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The Ferrari companions that conquered GT racing

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Gianmaria Bruni has been a Porsche man since 2017, nevertheless it’s the primary chapter of his sportscar profession at Ferrari that he appears to be like again on to choose a favorite team-mate. In his 4 years of sharing a automotive with Toni Vilander, the pair loved nice success, and loved quite a few collaborations outdoors their season-long campaigns within the FIA GT championship (2008-09) and World Endurance Championship (2014-15).

That the pairing was a great match is evidenced by their claiming two titles and as many Le Mans victories collectively – though their 2012 and 2014 triumphs might have been added to in 2011 and 2015 with out mechanical gremlins interfering whereas main within the closing levels. It additionally helped that in that point, Bruni says he and Vilander turned “mates inside and outside the monitor”.

“We had been at all times collectively after which separate after which collectively once more, separate,” displays Bruni. “On this interval, we grew up as drivers, as an individual, collectively. We had been having enjoyable throughout races, and preventing one another after we weren’t in the identical automotive, so it’s one thing that can at all times keep in my thoughts. We had been profitable collectively but in addition after we weren’t, we at all times had enjoyable. It’s one thing that’s not widespread.

“It was not in any doubt that he was on the pitwall supporting me and I used to be on the pitwall and supporting, so it was not any rivalry, it was simply working for the outcomes. It’s not simple to discover a quick driver, good team-mate, that’s with you on a regular basis, in a great outcome after which the unhealthy outcomes. I solely see these sorts of drivers a couple of times in my complete profession and Toni is certainly one of these.”

The 2 had beforehand crossed paths in single-seaters – Vilander made his GP2 debut in 2005 when he changed Bruni at Coloni mid-season – however had been put in the identical setting for the primary time after they had been a part of the identical AF Corse secure through the 2007 FIA GT season. Vilander and Dirk Muller edged the sportscar rookie and Stephane Ortelli to the GT2 title, earlier than they had been paired up for 2008 as Ortelli and Muller departed.

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The partnership bore fruit instantly. They received the GT2 crown, Bruni’s first main honour in sportscars, at a stroke and by no means completed decrease than third all season. Alongside the way in which, they received half the races – together with at Brno, which clashed with the Le Mans Sequence finale at Silverstone which meant Bruni was unable to accomplice Rob Bell in securing the crown.

Bruni and Vilander initially cast their profitable partnership in 2008, claiming the GT2 crown in FIA GT with the F430

Photograph by: Ebrey / Motorsport Images

That FIA GT operated with a system of success ballast on the time appeared irrelevant to their prowess. A sixth win from 10 races was ceded in Argentina to an area pair working from the AF secure when group orders arrived within the closing levels.

“For positive it was an excellent start line,” Bruni says with some understatement. “And from there we saved going.”

Bruni and Vilander remained collectively in 2009 however had been unable to defend their GT2 title, narrowly lacking out to Richard Westbrook’s ProSpeed Porsche. Essential of their defeat was a damaged steering hyperlink that plunged Bruni into the gravel whereas main within the closing levels at Silverstone, dropping them to eleventh as Westbrook and Emanuel Collard received.

“It was finished already on Friday after we had the free apply, we already know what to do till the checkered flag” Gianmaria Bruni

Victories at Oschersleben, the Spa 24 Hours and Paul Ricard acquired them again into rivalry, however they ended up two factors shy after ending fourth at Zolder. ProSpeed’s name to deploy silver-rated co-driver Marco Holzer alongside Westbrook gave the 911 a vital 50kg weight break on the sinuous Belgian circuit, whereas the heavier Ferrari struggled to maintain its tyres alive.

The duo had been paired solely sporadically over the subsequent few seasons. Vilander joined Bruni for 2 American Le Mans Sequence rounds in 2010, their Risi-run F430 narrowly developing wanting victory on each events. They missed out by 0.3s at Mosport after ranging from the again – as a result of Bruni’s common co-driver Jamie Melo being taken ailing, Vilander swapped in after his team-mate Pierre Kaffer shunted their #61 machine in apply. Then, they ran dry with two corners to go whereas main at Petit Le Mans, lacking only a quarter litre of gasoline in a merciless finish to 10 gruelling hours of racing as a pair.

Refuelling, brake and radiator glitches left the F430 they shared with Melo three laps down in third at Zhuhai, the ultimate spherical of the 2010 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, however their sole outing collectively in 2011 was altogether extra aggressive. They had been solely denied victory on the brand new 458’s Le Mans debut by an digital engine challenge that sapped the automotive of energy and restricted them to second within the new GTE Professional class.

