R. Ferri Motorsports’ Miguel Molina and Toni Vilander claimed overall victory Saturday (May 18) in the first Blancpain GT World Challenge America race of the weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. It is the duo’s second victory of the season.
“[It was] a great day. Everything worked out perfectly,” Vilander said after the race. “Since Thursday, when we had a 30-minute practice, I felt that the car was really good. We believed in what we had and we were confident that at the end of the race, it would pay off.”
Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long started on pole in his Porsche and led easily early on. However, Long cut a tire on Lap 22 and was forced to pit from the overall lead. That gave the advantage over to Alegra Motorsports’ Daniel Morad with Molina hot on his tail. K-PAX Racing’s Rodrigo Baptista and Wolf Henzler were right behind. Long’s stop dropped him back to seventh overall. The Wright Motorsports No. 58 would eventually finish sixth.
Ultimately, the battle for the lead was determined in the pit window. Morad chose to pit at the earliest opportunity to take tires, fuel and put Michael de Quesada in the car. Molina chose to wait four extra laps. In that extra 10 miles of driving, Molina was pushing hard.
Once the stop was made, Vilander and Maxime Soulet in the No. 3 Bentley had been able to jump de Quesada in the No. 22 Porsche. Soulet’s advantage was short-lived as de Quesada was able to take second thanks to warmer tires. In addition, Àlvaro Parente was able to dispatch of Soulet for third.
Slowly but surely, Vilander began to pull out his advantage over de Quesada, while Parente approached the Porsche driver from behind. With just five minutes to go, Parente made his move on de Quesada at Moss Corner. Contact was made on corner exit, which allowed Soulet to also get alongside Parente. The two Bentley drag raced each other up the Mario Andretti Straightaway side-by-side before Parente was able to take the spot. Meanwhile, the aforementioned contact cut de Quesada’s right rear tire, forcing him to pit.
Ahead of the battle, Vilander was able to coast to an easy victory. The margin of victory was 2.485 seconds over Parente and Soucek. Baptista and Soulet were third. Despite the late pit stop, de Quesada and Morad still ended up fourth, but 47 seconds behind. Henzler and Marco Holzer in the second Alegra Motorsports Porsche was fifth.
In Pro-Am, Wright Motorsports’ Anthony Imperato led from the pole and seemed to have the field’s number. However, he ran into the same problem as his Pro teammate Long. A cut left rear tire, only a couple of laps after Long was forced to stop. Imperato’s failure was more severe as it happened further away from the pits and the car was damaged more while Imperato tried to get it back to the pits.
The beneficiary of Imperato’s tire issue was Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer, who took the class lead in his Acura NSX GT3 EVO. Bechtolsheimer led handily until the pit stops, when Marc Miller got in the car. Miller, who shared a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport in the then-Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge with Bechtolsheimer, was making his season debut in the Acura.
Miller kept a strong pace, but had to deal with Racers Edge Motorsports’ Kyle Marcelli. Marcelli was able to run Miller down from six seconds back, paritally aided by tires that got up to temperature faster due to Martin Barkey pitting the No. 80 Acura one lap before Bechtolsheimer. Marcelli was able to get all the way up to Miller’s bumper in the final laps, but he ran off his tires trying to get there. That allowed Miller to hold on to take the Pro-Am win in seventh overall.
Bechtolsheimer and Miller’s margin of victory was eight-tenths of a second over Barkey and Marcelli. DXDT Racing’s Colin Braun and George Kurtz were third in their Mercedes-AMG GT3, but they ended up a lap down at the finish.
There is one more Blancpain GT World Challenge America race on the schedule this weekend. It is scheduled to go green at 10:40 a.m. Sunday. The race will air via tape delay at 2 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
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