The Finnish racing driver Toni Vilander is one of the world's leading GT drivers since he debuted in GT racing in 2005. First, he won two consecutive championship titles in Italy (2005 and 2006). After that, he won two GT2 class championship titles in the FIA GT Championship (in 2007 and 2008). The highlights of his career were two Le Mans victories in GTE Pro class (in 2012 and 2014) and GT class world title in 2014. In most of his triumphs, Vilander was driving Ferraris.
Toni's career started with karts
Toni Markus Vilander was born on July 25, 1980, in Kankaanpää, Finland. He started racing with karts at the age of five. Until his debut in car racing, Toni won numerous national and international karting titles.
His first competition with bigger racing machines was the 2002 Italian Formula Renault 2.0 Championship. He was driving for RP Motorsport and finished fifth in the points. In 2003, Toni made a significant progress in the same competition and scored his first victory, finishing third in the final standings. He also had one-off appearances in the FR2.0 Eurocup and Italian Formula 3, which led to his move into Formula 3 in 2004 with the Coloni team.
Tied up in points with 2004 Italian F3 champion
In his debut F3 season, Toni was one of the main contenders for the title, winning six races and finishing tied in the points with Matteo Cressoni. The Italian driver was declared a champion, Vilander was the runner-up. During the season, he also participated in two rounds of the Formula 3 Euro Series, but without notable results.
Vilander reached GP2 Series and switched to GT racing
The season 2005 was the milestone year for Vilander, determining his future as he competed parallel in the Italian Formula 3000 and the Italian GT Championship. He also debuted in the GP2 Series, driving for Coloni at Italian and Belgian round. In the Italian F3000, Toni scored one victory and finished fourth in the points.
First GT title in 2005
In the GT Championship, Toni was driving the #78 Ferrari 360 Modena GTC for the Playteam Sara Free and he took the GT2 title with eight wins in 14 races. Toni's co-drovers was Alessandro Pier Guidi.
As Toni's results in the GT racing were much better than in the single-seater racing, he decided to continue racing with Ferrari GT machinery. In January 2006, Vilander, Pier Guidi and Gianbattista Giannoccaro took the GT2 class victory at the Mil Milhas Brasil race at Interlagos, driving the Ferrari 360 Modena GTC.
Great results with Maserati
It was the introduction to one more title-winning season in the Italian GT Championship. Vilander and Giannoccaro competed in #12 Maserati MC12 for Playteam Sara Free and clinched the 2006 GT1 championship title with twelve wins in 16 races. The Italian champions also had the one-off appearance in the FIA GT Championship race at Mugello, but their Maserati didn't finish the race.
ALMS debut with Risi Competizione
During 2006 Vilander wanted to expand his activities outside Italy, so he debuted in the American Le Mans Series in July, driving Risi Competizione's Ferrari F430 GTC at Lime Rock Park. His co-driver was Ralf Kelleners, they didn't finish the race due to an accident. In the following months, Vilander participated in two more ALMS races for Risi Competizione at Road America and Mosport. At the end of the season, Vilander participated in one more FIA GT race, partnering Jaime Melo in AF Corse's Ferrari at Dubai.
Toni joined AF Corse to take world's title
In 2007, Toni joined AF Corse team for the entire season in the FIA GT Championship. The #50 Ferrari F430 GTC was the victorious car in six of ten races, so Vilander and Dirk Muller became world champions in the GT2 class, ahead of teammates Gianmaria Bruni and Stephane Ortelli.
First of many triumphs alongside Gimmi Bruni
In 2008, Bruni became Toni's partner in the #50 Ferrari F430 GTC and the Italian-Finnish pair won another GT2 title, again with six wins in ten races. In July 2008, Vilander participated for the first time in 24 hours of Le Mans, partnering Thomas Biagi and Christian Montanari in the #78 AF Corse Ferrari. They retired after 111 laps.
