You would never know that Ferrari racers Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina had not raced together before the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge road racing series as the duo in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 captured their fifth GT SprintX event Saturday at Utah Motorsports Campus in the PWC Grand Prix of Utah.
In their first racing weekend together last March at Circuit of The Americas, Vilander and Molina swept the doubleheader 60-minute, two-driver events and basically proved they were the pair to beat in GT SprintX. The final race of the 10-event campaign is set for Sunday as Finland’s Vilander and Spain’s Molina aim to clinch the GT SprintX driver and team championships.
In addition to the Ferrari winning in the Pro-Pro category Saturday at the 3.048-mile, 14-turn road circuit, the No. 31 TR3 Racing/Ferrari of Vancouver Ferrari 488 GT3 of Wei Lu and Jeff Segal scored a wild, close win over the No. 19 TruSpeed Autosport Audi R8 LMS of Parker Chase and Ryan Dalziel.
Rounding out the podium Saturday was local driver David Askew of Salt Lake City, who drove his DXDT Racing/Security National Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the win in the GT SprintX Amateur division Saturday.
“I could see the leading car was all over the place so I backed off and just waited for some laps,” said Vilander. “The handling of the (No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley) car got worse, so when I saw a chance, side by side in turn 7, I managed to overtake him into the chicane and I was happy about that. The key for us is not just the pit stop, but it’s the in-lap, the pit stop, and the out-lap, all combined in a team effort. Somehow this format suits our car and our group.
“Miguel is easy-going. The weekends are easy. At this point of the season, we have learned throughout the season and how to drive together and compromise on the car setup. We go flat out, but we know where we are in the SprintX and the overall championships, so we have fun but we still need to push.”
“It’s been an interesting championship for me,” said Molina, who is also racing two European sports car series as well. “The most important thing to do out here is to have fun and we do that. It’s my first time racing in America this year, discovering new tracks and track styles. Everything is going good for us at this point, with one more race to go. But as Toni said, we have to keep pushing so that I can help him score more points in the overall by scoring points in the SprintX championship, since we have a good chance. We’ll see tomorrow (Sunday) how good we can do.”
Taking second in the GT SprintX Pro-Pro class Saturday was the Porsche team of Michael Christensen and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R followed by the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Scott Heckert and Mike Skeen.
The Ferrari combo of Lu and Segal finished fourth overall in the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, the same machine which won the GT SprintX overall race last year’s at UMC. Chase and Dalziel finished fifth overall and second in the Pro-Am division.
“My start wasn’t that great, but it was quite a tight battle, maybe three or four cars going into turn one,” said Lu. “I’m just glad that I was able to hand the car over to Jeff in front of our competitors. I’m glad to be here at the Pirelli World Challenge. This is definitely a step up for me, getting used to the GT3 car, racing in a bigger championship series. What a year for me. I wish we had more races.”
“Obviously, I’m excited to win but I’m also a bit disappointed because we needed some help besides winning in order for us to have a shot at the championship,” said Segal. “The car was really good throughout. And we just had an issue with a punctured tire in the last few laps. The handling started going away and I could see Ryan (Dalziel) getting closer and closer. But where we are in the championship and this being the last race in the year, it was pretty much guaranteed that he wasn’t going to get by. It wasn’t until after the race that we figured out that it was a punctured tire. Had the race not stopped, we probably still would have kept going.”
For Askew, the win was huge in front of the home crowd, family and friends at UMC Saturday.
“Wow, this is on home soil and it’s my first victory in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Am class,” said Askew. “I have been working it at a long time. And, finally, I got one and I’m really happy. It adds a lot of confidence going into Sunday’s race.”
Sunday’s Round 10 race, to determine the season champions in the GTS SprintX classes, is set at 5 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. MT. All races will be livestreamed at world-challenge.com and audio simulcast on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.