Daniel Mancinelli and Andrea Montermini captured Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge SprintX season opener in the #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 in a wild 60-minute, two-driver sprint event that saw a variety of scenarios at VIRginia International Raceway.
No less than seven two-driver teams were adjudged to have miscalculated the 60-second pit lane minimum during the driver change and were forced to serve “drive through” penalties in the second half of the one-hour contest include the #2 CRP Racing Mercedes AMG team of Ryan Dalziel and Daniel Morad, the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long and Jörg Burgmeister, the #61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 of Alex Riberas and Kyle Marcelli and the #3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATV-V.R. of Johnny O’Connell and Ricky Taylor.
At the checkered flag, the Ferrari of Mancinelli and Montermini held off the #82 McCann Racing Audi R8 LMS of Mike Skeen and Andrew Davis to win by just 0.239-seconds in the Pro-Pro class.
Montermini fought his way to the lead from sixth to win the crowd-pleasing SprintX opener at the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit in southern Virginia. Earlier in the race, Mancinelli and Pierre Kaffer of Germany made contact before the driver change with both drivers’ machines spinning off the track. Mancinelli was able to make it to the pit area to switch with Montermini in the Ferrari’s cockpit.
“Fortunately, the last lap before the pit stop, I was overtaking a GT4 car at the back of the track on corner 8-9,” said Mancinelli. “Kaffer was running quicker but I was overtaking the GT4 car and we made contact and spun off the track. The car wasn’t damaged too much and then I dropped the car off to Andrea (Montermini) and he did a good job. After the caution, and factoring in the penalties for the pit stops for the other cars, we ended up with a fantastic win.”
“I was racing in the Blancpain Series in Europe,” said Montermini, a veteran with IndyCar and U.S. Endurance racing experience. Luckily, I was called by the guys and I was so happy to be back here in the U.S. It’s like a second home to me. I had some great days here in the past. I had a good feeling about the racing since I jumped on the track Thursday. Everybody is so nice and professional, and it’s so competitive. To be honest, this is the kind of racing you can’t find in Europe.”
Skeen of nearby Charlotte, won the pole Saturday morning with a new PWC track record of 114.3 miles per hour average and held the early lead in the SprintX event Saturday before tangling with a back marker. Davis, a late addition to the roster after team owner Mike McCann became ill, made a superb drive back up the field to take the runner-up spot in the Pro-Pro division.
“My race started off nice and smooth and we got the lead through turn one,” said Skeen. “I was able to manage a little bit of a gap to (Ryan) Dalziel. Just as the pit window opened we got run off by a lap car and lost a lot of time. Unfortunately, we lost 15-20 seconds before I handed it over to Andrew (Davis). Fortunately for us, some other guys messed up the pit stops so we were able to capitalize. We were able to get the pole earlier and then end up with a podium, but we’re a little more hungry than that and want to get more tomorrow.”
“I was here at VIR to coach my friend, Preston Calvert, when Mike McCann said he needed a driver for him,” said Davis. “Pirelli World Challenge has always been crazy competitive. Last year I was amazed how fast everyone was and how competitive the teams were throughout the series. The driving is very professional too. I think the SprintX format is great. Now you have 35 entries, great driver pairings, I was really impressed the way it worked.”
Rounding out the podium for Saturday’s SprintX event at VIR was the Pro-Am duo of Michael Schein and Jan Heylen, who finished third overall in the 33-car field and won the Pro-Am division in the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Taking fourth overall was the Cadillac Racing Pro-Pro duo of Michael Cooper and Jordan Taylor in the #8 Cadillac ATS-V.R.
Also claiming class wins in the SprintX contest Saturday were Kris Wilson and Drew Regitz in the #007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin GT3 in the GT Am-Am class; Yuki Harata and Alesandro Bressan in the #55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan in the GT Cup Pro-Am; Joe Toussaint and Cory Friedman in the #90 Autometrics Porsche 911 GT Cup in the GT Cup Am-Am; Adam Merzon and Trent Hindman in the #017 Case-It Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR in the GTS Pro-Am; and Cameron Cassels and Phillip Bloom in the #018 Case-It Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR in the GTS Am-Am.
A dominant performance by the CRP Racing Mercedes team of Ryan Dalziel and Daniel Morad highlighted Sunday’s SprintX Round 2 competition at VIRginia International.
Driving the #2 CRP Racing Mercedes AMG GT3, the Dalziel/Morad combination led every lap Sunday in the scheduled one-hour SprintX contest with the newcomer Morad putting on a superb showing in his first Pirelli World Challenge event as well as his first race in the Mercedes and at VIR. Dalziel took over the driving chores at the 33-minute mark and easily held the leading margin to the checkered flag.
