On Sunday (March 3), R. Ferri Motorsports’ Toni Vilander was able to take the lead on Lap 2 from pole sitter Kyle Marcelli. From there, Vilander and teammate Miguel Molina were able to keep K-PAX Racing’s Andy Soucek at bay to win Blancpain GT World Challenge America Race No. 2 at Circuit of the Americas.
“We know that as soon as we put the [accelerator] down, the Bentley has more power than us,” Molina said after the race. “That compromised the restart. I knew that I needed to overtake him [back] as soon as I could. I committed and went for it. This time, it worked out.”
Marcelli led the field to green in his Acura and got a decent start. Vilander started in third and quickly got up to second. Once in the lead, Vilander tried to pull away from Marcelli, but really couldn’t get that far in front. Marcelli had P1 Motorsports’ Maximilian Buhk hot on his tail, which in turn forced Marcelli to keep his pace up. On Lap 15, Buhk was able to get past Marcelli for second (and the Pro-Am class lead) and set off to catch Vilander. Sure enough, Buhk was able to run down Vilander for the overall lead, but Vilander chose to pit before the pass could be made.
Teams are mandated to change four tires, add fuel and change drivers during their stops. Also, the car must be on pit road for a minimum of 70 seconds. Buhk stayed out for two extra laps before stopping. When JC Perez got in the car, he managed to jump the R. Ferri Ferrari. However, the relatively inexperienced Perez had to get his tires up to temperature. By the time he did, Molina had overtaken him and stretched out a 12-second lead.
Molina had a comfortable lead until an incident occurred exiting Turn 19 with just under 20 minutes to go. K2R Motorsports’ Kevan Millstein spun his Porsche and high-centered it on the curbs. One11 Competition’s Brian Kaminskey also stalled on the exit of Turn 20. Neither car was able to resume, resulting in the race’s only full course caution coming out.
Just before the yellow flew, Soucek was able to get past Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long for second. On the restart with 10 minutes to go, Soucek immediately got the jump on Molina and took the lead on the run up to Turn 1. Molina then drag raced Soucek into the Esses, side-by-side. By the time the two cars reached the first left-hand turn in the Esses, Molina had the advantage back. From there, he held off Soucek to the finish.
The margin of victory was 1.249 seconds over Soucek and Àlvaro Parente in the No. 9 Bentley. Long and Scott Hargrove were third in their Porsche, followed by Rodrigo Baptista and Maxime Soulet. Saturday’s winners were plagued by a bad qualifying effort, then drawing a drive-through penalty for spinning out Dennis Olsen on the first lap. Alegra Motorsports’ No. 22 Porsche for Michael de Quesada and Daniel Morad was fifth.
In Pro-Am, the fight was right at the front of the field for the first half of the race. Unfortunately, Perez did not have anywhere near the pace that Buhk did. That allowed TR3 Racing’s Wei Lu to run down Perez’s Mercedes and take the lead.
On the restart, Perez tried his best to get back past. In the first turn, Perez had contact with Lu, which bounced Lu into the BMW M6 GT3 of Stephen Cameron Racing’s Henry Schmitt. Both Lu and Schmitt’s cars were damaged and effectively done, while Perez continued. Perez was hit with a drive-through penalty for an unrelated infraction, then chose not to serve it.
With two laps to go, Perez was shown the black flag and finally pulled in for his penalty. That gave the lead and the win to Marcelli and Martin Barkey in the No. 80 Acura in sixth overall. Their margin of victory was 2.823 seconds over the similar Acura of Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer and Ryan Eversley. Wright Motorsports’ No. 91 of Olsen and Anthony Imperato recovered from Olsen’s spin at the start to finish third.
Finally, in the Am class, it was once again the Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari of Caesar Bacarella and Martin Fuentes led flag-to-flag to claim a weekend sweep in the Am class. The duo, who finished 11th overall, were the only Am team on the lead lap at the end of the race. Autometrics Motorsports’ Porsche for Alan Metni and Joe Toussaint were second despite an early spin, while GMG Racing’s James Sofronas and Brent Holden were third.
Blancpain GT World Challenge America teams take the next seven weeks off. Rounds 3 and 4 for the GT3 cars will be April 27-28 at VIRginia International Raceway.