R. Ferri Motorsport’s Toni Vilander and Daniel Serra led flag-to-flag Saturday afternoon (Sept. 21) at Road America to take their third straight Blancpain GT World Challenge America victory and sixth win of the year. The victory puts Vilander within shouting distance of the series points championship. But it was the exceptional speed of his co-driver, Serra, that he was focused on after the race.
“Today, [I must] point out Daniel [Serra’s] performance. It is his first time here,” Vilander said. “He matched last year’s pole and was on another planet. Today, big credit goes to Daniel.”
Serra put the No. 61 Ferrari on the overall pole Saturday morning by 1.8 seconds. He was nowhere near that much faster than the rest of the field during the race, but it was more than enough to break clear of the field. By the race’s one-third mark, Serra had put seven seconds on Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long in second.
There was very little change in the order prior to mid-race mandatory pit stops. Here, Wright Motorsports actually completed their stop under the 80-second minimum time. However, they were able to take advantage of a one-second “Joker” that can be used once per weekend. That allowed the No. 58 Porsche, with Scott Hargrove now at the wheel, to gain a couple of seconds on Vilander.
As the race continued on, Hargrove was able to make some gains on Vilander thanks to lapped traffic. With 10 minutes to go, the race’s sole caution came out when Alex Barron stalled the K2R Motorsports Porsche on the run to Canada Corner.
The caution bunched the pack back together, but left two lapped cars (the BMW of Greg Liefooghe and the Ferrari of Martin Fuentes) between Vilander and Hargrove. On the restart with just under five minutes remaining, Hargrove got stuck behind Fuentes and stacked up the field. That allowed Vilander to move out to a four-second lead and coast to victory.
Behind him, chaos broke out. K-PAX Racing’s Alvaro Parente was able to get his Bentley up to second, but then had a mechanical failure coming to the white flag. That resulted in Parente spinning the No. 9 Bentley in Canada Corner and ultimately putting around to the finish at a reduced pace. He would be credited with ninth.
Parente’s trouble allowed RealTime Racing’s Pro-Am pairing of Mike Hedlund and Dane Cameron to finish second overall in their Acura, 1.482 seconds out of the lead. Hargrove and Long finished third, followed by Anthony Imperato and Matt Campbell in Wright Motorsports’ Pro-Am entry. K-PAX Racing’s Rodrigo Baptista and Maxime Soulet finished fifth in their Bentley.
Pro-Am saw RealTime Racing lead for the full 90 minutes. Hedlund started fifth overall and was able to maintain that position all the way to his pit stop. Once Cameron got in the car, he had Campbell right on his tail. The two drivers were evenly matched until the final 20 minutes. At that point, Campbell’s tires started to go away and Cameron stretched the advantage.
The caution created an a fresh race in this division with the goal to get everything possible. Cameron stated after the race he saw the Bentleys struggling on their tires. So, he pounced on the restart, never looked back and drove away convincingly. Those moves, along with lapped traffic, allowed Cameron to take the class victory.
Cameron and Hedlund won the Pro-Am class by 3.310 seconds over Imperato and Campbell. Racers Edge Motorsports’ Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli were third, followed by the Mercedes of DXDT Racing’s Colin Braun and George Kurtz. Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer and Trent Hindman were fifth.
Blancpain GT World Challenge America Race No. 2 from Road America is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Sunday. Live coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon on CBS Sports Network.
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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