AF Corse Ferrari's Bruni and Vilander celebrate

15/11/2014 - 22h20

The basic statistics for the 2014 World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers show that Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander have won four of the first seven races, giving them enough of a points advantage to claim the championship title with one race in hand.  It is Bruni’s second consecutive GT World Championship title, the first for Vilander, and AF Corse’s third consecutive LMGTE Pro Teams title.   

But, behind every statistic there is a story and in this case it shows that it has not all been plain sailing for the Italian team and its drivers.  The Italian and Finnish drivers’ year started with a fourth place finish at the rain-shortened Silverstone race and, with Porsche taking a strong 1-2 in the LMGTE Pro class, the Ferrari pair were concerned about the potential balance of performance between competitors for the year ahead. 

Spa-Francorchamps put paid to those worries, however, as the No.51 AF Corse entry gave a dominant display of driving to secure victory ahead of Porsche and the sister No.71 car.  The points claimed by the new pairing of James Calado and Davide Rigon at Spa would turn out to be vital for the Teams Championship, as have been the three further podium finishes the British-Italian duo has claimed so far this year.

As with so many championships in years gone by, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a turning point in Bruni and Vilander’s favour.  Joined by Giancarlo Fisichella, the three drivers were the class of the field and the double points gained for the classic French race gave them a strong advantage going into the second half of the season. 

Third place at COTA in Austin was a disappointment, with Aston Martin firmly in control of that event, but AF Corse bounced back strongly for the cool, but thankfully dry, race conditions at Fuji in Japan.  The win there was their third of the year and the title was beckoning. 

It all went horribly wrong in Shanghai when a first lap incident with an LMP car put Bruni out of the race on the spot and left the Piacenze-based team with a huge amount of work to do to repair the badly damaged car before the penultimate round of the championship in Bahrain.  The Middle Eastern race has proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Italians in the past and 2014 was no different.  Vilander claimed his third consecutive victory in the darkness of the desert – but this time under the floodlights – and Bruni his second…enough to wrap up the title before the final round of the year in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Photo : "John Rourke" - "Photo Copyright 2014 John Rourke / AdrenalMedia.com"

Gimmi Bruni, No.51 AF Corse Ferrari: "Today has been a really exciting day; for the second consecutive year I am a World Champion. I am very happy to share this great success with my team mate Toni Vilander. I want to thank Ferrari, Michelotto and all the guys at AF Corse for the extraordinary job they did to completely rebuild the car after my accident in Shanghai."

AntonelloColetta, Head of Corse Clienti:"Today was another great day for Ferrari. We won the race and both cars were on the podium; Bruni and Vilander first, Calado and Rigon third. I want to congratulate Gimmi Bruni and Toni Vilander here in Bahrain who, with one race in hand, have been crowned FIA World Endurance Champions in the LMGTE Pro category.  Also, Amato Ferrari and all the guys on his Piacenza team who have won for the third year in a row the World title reserved for Teams. Now we go to Brazil to try to bring home the ultimate title, the GT Manufacturers, which for Ferrari is the most important."
 
Amato Ferrari, Team Principal AF Corse: "It was a great weekend.  It started in a difficult way after the accident in Shanghai but, thanks to the commitment and excellent work of the whole team we were able to bounce back very well. The strategy in today's race was perfect and, with two cars on the podium, we have won - with a race in hand - two world titles for the third consecutive time. I want to congratulate Gimmi and Toni for their great achievements and thank Ferrari and Antonello Coletta, Ferrari’s Sporting Director, for their important support. We are now focused on the next race in Brazil where we want to take home the most important title: the GT Constructors' Championship.”

Toni Vilander – No.51 AF Corse Ferrari:  “I pushed very hard in the beginning of my stint today. The car was very good on new tyres. The team were updating me on the gap all the time and I tried to manage the traffic and also let the LMP1 cars through but it was close, too close at the end (to the #97 Aston Martin).  It shows how strong the (LMGTE Pro) class is when the gap is just over a second after six hours of racing. This is my third victory here in a row and it is super nice for the team to have this title because the last two weeks have been ‘hell’ since the accident in Shanghai. We have had lots of victories and poles in 2014 so it has been a very successful year.”

Fiona Miller

Quotes and team image from Ferrari Corse Clienti (translated by Fiona Miller)