Ferrari factory drivers Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina claimed a decisive victory in the first Pirelli World Challenge GT race of the weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus.
The No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 rose to the ascendancy in the opening half of the 60-minute contest after Vilander made a pass for the lead shortly before the pit window.
The Finn superseded the pair of K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3s which locked out the front row of the grid in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Polesitter Alvaro Parente dictated the opening laps but lost multiple positions when an ABS issue took hold of his yellow Bentley.
That promoted Rodrigo Baptista to the front in the sister K-PAX car, but Vilander – whose Ferrari appeared to have more tire life later in the stint – successfully bridged the gap.
Vilander nicked underneath Baptista when the Bentley had a small moment heading into the turn 16-17-18 sequence of corners, before handing over to Molina who never relinquished the lead.
Baptista’s co-driver Maxime Soulet then stalled the Bentley while exiting his pit box, dropping the Belgian driver to seventh overall and behind the Pro-Am leaders.
There was a silver lining for the K-PAX squad, however, as Soucek managed to set the fastest lap on the final tour to claim pole in the No. 9 car for Sunday’s second race.
Molina saw the chequered flag 3.871 seconds ahead of Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R started by Michael Christensen.
Pumpelly resisted late pressure from Mike Skeen in the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes to edge nearer to Porsche pair Scott Hargrove and Wolf Henzler in the SprintX standings.
However, Hargrove and Henzler’s fourth-place finish means Vilander and Molina extend their grip on GT with an almost unassailable 20-point cushion heading into Sunday’s season finale.
Segal Holds Off Dalziel for Pro-Am Class Honors
Ferrari claimed a double-victory in Utah as Jeff Segal and Wei Lu took Pro-Am class honors in their No. 31 TR3 Racing machine.
Lu held off Parker Chase in the No. 19 TruSpeed AutoSport Audi R8 LMS GT3 during the opening stanza while the order maintained through the driver swaps.
The battle came to a head in the final five minutes when Ryan Dalziel caught Segal and made a string of attempted overtakes, but the Scot couldn’t find a way past.
Segal held on to take the win by 0.228 seconds to reduce the Audi pair’s championship lead to six points.
In GT Am, David Askew notched up a dominant solo triumph with the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes, breaking Martin Fuentes and Caesar Baccarella’s 100 percent SprintX win record this season.
RESULTS: Race 1