be clever and fast for Ferrari. See you then!

Photo: PWC

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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