In the 2009 FIA GT Championship, Vilander competed for the third year in a row in the #50 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GTC. His partner was Gianmaria Bruni. With three wins in eight races, they finished second in the points, two points behind Richard Westbrook.
Le Mans attempt with two former F1 drivers
In 2009, Toni didn't race at Le Mans but he returned in 2010, partnering two former F1 drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Jean Alesi in the #95 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GTC. They finished 16th overall, missing the class podium finishing in the 4th place.
During 2010, Vilander's main competitions were Le Mans Series with AF Corse and American Le Mans Series with Risi Competizione. He scored five podiums in nine races, finishing second in the GT2 class of the Le Mans Series and 11th in the ALMS standings.
First Le Mans podium for Toni in 2011
He had a similar program in 2011, driving the new Ferrari 458 GTC for AF Corse and Risi Competizione. He scored one win in each of those two competitions, winning at Imola and Road America, both times alongside Jaime Melo. At the 2011 Le Mans race, the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, driven by Fisichella, Bruni and Vilander, finished 13th overall and second in GTE Pro class. It was Toni's first Le Mans podium.
Toni's first Le Mans victory in 2012
In 2012, the trio returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe in the #51 car and scored the class victory. Their triumph was even more worthy because they started from the back of the grid following Fisichella's crash in practice, so they didn't participate in qualifying.
Different competitions in the 2012 season
During the 2012 season, Toni's main competition was the FIA GT1 Championship. His partner in the #3 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 was Filip Salaquarda. They won the qualifying race at the Slovakia Ring and the main race at Nurburgring. After sixteen races, Toni finished ninth in the points.
He also had appearances in other GT competitions, including the FIA World Endurance Championship. He and Fisichella won the WEC round at Bahrain. In October 2012, Vilander joined Extreme Speed Motorsports in the ALMS victory at Petit Le Mans, partnering Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek in the #01 Ferrari 458 Italia GTC.
Beretta and Kobayashi partners in 2013
In 2013, Vilander participated in the complete FIA WEC season, driving for AF Corse in eight races and winning the last round at Bahrain. He finished fifth in the championship standings. The part of the championship was the Le Mans race. Vilander's partners in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari were Olivier Beretta and Kamui Kobayashi. They finished 20th overall and fifth in GTE Pro class.
World's title and the Le Mans win in 2014
Vilander was reunited with Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella for the 2014 FIA WEC season and 2014 Le Mans race. The trio took class victory at the world's most famous endurance race while Bruni and Vilander also clinched world's title in the GT class, winning four of eight races in the calendar. Other than Le Mans, the #51 Ferrari was also victorious at Spa-Francorchamps, Fuji and Bahrain.
Two wins for the FIA WEC runner-up spot in 2015
In the 2015 FIA WEC season, Bruni and Vilander won at Silverstone and Fuji, finishing second in the final standings of GT drivers. At Le Mans, they were partnered by Fisichella again and the trio finished third in the class. Vilander also had few participations in other series driving Ferraris for different teams, but without notable results.
Fifth Le Mans podium in 2016
In 2016, Vilander's main job was in the cockpit of Risi Competizione's #82 Ferrari 488 GTE, together with Giancarlo Fisichella. They compete in the GTLM class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, finishing 5th in the points, but have also entered 24 hours of Le Mans, partnered by Matteo Malucelli. After a 24-hour battle, the #82 Ferrari crossed the finish line in the second place, one minute after GTE Pro winners in the #68 Ford GT.
Bathurst 12 Hour victory in 2017
In 2017, Vilander started a season with two great results. At Daytona 24h, he finished third in GTLM class. A week later, he won the Bathurst 12 Hour race at Mount Panorama Circuit, sharing the #88 Maranello Motorsport's Ferrari 488 GT3 with Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup. At 24h Le Mans, in his ninth attempt, Vilander failed to finish the race, sharing Risi Competizione's Ferrari with Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer.