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VILANDER: Bahrain Debrief

Toni Vilander files his final Sportscar365 column of the year…

Photo: Ferrari

Photo: Ferrari

There was a lot of emotion flying about in Bahrain, all through the paddock for one reason or another, as championship titles were being fought out, drivers were moving on and saying goodbye, and cars were being phased out.

At AF Corse and Ferrari we were hoping to celebrate the Ferrari 458 Italia’s last race in the WEC with a win and the Manufacturers’ GT championship but, this year, it wasn’t to be.

Many congratulations to Porsche for their titles – they fought hard all year and in the end were just a little bit more consistent than us. They had better not get too used to being champions though!

Gimmi and I finished second in the final WEC race of the year and overall it was a good weekend, just not a great one.

During the practice sessions we had some small issues with our brakes (the Bahrain International Circuit is quite hard on brakes), but qualifying was really good.

Gimmi and I outpaced our sister car by the smallest of margins, 0.041s, to take GTE Pro pole position, but we knew at that stage the race was going to be hard.

One of the Porsches was fast in practice and we suspected that tyre wear and consistency might work in their favor, and that was how it turned out.

We wanted to win the race for the No. 51 car crew and hoped that the result was enough for the Manufacturers’ title.

Going into the race there was a gap of 5 points between Ferrari and Porsche so we needed both of our cars to score well, but unfortunately the No. 71 had a very rare mechanical failure and lost a wheel. That’s when we had to really kiss goodbye to our championship hopes for 2015.

I started the race very strongly but, after only a couple of laps, I realized it wouldn’t be easy. We just didn’t have the consistency on our stints that the Porsche did, and also in the race we had some brake problems again.

We finished 39 seconds from Makowiecki and Pilet’s winning car which was a solid result but not much more.

I think Gimmi and I did a really good job together this year, winning twice (Silverstone and Fuji) and finishing second twice (Shanghai and Bahrain), but we had technical issues at four races this year – three times when we were leading (Spa, Le Mans and Nürburgring) which was frustrating.

Despite this, we will look back on some great memories of the Ferrari 458 including two GTE Pro wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012 and 2014, and the GT championship in the WEC last year as well.

The old lady has been good to us but she is a little tired now and needs to be rested.

As you may know testing with our new car has begun but there’s a lot of work to be done over the winter to ensure we start the year with a winning car.

The new Ford GT that’s coming to challenge us looks like it could be strong, and we never underestimate our other competitors in this category. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

Have a great winter and see you next 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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