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Sam Bird column: Damage limitation for Ferrari's WEC campaign

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Sam Bird column: Damage limitation for Ferrari's WEC campaign
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Sep 21, 2016, 12:40 PM

In his latest Motorsport.com column, Sam Bird looks back at the North American leg of the World Endurance Championship, where he consolidated second place in the standings.

#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
LM GTE Pro podium: first place Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim, Aston Martin Racing, second place Gianmaria Bruni, James Calado, AF Corse, third place Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, AF Corse
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Gianmaria Bruni, James Calado, #77 Dempsey Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen, #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird

The North American leg of the WEC world tour is done. Mexico and Austin saw us get a fourth and third place finish respectively, and while not what our massively competitive team ideally wanted, they were still probably the optimum results we could achieve under the circumstances.

It also gives us useful points and keeps us in touch in the LMGTE Pro standings as we consolidated second position.

COTA last week was a tough race. The conditions were challenging but my opinion is that we are paid to endure conditions like this and we put the hours in at the gym training to ensure we can operate at a high standard even in that extreme heat and humidity. We prepared well, we did our homework, and although it was hard, I never felt unduly uncomfortable in the cockpit.

Looking at the pace of the Aston and the Ford, to some extent I think we achieved the maximum of what we could have hoped for in both races. The fact we started the season with great pace compared to the opposition and now we are struggling a little is quite hard to swallow.

We are working extremely hard to ensure we extract the maximum out of our car but some things are out of our control and we have to live with that right now. The lack of straight-line speed is punishing us at the moment, but as I said a lot of it is beyond what we can influence.

Everything is done to the ultimate level of professionalism at Ferrari. We don't leave any stone unturned when it comes to performance and preparation.

Every race that we do is meticulously prepared for. We have all achieved a really good level of performance with a great team like AF Corse, but despite that we have not been able to deliver 25 points in the last two rounds because there is a car out there that is significantly quicker in a straight-line.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and COTA are two circuits that have long straights and are not complete corner performance tracks. We suffer in sectors with long straights compared to the Aston. That is clear to see. It is just the way it is at the moment.

We had a bit of a struggle on the #71 car with rear degradation of the Michelin tyres due to some 'micro-locking' at the rear of the car. Every time I'd do a down change it would lock the rear brakes slightly and this creates excess heat in the tyres.

This combined with the terrific heat on the track meant that the temperature in the tyres was significant and the drop-off of the tyres was earlier and much bigger. We are working hard to resolve the issue for Fuji, and if we do, we should be back on par with the #51 car a bit more.

It is fair to say that the LMGTE Pro class is one of the very toughest that I have been involved in. The level is so high and it so close that you are 'on it' all the time, throughout the whole six hours.

Fuji will be tough again due to the characteristics of the circuit, but we will be pretty determined to fight it out and maybe things will change in the BoP. If they don't, we will just knuckle down and extract the maximum out of the AF Corse Ferrari 488GTE and ourselves.

Ferrari and AF Corse have done a stunning job this year. We can take nothing for granted and if we keep up our current level of hard work and commitment then we will have done the absolute maximum we can and I will look forward to sharing our journey together on Motorsport.com.

Sam

 

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Series WEC
Drivers Sam Bird
Author Sam Bird