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CALADO: Home Wins Are Sweet!

James Calado files his latest Sportscar365 column after WEC GTE-Pro victory at Silverstone…

Photo: MPS Agency

I was over the moon to win a home race finally, after four or five years of being at Silverstone, and especially in front of so many British fans.

Thank you to Jenson for his part in getting them there!

It was also great to see two other Brits on the [LMGTE Pro] podium, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, which was a bonus for the fans.

Numbers were definitely up and it was good to have the race in August instead of April as it meant more families came.

Going into this race we knew that on pace alone we were going to struggle as the Ferrari 488 GTEs at the moment just don’t quite have the straight-line speed to compete with the Porsches and the Fords.

The most recent BoP boosted the Aston Martins a bit as well, so we knew we’d have to be smart to have any chance of success.

Photo: MPS Agency

Unfortunately, we went in the wrong direction on the set up at the start of the weekend, and when we drove on Friday morning we had massive understeer and then got the complete opposite the next day.

Starting from 9th on the GTE Pro grid wasn’t exactly what we’d planned!

So, Saturday evening after qualifying we had a long three hours with the engineers discussing what we could do differently on set up and what strategy we could bring into play to boost our chances.

Fortunately, even from just the recon laps before the grid on Sunday, we could feel that the balance was more neutral and that we had more rear grip.

Photo: MPS Agency

There was quite a bit of carnage at the start of the race and we got a bit lucky with Alessandro not getting involved in the mess.

We then got a bit stuck behind a train of cars – without that extra bit of oomph it’s difficult to overtake – but that allowed us to save some fuel, which was a major part of our strategy.

Saving fuel – lifting and coasting into the high-speed corners, which saves fuel but doesn’t lose you that much lap time – and making the best of Full Course Yellows was our only hope for victory.

We also opted to put on used tires for the start of the race so we were more competitive in the second half as we had fresh rubber.

Where we were lucky – compared to some – was the timing of the Full Course Yellow which really came out at the perfect time for us.

When I jumped into the car we were able to get to the front and we gave it all we could to stay there.

Photo: MPS Agency

We had had a small fuel issue early on and Alessandro lost ten seconds, but the team did an amazing strategic job and the car was at its full potential.

Sam and Davide in the sister AF Corse car had been unlucky with contact with an LMP and they dropped back as a result so, for Ferrari, it was important for the No. 51 to stay in front.

We were better on our tires than Porsche, which seemed to have a bigger drop in performance, and it was very satisfying to see one of the ‘slowest’ cars win.

We were pushing like crazy to keep the Porsches behind us.

Photo: Marius Hecker/Adrenal Media

With the No. 91 Porsche being disqualified – a harsh punishment for being 2 mm out on ride height but rules are rules – that has put us back in touch as far as the championship points are concerned.

We hope that we might get something in the BoP for Fuji which addresses the speed deficit on the straights. We’ll see what happens.

There’s a long wait now until we head off for Japan (the race is Oct. 14) but I’m dying to get back into the car.

We are realistic as we move forward in the season but also positive now that strategy and smart thinking can win races. See you in Japan!

James Calado (@caladojames) is a Ferrari factory driver and the 2017 WEC GTE World Champion, driving for AF Corse in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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