The “Prancing Horse” logo has made its mark over the years in the Pirelli World Challenge road racing series with the popular Ferrari marque winning GT races with its familiar Ferrari GT3 sports car.
In 2017, the TR3 Racing team captured three PWC GT SprintX races (60-minute, two-driver format) with drivers Daniel Mancinelli, Andrea Montermini and Nicolo Schiro taking the No. 31 Ferrari 488 GT3 to wins at VIRginia International Raceway, Utah Motorsports Campus and Circuit of The Americas (COTA). Mancinelli won again a week ago in the streets of Long Beach in the GT Sprint event with his TR3 Ferrari.
With this weekend’s PWC Grand Prix of Virginia presented by Audi Sport set for April 27-29, the Ferrari machines look to be favorites again in the GT SprintX doubleheader at the fast 3.27-mile, 17-turn permanent road circuit in southern Virginia.
While Mancinelli sits out this weekend, the Ferrari duo of Finland’s Toni Vilander and Spain’s Miguel Molina must be listed as the pair to beat when practice rounds get underway this Fr1 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 machine in search of another doubleheader victory weekend.
Last month at COTA, Vilander and Molina proved to be the class of the GT SprintX field with two impressive wins over a solid field of cars from Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini.
“The COTA event was my first race with Miguel, but he has a lot of experience with the Ferrari in the Blancpain Series in Europe,” said Vilander. “We had great pit stops there and that helped us gain the advantage. We practice the driver change a lot. His input on the car and the various information we received was a big help too. We were aiming at that minimum time in the pits. Miguel pulled out of the pits with the lead and he did a great job extending the lead to the checkered flag. The team is really professional and gives us a great car.”
Vilander and Molina enter the VIR doubleheader this weekend with a five-point margin in the current GT SprintX point standings and, with the Ferrari victory last year at VIR, the Ferrari duo will be the team to beat in Saturday’s GT SprintX Round 3 event set for 1:25 p.m. ET.
“When I was told I would do the SprintX championship, I was looking up some of the old races, checking out which cars and drivers and manufacturers were involved with the championship,” said Molina. “I took that information to Toni and we had long conversations about it, so that put me in a good place to start off the championship. I knew the car and the tires so, in the end, it was a little easier to transition into this year.
“We were really happy with everything at COTA and we’re doing a good job together, especially since this was my first race with Toni and the team. I think there’s no better way to start the season or a championship than this. Toni tested at VIR too and really liked the circuit. I’m anxious to get there this weekend.”
“Overall, it might look easy or like we have it under control, but it’s always a hard battle, a hard fight,” added Vilander. “The Mercedes was not allowing us to win easily. Also, the Porsche picked up some more speed and was a little more competitive and had two wins in St. Pete, so these are exciting races.”
In addition to Vilander and Molina’s Ferrari success in 2018, 2016 GTA series champion Martin Fuentes has taken his Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari 488 GT3 to four victories already in the GTA Sprint and GT SprintX Am class. The Mexico City veteran driver took wins GTA Sprint wins in the streets of St. Petersburg and teamed with Caesar Bacarella to capture the two GT SprintX Am events at COTA. Fuentes also took second place a week ago at Long Beach in the GTA category.
While the Prancing Horse has been a regular in victory lane in 2018, the Ferrari contingent will have a strong group of contenders at VIR, including the North Carolina pair of Mike Skeen and Scott Heckert, in the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Skeen, the pole winner at COTA, is the GT qualifying track record holder at VIR with a lap of 114.30mph. Skeen and Heckert placed second and third at COTA.
Other GT challengers including current GT overall point leader Scott Hargrove, a double winner at St. Petersburg, who pairs with factory Porsche driver Wolf Henzler in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R, while Daniel Morad brings the Charlotte-based No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3 sports car with Fabian Schiller.
Michael Christensen will be another top competitor at VIR this weekend when he teams with veteran Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and former PWC GT champion Alvaro Parente is yet another strong contender at VIR with Spain’s Andy Soucek in the No. 9 K-RAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3. Parente placed third at Long Beach behind the Ferraris of Mancinelli and Vilander.
The Grand Prix of Virginia presented by Audi Sport begins this Friday (April 27) with practice rounds for all eight Pirelli World Challenge classes with some 100 entries. Qualifying runs and the first races of the weekend are scheduled for Saturday (April 28), and Race 2 events will take place on Sunday (April 29).