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VILANDER: Lime Rock Debrief

Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column after Lime Rock…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

You know, one of the things I like most about racing in North America is the variety of different circuits we visit.

Every one of them has its own character, whether it’s the banking at Daytona, the bumps at Sebring, the streets of Long Beach and so on, to the small and very beautiful Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

Okay, it’s a lap of less than a minute, and it’s very, very hot at the time of year we visit, but different challenges are what makes it exciting for the fans and interesting for us.

Our Risi Ferrari 488 GTE performed very well this weekend and we were able to lead the race for quite a time which gave us all some positive feelings for the rest of the season. We eventually finished fourth but those points could be important at the end of the year so we’ll take the result.

We just had three classes at this round of the IMSA series, PCs, GTLMs and GTDs but it meant we were battling some of the PCs as well as our own class which added to the ‘spice’. I started the race from p4 and the two at the back of their grid were quite close to us on the first lap.

I had a PC on the outside of me and got squeezed towards Richard Westbrook in the Ford GT and we had a little touch. The first lap was quite intense but at the end of it I was up to P2.

I was stuck behind Dirk Werner’s BMW for quite a long time which was frustrating but the Risi guys once again did a fantastic job in the pits and we kept in contention.

We then caught some GTD traffic going into the chicane and I got through into the lead. It was the first time I’d had a clear track in front of me the whole race and it was great!

We built up a lead of about seven seconds quite quickly after that and my stints in the car lasted about 1h35 which is quite a lot when it’s hot. It was tough and the heat wears you out so I was asking the team to talk to me quite a bit more than usual.

When they first told me I had 40 laps to go I wasn’t sure how things were going to go, but you forget that a lap is only 51 or 52 seconds so it’s not as long as it sounded at first.

You are not completely exhausted but you go through a sequence of emotions and it all comes down to endurance.

Now we are heading towards Road America which is another longer track so we’ll see how things go there.

The whole team is working hard to make sure we’re at the top of our game; we have practiced and practiced pit stops, we are looking at every single detail about the car, the team and how we perform, and we’ll be looking to get back to the front of the field again in Wisconsin.

I managed to get home in time to celebrate my birthday with my family, which was quite rare and really nice.

I’ve now got an event coming up with the Finnish federation AKK in Jyväskylä at the WRC round which I’m looking forward to – giving something back after they have supported me and all the Finnish drivers for so long.

And then a bit of time off at home with the family before heading back to the USA. See you there!

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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