R. Ferri Motorsport’s Toni Vilander and Daniel Serra claimed a weekend sweep Sunday (Sep. 1) by winning Race No. 2 for Blancpain GT World Challenge America at Watkins Glen International. For Vilander, it is his fifth win of the season and the second for Serra.
Despite the victory, things were far from perfect. Vilander started from pole, but lost the lead on the first lap to K-PAX Racing’s Maxime Soulet. The two drivers raced hard into the Boot, where contact was made in turn 8. Soulet spun and dropped to the rear of the field, while Vilander re-assumed the lead. Vilander took blame for the spin and noted in an in-race interview that he had attempted to apologize to Soulet afterwards. Soulet wasn’t having it.
The scramble to avoid Soulet resulted in Vilander taking the lead with Dane Cameron in the Pro-Am Acura from RealTime Racing in second. The Acura had a top speed advantage on the Ferrari, allowing Cameron to stick with Vilander for a short time before dropping back.
During the mandatory mid-race pit stops, the R. Ferri team had a mediocre stop. That was enough to allow the No. 61 Ferrari with Serra at the wheel to keep the Pro lead, but he lost the overall lead to RealTime Racing with Mike Hedlund at the wheel. Hedlund, an amateur racer, proceeded to hold Serra off for five laps before the veteran racer was able to slip past with a little less than a half hour to go.
Racing with Hedlund allowed K-PAX Racing’s No. 9 Bentley with Alvaro Parente at the wheel to run down Serra. The result was a two-car duel for the lead for much of the remainder of the race. Parente was never quite able to get to Serra before the Ferrari truly came to life on light fuel.
A combination of superior lap times and Parente being slowed in the Esses by lapped traffic allowed Serra to shake off Parente. Once clear of the traffic, it was smooth sailing to victory for Serra.
Parente and Andy Soucek ended up second, 3.993 seconds back. The No. 3 Bentley of Soulet and Rodrigo Baptista recovered from their first-lap spin to finish third. Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long and Scott Hargrove were fourth, while Alegra Motorsports’ Daniel Morad and Billy Johnson were fifth.
In Pro-Am, Cameron’s run early in the race in second overall spotted the team a big lead in class from the pole. A near-perfect pit stop gave Hedlund the overall lead, as noted above. Running as hard as he could to get Serra behind him, Hedlund was gaining a second a lap on Racers Edge Motorsports’ Martin Barkey.
Once Serra and Parente were able to get past, Hedlund had 15 seconds on Barkey. For the remainder of the race, Hedlund continued to add to his advantage while keeping out of the way of Pro contenders. He and Cameron ultimately ended up fifth overall, but they claimed the Pro-Am weekend sweep.
Hedlund and Cameron ended up 20.383 seconds ahead of Barkey and Kyle Marcelli in their Acura. Wright Motorsports’ Anthony Imperato and Dennis Olsen were third in their Porsche. Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolosheimer and Marc Miller were fourth, while DXDT Racing’s George Kurtz and Colin Braun were a lap down in fifth. Squadra Corse Garage Italia’s Martin Fuentes and Mark Issa completed the Am class weekend sweep in their Ferrari as well.
Blancpain GT World Challenge America teams will be back in action in three weeks at Road America in Wisconsin. Race No. 1 is scheduled to run Saturday, Sep. 21 and will be streamed live at GT-World-Challenge-America.com.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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