Ferrari drivers Daniel Serra and Toni Vilander scored a dominant, flag-to-flag Pro Division Blancpain GT World Challenge America win Saturday afternoon at Road America. In the Pro/Am Division, Mike Hedlund and Dane Cameron grabbed the class win for local favorites and World Challenge series veterans RealTime Racing.
From pole, Brazilian Serra, driving the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 launched successfully and led the field through Turn 1. Second-on-the-grid Patrick Long in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (991) maintained his position. Andy Soucek, driving the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 moved into third through Turn 5 past his K-PAX Racing teammate Rodrigo Baptista in the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3.
Hedlund, driving the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX slotted into fifth overall and in the lead of the Pro/Am division over Anthony Imperato in the No. 91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (991). Am division pilot Naoto Takeda in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW F13 M6 GT3 slotted into 13th overall.
Serra then went to work building a 6.3-second lead over Long heading into the pit window with 50 minutes remaining in the 90-minute race. With the window open the first of the lead pack to come onto pit road included Soucek, Hedlund and Imperato. The RealTime team executed a seamless stop and Cameron, assuming the controls of the No. 43 machine, exited ahead of Matt Campbell who took over for Imperato. Serra brought his Ferrari in with 45 minutes remaining and the R. Ferri Motorsport team executed a flawless stop ensuring that Finland’s Vilander re-entered the race with the No. 61 machine still in the lead.
Parente, now in control of the No. 9 Bentley, passed his K-PAX teammate Soulet in the No. 3 Bentley, while Vilander held a 5.5 second lead over Hargrove.
The leaders held their positions before a full-course yellow to remove a disabled car in Turn 11 on Lap 36. With the car removed, the race resumed with five minutes remaining on the clock.
Vilander launched successfully into the lead on the restart while Parente drag-raced past Hargrove and into second through Turn 1. Cameron maintained his lead in Pro/Am while behind him Pro/Am championship points co-leader Kyle Marcelli in the No. 80 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX dueled with Campbell for second in the class.
On Lap 39, Parente dropped back as his No. 9 machine suffered a mechanical issue through Turn 9. Cameron, who had charged up into third in the subsequent laps after the restart, then slotted into second with Hargrove in third.
At the checkered, Vilander (Serra) won the 41-lap contest by 1.482 seconds over Cameron (Hedlund), who won the Pro/Am division. Hargrove (Long) finished third overall and second in the Pro division, with Campbell (Imperato) in fourth overall and second in Pro/Am. Soulet (Baptista) finished fifth and third in the Pro division. Marcelli (Barkey) finished sixth overall and third in Pro/Am. Takuya Shirasaka (Takeda) finished 13th overall and tops in the Am class.
With the win Vilander unofficially holds a 51-point lead over Parente in the driver’s championship standings heading into Sunday’s race. Ferrari grows its lead over Bentley in the manufacturer’s championship standings, while R. Ferri Motorsport now assumes the lead in the team championship over K-PAX Racing. Cameron and RealTime Racing close the gap on Pro/Am championship leaders Barkey and Marcelli and Racers Edge Motorsports.
“The mindset changes a little bit when you’re in the lead of the championship, so instead of going into the race flat out there’s a bit of a margin and the mindset is to not make a mistake,” said Vilander. “What an incredible performance by Daniel, being his first time here. I’ve been here five or six times and I still struggle. I wasn’t happy to see the safety car at the end, but there were some lapped cars in between so I knew if I was awake at the restart and did a clean lap, I should be able to pull away and I could see in the mirror that there were so many cars close together and knew there was going to be some special action.”
“It was a tough race, but Mike did a great job on his stint, not making any mistakes and coming in the lead,” said Cameron. “Great stop by our RealTime boys. I had a lot of pressure at the beginning of the stint from (Matt) Campbell, he had a little bit of pace in a few spots so I thought if I could stay ahead long enough that he would lose the tires.
“I wasn’t actually that happy to see the caution because I had just gotten free from him and there were only a couple of minutes left, so kind of finally exhaled and then we had the restart and lap cars up there and I think everyone’s car was different on used tires so it got pretty rowdy there at the end. I then knew I needed to get cars between me and all the other Pro-Am guys so I didn’t care what it was or what color it was, I was just going to try go by it and get away from the Pro-Am guys and protect myself — especially when Campbell was really good on the brakes. Great to get the 99th career win for RealTime Racing as a team and for Peter (Cunningham) at their home track. Now we look for the 100th win tomorrow.”
Sunday’s Round 12, 90-minute contest is scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. Central. Watch the race live on CBS Sports Network.