BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – Spain’s Miguel Molina and Finland’s Toni Vilander drove Canadian Ferrari team R. Ferri Motorsport’s 488 GT3 to victory in Saturday’s Blancpain GT World Challenge event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer and Marc Miller won the Pro/AM class.
The 90-minute, 69-lap race was held under slightly overcast 11 degree Celsius/ 51 degree Fahrenheit conditions.
At the drop of the green flag, pole-sitting American Patrick Long, in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R took the pro division lead ahead of Toronto’s Daniel Morad, in the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Molina, in No. 61 Ferrari 488 GT3 slotted into third. In the Pro/Am division, American Anthony Imperato, in the No. 91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R led over American Bret Curtis in the RealTime Racing No. 43 Acura NSX.
Long quickly built up a .799-second lead over Morad and by lap five the lead was up to 2.7 seconds.
The leaders in the Pro division held their positions through the first 11 laps of the race, while in Pro/Am Imperato led over Bechtolsheimer who moved past Curtis into second.
By lap 13, Long continued to lead by 1.7 seconds over Morad with Molina still in third. Imperato led Bechtolsheimer by four seconds.
Drama ensued on lap 22 as Long came into the pits and his team changed a damaged left rear tire. Morad assumed a .337-second lead over Molina.
A lap later, Pro/Am leader Imperato came into the pit as well, and his team fixed a flat left rear tire moving Bechtolsheimer into the lead.
Through 25 laps, Morad led Molina by .321 of a second, while championship points co-leader Rodrigo Baptista in the K-PAX Racing No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 slotted into third. Wolf Henzler in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R pursued in fourth. In Pro/Am Bechtolsheimer led Canadian Martin Barkey in the No. 80 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX.
At lap 30, the 10-minute pit window opened for driver/tire changes and refueling and leader Morad came in immediately with teammate American Michael De Quesada taking over. With Morad coming into pit, Molina assumed the lead. In Pro/Am Bechtolsheimer came in to change over to Miller.
Near the end of the pit window, the R. Ferri Motorsport team executed a strategy that allowed Vilander to assume driving duties and keep the No. 61 Ferrari in the lead.
After the driver change, Vilander led Baptista’s teammate Maxime Soulet in the #3 Bentley, and De Quesada.
Over the next number of laps, Vilander grew his lead from .888 of a second to over 3.2 seconds lead on De Quesada and Alvaro Parente in K-PAX Racing’s No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 who had moved past Soulet.
With under 22 minutes remaining, the Pro/Am battle started to heat up as Barkey’s teammate Canadian Kyle Marcelli closed on Miller.
By lap 63 with under six minutes in the race, Marcelli had closed to within two car lengths of Miller. A lap later, Parente and De Quesada came together through Moss Corner and Parente moved into second with Soulet into third. De Quesada came into the pit to replace a right rear tire.
At the checkered, Vilander crossed the line 3.5 seconds ahead Parente with Soulet in third. In Pro/Am, Miller held off Marcelli to take the victory.
“It was an amazing race,” said Bechtolsheimer. “I really enjoyed it. I got close a couple of times this year and to finally be on the top step of the podium is awesome; I couldn’t be more excited.”
“This was the home race for our team so it was a great day for R. Ferri Motorsport,” Vilander remarked. “We have a lot of guests here that were all watching from our hospitality in turn one. In the opening stint, Miguel had to manage some close racing.
“Some of our rivals had some tire issues so we just wanted to play it safe. In the last part of the race I had some funky noises but that’s probably just normal so we are really happy with the start to our weekend and tomorrow we have race two.”