However along with Giancarlo Fisichella they went one higher at Le Mans the next 12 months, because the World Endurance Championship got here on stream for 2012. Bruni’s second Le Mans class win, after his GT2 triumph on debut in 2008, was achieved after Fisichella’s apply crash required a brand new tub to be hurriedly ready by AF Corse. From the again of the grid, having missed qualifying, Vilander made storming progress within the early levels, setting the crew up for a faultless run.

After a near-miss in 2011, Vilander and Bruni teamed up once more with Fisichella in 2012 to claim Le Mans GTE Pro victory with the 458

After a near-miss in 2011, Vilander and Bruni teamed up as soon as extra with Fisichella in 2012 to say Le Mans GTE Professional victory with the 458

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

Bruni says the duo loved full belief within the different’s skills and labored to carry out their finest traits.

“It was clear from the start, every of us has I might say a robust character and every of us has a robust level,” says Bruni. “Proper from the start, we knew one another which one was the robust level and weak point and we had been utilizing this after we wanted.

“He was superb within the moist situation, he was completely wonderful, I by no means noticed somebody like him within the moist. And I used to be actually good on dry, on one-lap tempo, or catching folks or overtaking folks.

“We knew when the climate was going to be unhealthy for the race, and possibly the beginning of the race, we already say ‘okay, Toni goes to begin, Gimmi goes to complete on the dry’. Or at first of the race, it’s dry after which it’ll be moist, so I begin and Toni completed. It’s easy issues, nevertheless it makes a giant distinction since you belief 100% that it’ll work and also you don’t have to consider it.

“It was finished already on Friday after we had the free apply, we already know what to do till the checkered flag. And behind this, we had a really robust group that they had been working in the identical route of us to push one another in a great way, however to get the outcomes.”

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In 2013 Vilander was paired with sportscar rookie Kamui Kobayashi within the WEC, whereas the Bruni-Fisichella full season axis continued. However come the ultimate spherical in Bahrain, the shut proximity of Aston Martin pair Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke prompted AF Corse to place its eggs into totally different baskets. Bruni and Fisichella had been break up to maximise Ferrari’s title probabilities, the previous reuniting with Vilander as Fisichella joined Kobayashi. The outcome was resounding, as Bruni and Vilander received to safe the previous the primary World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers – which had not been awarded in 2012.

“Nothing to say about Giancarlo, however I used to be completely happy as a result of I knew I might have an opportunity with [Vilander], and I do know that he was very completely happy to assist me to win the championship,” says Bruni. “There was no jealousy, he was so completely happy to assist me and to do the job. That is his robust level.

When Bruni and Fisichella were split for the 2013 WEC finale in Bahrain, Bruni sealed the title with Vilander alongside

When Bruni and Fisichella had been break up for the 2013 WEC finale in Bahrain, Bruni sealed the title with Vilander alongside

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“We discovered I feel on Monday of the race weekend that we had been break up, then we arrived there on Wednesday and it was a simple process. I keep in mind simply saying, ‘okay Gimmi begins, he makes a robust begin after which we stock on like this’ and it principally was how the race went.”

Again collectively for the total season in 2014, their first since 2009, they claimed the WEC title as a pair with 4 wins, together with one other Le Mans triumph with Fisichella after a sophisticated efficiency as throughout others hit issues.

“He was superb within the moist situation, he was completely wonderful, I by no means noticed somebody like him within the moist” Gianmaria Bruni

The 2015 marketing campaign was one other which may have yielded a title however wins at Silverstone and Fuji weren’t sufficient to disclaim Porsche’s Richard Lietz. They led after an early puncture at Le Mans that price 4 minutes, however late gearbox issues dropped their 458 to 3rd – and fourth of the WEC points-scoring entrants. That disappointment, added to a 60-second stop-go whereas in rivalry to win at Spa, an digital failure on the Nurburgring and a broken illuminated door panel at COTA that required two substitute doorways proved pricey.

The 2015 Bahrain finale, after they completed a distant second to Lietz’s Manthey Porsche that was merely higher on its tyres, would show their final outing collectively. Bruni was paired with James Calado throughout his last Ferrari 12 months in 2016, earlier than heading to Weissach for 2017. However Bruni says they nonetheless message a couple of instances every month: “We at all times converse when we have now time,” he provides.

Bruni departed Ferrari for Porsche, but remains close to Vilander

Bruni departed Ferrari for Porsche, however stays near Vilander

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images



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