Defending champions Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina took a hard-fought victory in Sunday’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America race at Circuit of The Americas.
The R. Ferri Motorsport pair, driving the No. 61 Ferrari 488 GT3, led virtually from start to finish after Vilander produced a sweeping move around the outside of pole-sitter Kyle Marcelli early in the 90-minute contest.
However, their status at the front was threatened in the closing stages when a safety car period wiped out Molina’s 20-second plus lead to Andy Soucek in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3.
This was caused by separate on-track stoppages for the No. 19 One11 Competition Ferrari and the No. 38 K2R Motorsports Porsche.
Molina was picked off by Soucek at the restart but the Ferrari driver moved back ahead as the pair raced downhill into the esses.
Soucek, under pressure from Patrick Long in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, tried in vain to get close again, enabling the R. Ferri crew to take its first win of the season.
Long held on for second with the Wright car under its own pressure from Rodrigo Baptista in the second Bentley, had recovered through the field from an early drive-through penalty.
Maxime Soulet tipped the other Wright Porsche of Dennis Olsen into a spin at the first corner which drew the attention of the stewards, sending the No. 3 K-PAX car tumbling down the order.
A quick pit stop and some fast laps from Baptista in the second half of the race set both Bentleys in the top four at the end.
Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada completed the top five in the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports Porsche.
Acura Scores 1-2 in Pro-Am
Racers Edge Motorsports scored its first Blancpain GT America victory as Acura NSX GT3 Evos finished 1-2 in the Pro-Am class.
Marcelli, who ran in the overall top three during the opening stint, and Martin Barkey profited from a black flag for the leading P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maximilian Buhk and JC Perez.
Perez, who ran as high as second overall after a strong first stint from Buhk, incurred a pit infringement but did not come in for his drive-through penalty.
This promoted the overall pole-sitting Racers Edge Acura to the win, ahead of the Gradient Racing Acura driven by Ryan Eversley and Till Bechtolsheimer.
Wei Lu was initially course to take the win until his TR3 Racing Ferrari was turned around at a busy safety car restart, before colliding with the Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M6 GT3.
Victory in Am went to Race 1 winners Caesar Bacarella and Martin Fuentes in their Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari.
RESULTS: Race 2