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VILANDER: Nürburgring Debrief

Toni Vilander files his latest Sportscar365 column after tough 6H Nürburgring…

Photo: Ferrari

Photo: Ferrari

Many people said “bad luck” to me after the Nürburgring WEC race, but I don’t believe in luck in racing: There’s always an explanation, a reason and a solution and we never stop looking for these.

So although our No. 51 car didn’t get a win or podium this weekend, the points Davide and James scored for third in GTE-Pro in our sister car and the GTE-Am class win were all good for Ferrari and AF Corse in the championship tables. I always look forward and not back, and especially today!

To be honest, we were a little surprised by our pace for the whole weekend, whether it was on a wet or drying race track with wet tires or dry track with slicks, we were really competitive all the time.

We did two days testing here at the end of July and not all our rivals were here so I think these two days were very important and definitely helped us.

Friday practice was wet, but qualifying on Saturday was dry a lot of fun. Gimmi and I managed to put our car on [GTE Pro] pole by just 0.05s ahead of the No. 71 Ferrari so Saturday was a good day! It was always going to be tough to beat the Porsches in Team Manthey’s home, but we proved we had the pace and potential to shake things up.

We are reaching the halfway-point of the season but there’s not such a good taste in my mouth about it as, of the four races we’ve had, we’ve three different issues.

At Silverstone we managed to win when we thought it would be impossible; at Spa we had a problem with a wheel nut at our last pit stop; at Le Mans we had to pit to fix the gearbox with only one hour and 45 minutes to go in the race; now in Germany we had an electronic issue on the car.

It all started in a good way but after just 15 minutes Gimmi pulled off the track with an electronic issue. The marshals were trying to pull him out of the car but he was insisting on staying in and going through all the things we are taught to do and suddenly the car fired up.

He got going and returned to the pits…even though it stopped one more time this time he knew what to do. The team fixed it pretty quickly but we’d lost several laps and the chance of winning.

From then on the car ran well. The start of the race, the hottest part of the day, was our most difficult time, and also in the last two or three stints at the end but it was going really well. Our question mark for the weekend was Sunday because it was so much hotter than the other days but that was really just for the first stint. It didn’t take long to see that it was all okay.

Now, with four races to go, we will be flat out all the time. I don’t know if we need to change anything in our working methods, because everything is already looked at down to the last detail and we’ve used these same methods to win championships, but things are definitely not going our way.

Behind our results there are a lot of meetings to prepare the drivers, the technical staff and the cars themselves, and we always spend a lot of time going through why we won a race or didn’t win. Now I think we need to take a fresh look at everything to try and do it even better, if it’s possible, and come back in Austin.

Racing in the USA has always been great fun and there’s an atmosphere at the races there which I really enjoy. I also really like COTA and Austin and I think the circuit will suit the Ferrari 458. I’m confident going there and we will look at just the small details which need changing on the car and see what we can improve.

I have a strong belief we can really fight in the last four races: the last round, Bahrain, has always been really strong for us, and hopefully we’ll have no rain in Fuji. Shanghai is a difficult track for everyone, but it is what it is. The key words from here on are “Maximum Attack”.

See you in Austin!

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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