While his main priority this weekend is to help co-driver Davide Rigon’s championship hopes, Toni Vilander admits he is using the Six Hours of Nürburgring to evaluate the FIA World Endurance Championship paddock with his future plans in mind.
The Finn is the substitute for Sam Bird at AF Corse, with the Brit busy in New York City with his Formula E Championship duties.
It will be Vilander’s first regular-season WEC race since 2015, having only joined the series for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Risi Competizione in recent years.
It also marks his return to AF Corse, a team he has a long history with, which includes two Le Mans victories and the 2014 GT drivers’ title.
With Rigon sitting third in the standings having won the Spa-Francorchamps round in May, Vilander is determined to help the Italian to score as many points as possible this weekend to better his championship hopes.
“It’s good to be back, obviously,” Vilander told Sportscar365. “I have a long history with AF Corse and I started with the team back in 2006 in the FIA GT Championship at Dubai.
“I know the team, I know the staff, I know the engineers, and they’re more or less the same guys from back in those days.
“The championship is pretty much the same with more or less the same number of cars and the competition, as always, is tight.
“I think the main target of the weekend is just to score as many points for Ferrari and Davide as possible.”
However, Vilander does admit that he is also using this weekend to re-familiarize himself with the series, while keeping his options open for next season.
“I’ll try to take this as a weekend to enjoy but be on the pace straight away, and then make some evaluations for the future,” he explained.
“At the end of the day, it’s Ferrari and AF Corse who make the decisions, but I’m trying to evaluate the weekend and how people approach this race.
“It’s a little bit of an evaluation for myself to see if it’s an ambience I enjoy and where I’d like to be in the future, and then we will see what happens after this race or for 2018.
“The fact that I really love racing in the U.S., racing here doesn’t change that.
“We’ll see what happens with Ferrari and what we decide to do, but it’s a good weekend to evaluate both outside the car and inside the car.”
For the remainder of the season however, Vilander’s focus remains on his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program with Risi Competizione, despite the team pulling out of recent rounds with an indefinite hiatus.
“It feels good to be back racing as with Risi and in IMSA we at least have a few races on a break,” he said.
“I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen towards the end of the season but definitely it looks like we’ll be back for the last races.
“[We at least want] to defend the Petit Le Mans win, so that would be nice to be there, and hopefully things will fall into place.
“If we go for Petit, it would be nice to do the Laguna Seca and Virginia races before it, but everything still needs to be confirmed.
“Hopefully we get to end the season with a high note, that would be nice, and then see what happens next year, but I would like to finish the season in the U.S. as well.”