The 60-minute, two-driver, one pit stop event was shortened to 58 minutes after a violent crash with former Formula One and IndyCar racer Stefan Johansson, sports car veteran Kris Wilson and GTS competitor Phillip Bloom entering turn seven put out the caution flag with six minutes remaining. All drivers were treated and released at the VIR track medical center. However, the checkered flag was flown for remaining contestants with two minutes left in the one-hour contest due to accident damage to the wall.
“We knew coming here the Mercedes would be strong,” said Dalziel. “The only variable was how Daniel would adjust to having the engine in the front. It was a big weekend for us, and you’re only as good as your last race so we’ll just enjoy this one. Right now I love the SprintX format, but we need to take a good look at if it helps the package that we have or not. There was a lot of cars here, but I don’t think you can complain when you see where SprintX was last year and where it is now. I’m happy with it right now.”
“I was super pumped coming here,” said Morad. “I grew up watching Ryan (Dalziel) so to be driving with him is great. Having him as my partner is a huge help with the learning curve in sports cars. I was pushing but trying to conserve tires at the same time. It was a little bit of a challenging race, even though it didn’t look like it. I was just trying to mind the gap and the tires and just hanging on until I got the call to hand off to Ryan.”
Placing in the runner-up position Sunday at VIR was the reigning GT champion Alvaro Parente and Ben Barnicoat in the #9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S after a come-from-behind drive by both drivers at the 3.27-mile, 17-turn permanent road circuit. Starting sixth, Barnicoat made several impressive passes in his initial VIR appearance, while Parente, a two-time winner already in 2017, moved from third to second late in the feature.
“Yesterday I risked a little bit on turn one and we broke a track rod on the suspension,” said Parente. “That was the end of the race so it was good to turn it around for today. Going into the weekend, I didn’t think we had the optimum pace so I was thinking if we were inside the Top-10 I would be happy. Our team did a good job with the race setup so we did quite a bit better in today’s race and I’m glad we turned it around.”
“This is my first year in sports cars so definitely running with Alvaro in Europe helped me a lot in this race in the (United) States,” Barnicoat explained. “I’m learning something from him every day I spend with him. It’s great to have such a good teammate in this point in my sports car career. It was a difficult day yesterday. Today was my second ever start in sports cars so I just tried to stay safe and managed to make the position into fifth place. It was tricky but we got a good pit stop and then Alvaro managed to get us all the way into P2. I absolutely love it here. The tracks really test you as a driver.”
Completing the top-three in SprintX was the pairing of Michael Cooper, and Jordan Taylor in the #8 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R.
“We played it safe with the pit lane time so we got jumped by two guys, but (Cooper) was able to jump back from that,” said Taylor, who won the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring with his brother Ricky. “Considering where we came from in practice and qualifying and coming up to third, I think we did pretty good. This was my first race in a GT3 car, so there was a lot to learn with ABS and other electronic systems. SprintX is an interesting format, I like it and look forward to the next one (in Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on May 19-21).”
“We’ve been practicing driver changes since January so we knew what to do, but still it was new for me to do it in a race environment,” said Cooper, a two-time GT winner in 2016. “When you get out there you have to stay calm, do one task at a time and not rush yourself. I think the SprintX concept is pretty cool, bringing in a lot of top talent from worldwide.”
Saturday’s SprintX winners, Daniel Mancinelli and Andrea Montermini, drove the #31 TR3 Racing/The Collection Ferrari 488 GT3 to fourth Sunday followed by the Magnus Racing duo of Pierre Kaffer and Spencer Pumpelly in the #4 Audi R8 LMS.
The overall pole position starting team of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tim Pappas
took the Pro-Am title Sunday in the #54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes AMG GT3. Bleekemolen also set the fastest lap of the SprintX with a one minute, 44.347 seconds (112.81 miles per hour).
Taking the other Pro-Am podium placings Sunday were the #14 GMG Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of James Sofronas and Laurens Vanthoor in second and Saturday’s winning squad of Michael Schein and Jan Heylen in the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Other drivers scoring SprintX class wins Sunday were Tyler McQuarrie and Henrique Cisneros in the #30 MOMO/NGT Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 in the GT Am-Am class; Yuki Harata and Allesandro Bressan in the #55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan in the GT Cup Pro-Am; Joe Toussaint and Cory Friedman in the #90 Autometrics Porsche 911 GT Cup in the GT Cup Am-Am; