Sam Bird: Ferrari back to winning ways at the 'Ring

In his latest Motorsport.com column, Ferrari GT ace Sam Bird looks back on a Nurburgring weekend that saw the Prancing Horse get back on top after the disappointment of losing out to Ford at Le Mans.

Sam Bird: Ferrari back to winning ways at the 'Ring
#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
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
Sam Bird, AF Corse
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
7#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: 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
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The 6 Hours of Nurburgring last weekend was a terrific overall result for Ferrari: another 1-2 for the new 488 GTE and a good clutch of points for me and my teammate Davide Rigon ensured we continue our quest to challenge for both the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro crowns.

The weekend started out positively in free practice despite a few small problems on our car with the brake bias. We made some changes, and by Saturday morning we were extremely competitive and bang on the pace.

Qualifying was really unfortunate for us, as we went the wrong way on tyre choice in the damp conditions and we weren’t able to qualify at the front as we should have done.

It was a shame for us, but we knew we would have a quick car for the race.

The race itself was a thriller from start to finish, and we were always in the heat of the battle at the front with the #95 Aston Martin and the #66 Ford. The action was exciting enough to watch from the cockpit, and I am sure on TV it was even better!

I think this was my best race yet in a Ferrari and the speed was really good from the 488 GTE. I was making ground on the leaders all the time, which was satisfying.

At one stage I pushed a little too hard at Turn 5 and slithered off through the gravel and re-joined, but on the whole I am growing in confidence with the car and getting faster all the time.

When I got in at the end for the final stints, I was able to pull back a 15-second deficit to Gimmi Bruni. To be able to achieve that on any driver is great, but when it's Gimmi it makes it even more satisfying.

If you’d have told me that we were going to finish second at the beginning of the day then I would have been extremely happy with that.

It was a fantastic weekend for Ferrari with our second 1-2 of the season. We also came away with an increase in our manufacturers' championship lead, and Davide and I have closed in further on Pla and Mucke to just two points.

We know that the battle will go down to the wire and we are prepared for a real fight to the last lap of the season. Ford and Aston Martin are strong competitors, but there is a growing confidence in our AF Corse team and the Ferrari 488 GTE is a great-handling car.

It was a bit more even on the Balance of Performance (BoP) at the Nurburgring, but the thing that is still frustrating is how we get there. Ferrari, in conjunction with Michelotto and AF Corse, has delivered a car that is very strong in cornering phases and it handles very well.

However, the other cars are quite a bit lighter than ours, and when you have a car that is a lot lighter and has a bit more power, it goes quicker in a straight line. It’s not rocket science to figure that out.

When you can’t get close in a straight line, it makes it increasingly difficult, because if you start the straight five metres back and at the end of the straight you are eight or nine metres back, it may not sound a lot, but it puts you out of the overtaking zone.

Next up we head west to Mexico City and the first ever WEC event at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. I was there back in March for the Formula E race, and it is a great country with a unique atmosphere and culture.

Technically it will be interesting, as we will have to see what the atmospheric pressure of Mexico City does with turbo and normally aspirated engines. We will have to see what the performance gains or disadvantages are, because it is likely to suit one or the other.

The organisers deserve credit for the time, effort and money in getting WEC to such a unique location. Special mention has to go to my old teammate Ricardo Gonzalez, who has been instrumental in getting the race there.

I am sure it will be a great spectacle and I look forward to telling you all about the weekend on Motorsport.com.

Sam

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