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Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Ferrari

Photo: Ferrari

The heat was really on us at Circuit of The Americas, in more ways than one.

It was another disappointing result for our No.51 AF Corse Ferrari after losing time to fix a non-illuminating light panel on the door of our 458 Italia, but at least our sister car got a podium finish and Ferrari has maintained its lead in the GT Manufacturers’ championship.

It’s getting a bit close for comfort now, with only a few points in it, and we really need some strong, clean races for the last three rounds of the WEC to help retain that title for Ferrari.

It wasn’t really a great weekend for us at all – from start to finish – which is a shame because we all love racing in the U.S. and the COTA facilities and Austin are fantastic.

The fact is that at the previous round at the Nürburgring we did the last five hours of the race without an issue, put the race car into a container, shipped it over to the USA and then in FP1 on Thursday morning, after 10 laps the car shut down like in Germany.

The guys worked really hard on Thursday, but we missed an hour of practice which, at such a level as we have in the WEC, is quite a lot especially in terms of set up preparation for the race and evaluating tire wear.

Qualifying was also tough on us as we struggled for grip and we took 6th in GTE Pro which is not where we are used to being.

Even if we were not able to match the Porsches, it was tough to find ourselves in the last two in class, a second and a half slower than we were in the morning’s FP3 session.

Jumping ahead to the race result, it has been four completely different issues which have affected us this year, none of which are things we have had before.

I said last time that I don’t believe in good or bad luck, but maybe we’ve upset someone somewhere…perhaps we need to go to Tibet or something to see the Dalai Lama and find some peace for our souls!

It’s an unfortunate thing and there is obviously some heat, or pressure, building up now because, as drivers, we want to have good results. James [Calado] and Davide [Rigon] did well, and I think Gimmi and I could have challenged the Porsche and been on the podium if we hadn’t had the problem – maybe not the win, but a strong points-scoring finish.

During the race itself, there was an issue with the first full course yellow with a bit of a misunderstanding on our side and Porsche played it really on the limit, meaning that when the yellow came they must have stopped at the very last second possible. We lost precious seconds there.

Our first laps in a stint weren’t so good, but two thirds of Gimmi’s stint were awesome although we struggled a bit with tyre pressures.

From the midpoint to the end of a stint we were always able to gain on Porsche, but after the full course yellow the gap got a bit too big.

I believe the actual Balance of Performance of the race cars now is not so bad and the difference between each of the manufacturers is down to how you get the tires working for you at each different circuit.

At the Nürburgring we were really strong and had both performance and good tyre wear in both qually and the race, but at COTA it was a bit the other way.

We were struggling, especially after the United Sportscar Championship cars had been on track with the different rubber they use but we think that should be a one-off situation.

In the coming races it’s about getting the optimum set up and getting the tires working right for us in both qually and the race.

We had a Ferrari 1-2 last year at Fuji and that’s the result we’ll be chasing again this year. Whether you believe in luck or not, keep your fingers crossed for us!

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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