Ferrari drivers Daniel Serra and Toni Vilander led every lap Saturday to win the opening Blancpain GT World Challenge America race at Road America, making major gains in the season-long championship battle.
PRO. After Serra led throughout his stint in the pole-winning No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari of Ontario/Toronto/Alberta, Zekelman Industries Ferrari 488 GT3, Vilander took over and held a comfortable margin after the team had its best pit stop of the season. A caution with 11 minutes remaining set up a three-lap sprint to the finish. Vilander got an excellent restart and pulled away, winning by 1.482-seconds.
Unofficially, Vilander stretched his championship lead from 28 to 51 points. He can clinch the driver’s title by finishing at least sixth in the remaining three Blancpain GT races. He now has six victories this season among nine podium finishes.
Entering the race with a two-point deficit, R. Ferri Motorsport took over the lead in the team championship while Ferrari also extended its lead in the manufacturer standings.
Vilander was quick to credit his co-driver for the dominant victory.
“I have to point out Daniel’s performance,” Vilander said. “Did you see his qualifying? He matched the pace of last year’s pole, and he was on another planet. I was watching the onboard, and it was incredible. I still love the fact that there is the human aspect – there’s not only the machine, but there is a driver inside that takes it to the limit. Today, a big credit goes to my team, but especially to Daniel.”
Serra’s biggest concern over his lengthy stint was tire degradation.
“This was my first race stint at Road America, and it was very different from practice,” Serra said. “The race pace was closer to the rest of the field, but the tire degradation was huge here. I had to manage the rear tires. This is an amazing track – all the tracks in America are super good.”
Serra built up a seven-second lead before his stop, with the R. Ferri Motorsport team only five-tenths of a second shy of the minimum stopping time in the pits.
“There’s a lot of adrenaline, a lot of tension to the actual pit stop, because you only have one shot,” Vilander said. “If you screw it up, the race is compromised. So there’s a lot of pressure. The guys have been working really hard on nailing the pit stops. If we have improved the car on track, they have definitely improved the pit stop as well.”
PRO-AM. Squadra Corse made its season debut in the Pro-Am ranks with a seventh-place finish for Mark Issa and Martin Fuentes in the No. 7 Hubolt/Issa Castro Law/Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale Ferrari 488 GT3.
Issa, running for the second weekend in the series, qualified eighth and worked his way up to sixth place by his pit stop. Fuentes took over and ran seventh throughout his stint.
“We’ve been struggling with the car all weekend, and then I had a very bad qualifying for Sunday’s race,” Fuentes said. “We’re working on getting points and trying to give a little headache for the guys in front. It might rain tomorrow, which will help us. We are a little behind on the setup, and the rain could bring us all together.”
Prior to Saturday, Fuentes won all eight events he entered this season in the Am class.
SUNDAY SCHEDULE. Today’s 90-minute race takes the green flag at 3:15 p.m. ET. The race will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network, beginning at 3 p.m. ET. The event will also be streamed live on gt-world-challenge-america.com.
The 2019 season will come to a close at Las Vegas, with a pair of races on Saturday, October 19.