A brilliant charge from fifth to second by Daniel Serra in the final 10 minutes on Sunday at Road America provisionally clinched the Blancpain GT World Challenge America Pro championship for his R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari teammate Toni Vilander with two races remaining in the 2019 season.
PRO. The No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari of Ontario/Toronto/Alberta, Zekelman Industries Ferrari 488 GT3 was scored first in the Pro category and second in the overall running order. The hard-earned points extended Vilander’s lead to 54 – with only 50 points on the table for the season-ending event at Las Vegas. Ferrari and R. Ferri Motorsport also extended their leads in the respective manufacturer and team championships.
Vilander started the race in fifth but fell to seventh in the early laps, running a conservative pace in the event that began on a drying track with the threat of rain.
Serra joined the race in sixth after the exchange of pit stops, and worked his way to fifth with 12 minutes remaining in the 90-minute contest. Moments later, the race went to full-course caution for an incident in the kink. When that car was able to continue, the race suddenly went back to green one minute later without the safety car being deployed. The R. Ferri team read the situation correctly, with Serra pouncing to take over second before the competition reacted.
“We were under a full-course caution and suddenly it was green, with no safety car,” Serra said. “I pushed, and I was able to overtake two cars.”
Serra then set his sights on the leader, and managed to close the gap to 0.495-seconds seconds at the checkered flag.
“I was trying hard to win overall,” Serra said. “I’m happy to help Toni (Vilander) and the team, and I am happy to have Toni win the championship.”
Vilander admitted that he was thinking survival – not a championship – in his early laps.
“I think this was the most difficult stint of the whole year,” Vilander explained. “There were damp conditions and I was on slicks, and didn’t want to make a mistake and give a huge amount of points on a plate to our opponents. So I just had to keep the car on the track. I started the stint on used tires, and I was not super confident with the car in general. I had a few moments earlier on when the track was still slippery, and even towards the end of the stint. It wasn’t a super performance for me, but the limiting factor was that I couldn’t make a mistake.”
Ferri Motorsport team manager Enrico Diano said that track conditions and expected rain resulted in a compromise set up from that used in Saturday’s race – when Serra and Vilander led every lap.
“Obviously, it was not an ideal situation, and we were not taking any risks,” Diano explained. “We made some small changes, thinking at some point in the race we would see some rain. We ran a bit of a compromise setup – not a full dry, and not a full wet setup.”
The result was the eighth-consecutive top-two finish for R. Ferri Motorsport. Vilander has six victories – with Serra sharing in three of them – with 10 podium finishes in 12 races.
PRO-AM. Squadra Corse completed its first weekend in the Pro-Am ranks with a sixth-place finish for Mark Issa and Martin Fuentes in the No. 7 Hubolt/Issa Castro Law/Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale Ferrari 488 GT3. That was one position better than Saturday’s seventh-place result.
Fuentes ran fifth overall before stopping just before the end of the pit window. Issa took over in seventh, picking up a position in the final minutes.
SEASON ENDS AT LAS VEGAS
The 2019 season will come to a close at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with qualifying and a pair of races on Saturday, October 19. Both races will be streamed live on gt-world-challenge-america.com.