Connect with us


VILANDER: Le Mans Debrief

Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column following 24H Le Mans…

Photo: Ferrari

Photo: Ferrari

It’s amazing how just a day or two helps you to recover from an event as huge as Le Mans.

It’s not just the size of the race – the number of cars, the size of the track, the number of spectators, the amount of time you spend there – but also the depth of the emotions you feel…but time heals most things.

The massive disappointment Gimmi, Giancarlo and I felt at losing the chance to win the GTE Pro class has already gone but, at the time, it felt like there was an excavator inside me digging away at my insides.

You push yourself so hard at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to the point of making yourself sick, and when victory is snatched away it hurts a lot.

But, we must look at the positives, and there are many. Our AF Corse Ferrari finished third in the GTE Pro class, just behind our team mates in the No. 71 car, and we are happy to have finished after having had an issue with the car.

Once we realized we had lost the chance of a win our main focus was to finish the race and the (double) points we scored for Ferrari in the Manufacturer and other title races were very important.

I’m happy for Davide and James (just behind us now in the GT Drivers’ points table) to get a good result after a bad 2014 at Le Mans, and congratulations to the boys at Corvette Racing for their win.

We’d had quite a good run, with the car running perfectly and at a good pace, when we had a gearbox problem with just under two hours to go.

We had 37 seconds in hand over the Corvette at the time but lost 29 minutes in the pits to repair the car and came back out in third place.

You usually expect the night to be the most difficult time and, when the sun comes up and you’ve got through it, you can easily think you’re going to be okay.

Le Mans can be cruel though. It would have been a tight fight with the Corvette right to the end but I think without the long stop we could have had the upper hand.

Other than that, the only other big trouble we had was just before the end of the third hour when Duval’s LMP1 Audi came up on some GTEs including our No. 51 Ferrari in a slow zone, and it all ended in a big mess.

Giancarlo could do nothing to avoid being hit and we lost 4 minutes in the pits for repairs to the rear bumper, splitter and a change of tires. We had three punctures overall so had to do a few extra pit stops more than our rivals.

Our car was fast – probably not the fastest but it was consistent – and all three of us drove quite well.

Actually Giancarlo has more racing hours under his belt than we do from his races in the United States, and he was in very good shape during this race.

We could have had a really bad day like Aston Martin did; in the end it was good but not perfect. It seems we have perfect luck every two years here, after winning in 2012 and 2014, but this was our 4th podium in 5 years so that’s a good average!

I was happy for the Porsche LMP1 winning team as there were two GTE racers in the line-up so it was good to see them moving up to the top category.

I won’t see Nico this weekend in Austria as I’m commentating for Finnish TV from the studio. It’s a big summer festival in Finland this weekend and I’ve then got my first weekend off for a while so I’m looking forward to that, just as we are looking forward to the rest of the WEC.

Some of the circuits will suit our F458 better than others, but we have a chance of winning at each race and we’ll be doing our maximum to try and get more points towards another title.

See you then at the end of August after the 6 Hours of Nürburgring!

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.

Click to comment

More in Commentary