WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Blancpain GT World Challenge America Ferrari drivers Toni Vilander and Daniel Serra were victorious for the second-straight day Sunday at Watkins Glen Int’l.
Sunday’s race also saw repeat wins from Acura team drivers Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund in Pro/Am and Ferrari drivers Martin Fuentes and Mark Issa in the Am class.
Championship leader and pole sitter Vilander led the field to the green in his No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 and drag raced down the front straight with Maxime Soulet. Soulet was able to nose ahead and take the lead through turn one. Cameron slotted in behind Vilander in third.
Drama ensued as the leaders headed to turn eight on the first lap. Vilander was able to get underneath Soulet as the two entered the right hander and the two contacted with Soulet’s Bentley spinning and Vilander continuing through into the lead. Soulet gathered his No. 3 machine and re-entered the track but not before a substantial number of competitors had passed.
At the completion of lap one, Vilander led Cameron and Pro/Am driver Kyle Marcelli. Fuentes slotted in 12th overall and tops in the Am division. By lap three, Pro division pilot Scott Hargrove was on a charge moving up four positions to slot into fourth overall behind Marcelli.
Through lap 20 the leaders in all categories held their positions with Vilander growing his overall lead over Cameron by over two seconds.
At the 50-minute mark of the race the pit lane opened for driver changes and Soulet brought his No. 3 machine in first to change over to partner Rodrigo Baptista. K-PAX Racing’s second entry, with Andy Soucek behind the wheel of the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3, came in shortly after for Alvaro Parente to assume the reins.
Vilander and Hargrove brought their cars in a lap later to change over to Serra and Patrick Long, respectively. Cameron and Marcelli stayed out on track until near the close of the pit window when both came in to change over to partners Hedlund and Martin Barkey, respectively.
By lap 30 with the pit window closed, and driver changes completed, Hedlund held the overall lead and top spot in the Pro/Am division with Serra, Parente and Long in pursuit. Issa who had taken over for Fuentes slotted into 13th overall maintaining the lead in Am.
By lap 31, the top three dueled for position with Hedlund defending the lead over Serra and Parente looking for a way around the Ferrari driver for second. Then on lap 33, Serra squeezed by Hedlund for the lead through turns 8 and 9 with Parente following into second.
That set up a 28-minute duel to the checkered between the Ferrari and Bentley drivers. Long then made it a Ferrari, Bentley and Porsche duel passing Hedlund on lap 34. By lap 39 the leaders began to encounter lap traffic closing the gap between the top three and bringing Baptista, who had passed Hedlund, into the picture in fourth.
Serra effectively managed lap traffic and was able to hold off any challenges from Parente extending his gap in front, while on lap 41 Baptista passed Long through the bus stop complex moving into third overall. Hedlund remained in fifth overall leading in Pro/Am, while Issa maintained his 13th overall position leading in Am.
By lap 42, Serra had cleared lap traffic and increased his gap over Parente to .800 seconds. Parente was unable to close the gap back up and at the checkered, the Ferrari driver crossed the line ahead of the Bentley driver by 3.99 seconds, with Baptista, Long and Hedlund closing out the top five.
“What was supposed to be an easy stint for me became like qualifying every lap,” said Serra. “We lost a bit of time on the pit stop and when I got back out, I was behind Hedlund. It was difficult to overtake him because he had much more speed than us on the straight, even when I was in the draft. I had to wait for a mistake or something like that and in turn 8 he went wide and I was able to overtake him. I was pushing and couldn’t put a gap to Parente. It was a nice stint, it’s good to come here and help the team and Toni (Vilander) extend the lead so I’m satisfied.”
With the win, Vilander leaves Watkins Glen with a 21-point lead over Parente and Soucek in the driver’s championship. K-PAX Racing leads R. Ferri Motorsport in the push for the team championship by nine points. Bentley leads Ferrari by six points in the manufacturer’s championships.
Barkey and Marcelli lead the Pro/Am driver’s championship with 143 points each, while Fuentes has a dominating lead in the Am category driver’s championship with 175 points.