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Much of the success for the No. 2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet team during the 2012 season belongs to crew chief Tony Pereira. As well as leading the TFT squad to the Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series title, the 40-year-old Gers, France native forged a bond with driver Ander Vilarino that contributed greatly to their triumph.
When talking about his driver, the title-winning crew chief does so from the heart.
“Ander and TFT has been an on-going story since 2005,” Pereira explains. “He is more than a driver – he is like a member of the family. Ander is a great guy who recognizes the work done by the whole team and this comes from the heart. It makes you want to give everything to provide him with the best car possible, especially when pole positions and wins are your reward.”
A calm, composed and thoughtful character, Pereira led his troops by example in 2012, providing a freedom to work in the way that best suited them. This was especially true of his second in command, Damien Bellocq, who assumed leadership of the squad at events Pereira was unable to attend. That was the case at the Brands Hatch 200 and Valencia Semi Finals, where Vilarino took a total of three victories and one pole position from four races.
“I talked with Damien on the phone after every session, but I didn’t try to control him,” says Pereira.
While Valencia was a crucial turning point in the season, the Le Mans Finals were the most difficult for the TFT crew chief.
“If Ander didn’t finish the race we stood to lose everything. The tension was unbearable.”
This was made all the worse by the memory of the 2011 Le Mans event, where Vilarino retired from the race a few hundred metres from the finish after leading from the start.
“We didn’t want to re-live that nightmare and so we played it very safe,” admits Pereira, whose strategy paid off.
Over the 12 races of the season, the No. 2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet Camaro scored six wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s, five pole positions and five times record the race’s fastest lap.