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VILANDER: Daytona Debrief

Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column after the Rolex 24…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

I’m usually pretty good at looking on the right side of things and keeping positive, but 24 hours after the checkered flag for the Rolex 24 at Daytona I was still feeling a little bit disappointed with our 3rd place finish in GTLM as we came so close to a win.

Having said that, I’m sure that later in the season, when it comes down to the championship, the 30 points we got are going to look really sweet and I won’t feel so bad about the race after all!

The main reason for the disappointment is that we knew our Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 had the potential to be a race-winner. The team does a really excellent job preparing the car, the guys practiced and practiced on pit stops, and our engineering and strategy team know us drivers, the car and the race inside out.

The feeling in the team is very good and it’s a big advantage to have a second season with the car; we are more ready for anything thrown at us.

What no one was quite ready for was the weather, which played a bit too big a role! Rain was forecast but no one expected that more than half the race would be run in driving rain and very cold temperatures.

This made it a really hard event for everyone, and Giancarlo, James and I can be proud that we got through it all with no damage on the car.

Visibility was an issue for a while but overall the main problem was the cold which meant getting temperatures into the Michelin tires was a challenge. There was such low grip, even when the track was drying, it was like being on a skating rink and one small mistake and you were finished.

One of the things which got us through was the really good spirit we have between the three of us. We take it all very seriously but off the track there were some funny moments and you have to keep those in your mind.

In the motorhome we shared, Giancarlo was doing his DJ gig (he’s quite a big name in Europe) which got a bit wild at times!

The GTLM category was definitely the strongest in my opinion, but some of the others seemed to struggle so the speed difference – especially when it was wet – caused some tight situations.

The overall competitiveness of the GT’s is just remarkable and we all raced hard from start to finish; there was nothing between the Fords, Porsches, Corvettes and us, as the results show.

It was really nice to get a Tweet from Chip Ganassi after the race calling us a class act and saying we raced hard, clean and fair. It means a lot from someone like him, with so much racing experience and success.

We didn’t have any major problems during the race but a couple of setbacks temporarily knocked us off the front of the class including a penalty for a pit exit line violation in really difficult conditions and during the heat of the GTLM battle, and then a slower-than-normal pit stop after we were blocked in our pit stall by a neighboring team which dropped us to sixth.

The final 30 minutes were quite intense, and James drove really well with no grip. It was a bit hard to see the win slip from our fingers but sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Whatever we do, we do it together and it will be our turn next time.

Now I’m off to Australia for the Bathurst 12 Hours – just to keep me race sharp and busy! It’s the third time for me at that track and I’m already in endurance mode. Wish me luck.

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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