Toni Vilander/Miguel Molina/Ferrari Combo Dominate GT Pro-Pro, Chase/Dalziel/Audi Take Pro-Am, Fuentes/Bacarella/Ferrari in Am-Am
Six victories for Ferrari duo give R. Ferri Motorsport a hard-earned title in 2018
GRANTSVILLE, Utah – It’s funny to think that veteran Toni Vilander and young Miguel Molina had never raced together before the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge GT SprintX (60-minute, two-driver) road racing campaign.
The two Ferrari drivers had established themselves in other series around the world in Ferrari GT3 machinery including two 24 Hours of Le Mans class titles and a WEC sports car crown for Finland’s Vilander, while Molina of Spain was an open-wheel star before winning in the WEC sports car series.
They blended together quickly in 2018 to capture six of the ten GT SprintX Pro-Pro division in easily scoring the series driver and team point championships in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3.
With superb pit stops by the R. Ferri Motorsport crew in the No. 61 Ferrari 488 GT3 based out of Toronto, Vilander and Molina opened the ten-race tour with an impressive double win weekend at the state-of-the-art Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in March. The pair continued their winning ways at Lime Rock Park in May, Portland International Raceway in July and another double victory performance last weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus.
“It’s been great to be a part of this championship with R. Ferri,” said Vilander, in his first PWC season. “We’ve grown together to capture these championships. There are good calls by the team and driver consistency, so everything is going in the right direction for the team. This is also good for Remo (Ferri, team owner). He’s been there fighting for the championship for years. He’s been going through some tough times, but he’s very passionate about winning. So, this is a great win for the team and especially for him.”
“I’m really happy,” said Molina. “It’s my first championship in America and we achieved the goal we set out to do. Toni still has one weekend to go (with the GT Overall and GT Sprint races at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 1-2), but I’m happy to get my championship for myself, for the team, and for Ferrari. Coming here to race and not knowing any of the tracks is tough, but Toni was great in helping me. It doesn’t matter if I enter in the pit or if I start, I always try to give it 100 percent. In the beginning of my racing last year, I had to get used to taking the car in the pit, because it doesn’t have the same amount of prep time to get yourself ready to drive like when you’re starting. Overall, I’m very pleased how the season went for the R. Ferri team.”
The Vilander/Molina combination totaled 224 points to capture the Pro-Pro class by 26 points over the Porsche pair of Michael Christensen and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Christensen, the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner, teamed with the veteran Pumpelly for a GT SprintX victory at Lime Rock Park and tallied two seconds and three third places in GT SprintX competition.
Third in the final standings was the Pfaff Motorsports duo of Scott Hargrove and Wolf Henzler in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R with one second and four thirds, followed by young Rodrigo Baptista and veteran Maxime Soulet in the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 with one win, one second and one overall pole position.
Scoring fifth overall and winning the GT SprintX Pro-Am driver and team championship were the Audi team of 17-year-old Parker Chase and GT veteran Ryan Dalziel in the No. 19 TruSpeed Autosport Audi R8 LMS GT3. Chase and Dalziel won the Portland Round 8 overall title in GT SprintX in a brilliant performance as well as a five Pro-Am class victories. This past weekend, Chase and Dalziel secured the Pro-Am title with runner-up finishes and winning the crown by four points over the Ferrari pair of Jeff Segal and Wei Lu.
“We played the point game at Utah,” said Chase, the Texas driver who moved to the GT category in 2018. “I think on Saturday Ryan could have made the move for the win but there was no reason to risk the second-place finish. We had done all of the math for the possibilities for the GT SprintX Pro-Am title. Overall, it was a very good weekend. In mid-season everything really clicked for me, Ryan and the team with the class wins and the overall victory at Portland. The races were coming a bit easier with the drivers and the car. This weekend wasn’t what we wanted but we’ll take it and the championship.”
“At the end of the day, Parker is a naturally talented driver,” said Dalziel, the Scot who now makes his residence in Florida. “Heck, he is just 17 years old. It makes my job easier when you have someone who is so far up the ladder in speed. We knew the game we had to play this weekend for the championship. It was a great season and I’m proud to be part of the team, and glad we could get a championship for Audi this year. I’m definitely looking to see what is in the future for Parker and myself. It was hard for all of us at the start of the season. I had no experience in the Audi and the team had no experience with the car either. Parker was new to GT3 in general. We gradually strengthened the team with Peter Baron coming in and he was a big asset to us. We needed his experience from the European Audi car. We started to make it all work then. We were missing Carl Wright, our truck driver, this past weekend and we are thinking of him after some surgery. We are glad he is doing better.”
The Segal/Lu team was right in the thick of the Pro-Am championship with a double win weekend at Utah in the No. 31 TR3 Racing/Ferrari of Vancouver Ferrari 488 GT3. In fact, the Ferrari duo scored three Pro-Am wins and five runner-up performances to just miss the title.
In third place was 2017 GT Cup champion Yuki Harata and pro racer Alessandro Bressan in the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with two Pro-Am wins and four podium (top-three) placings.
In the GT SprintX Am-Am division the Ferrari combination of Martin Fuentes and Caesar Bacarella dominated the class with nine Am-Am division wins in ten races in the No. 07 Squadra Corse Italia Ferrari 488 GT3. They celebrated Sunday with an impressive class win to wrap up the series championship.
“We had a stressful race on Saturday at Utah, but we came back strong Sunday with a great win and clinched the series championship,” said Fuentes, the popular Mexican driver who won 2016 GT Pro-Am Sprint series. “Caesar had an amazing drive last Sunday and I’m so happy to be part of the Squadra Corse Italia Ferrari team this year. It was my first year with this team and we went out and won the championship. That’s a thrilling feeling.”
“It feels great to win the final race and take the Am-Am point championship,” said Bacarella, driving his first year in the Pirelli World Challenge. “It was so great to learn from Martin in my first season in a GT3 car. It was an exciting year for me.”
David Askew took the second-place position in the final Am-Am point standings with a win at his home track last Saturday at UMC in the No. 63 DXDT Racing/Security National Mercedes-AMG GT3 sports car.
The GT SprintX champions will be feted at the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge Season Celebration and Awards Ceremony on Dec. 5, 2018 in Indianapolis.
The 2018 PWC road racing series will wrap-up its tour on Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the famed Watkins Glen International with the final weekend of the 2018 GT Sprint (50-minute, one-driver), GTS Sprint and Touring Car classes. The GT and GTS Overall, GT Sprint, GTS Sprint championships will be on the line as well as the TCR, TC and TCA class titles.
FINAL GT SPRINTX POINT STANDINGS
|GT-X Pro Class (Wins)|
|1||Toni Vilander / Miguel Molina (6)||224|
|2||Michael Christensen / Spencer Pumpelly (1)||198|
|3||Scott Hargrove / Wolf Henzler (0)||187|
|4||Rodrigo Baptista / Maxime Soulet (1)||170|
|5||Parker Chase / Ryan Dalziel (1)||152|
|GT-X ProAm Class (Wins)|
|1||Parker Chase / Ryan Dalziel (5)||234|
|2||Wei Lu / Jeff Segal (3)||230|
|3||Yuki Harata / Alessandro Bressan (1)||193|
|4||Tim Pappas / Jeroen Bleekemolen (0)||124|
|GT-X Am Class (Wins)|
|1||Caesar Bacarella / Martin Fuentes (9)||248|
|2||David Askew (1)||182|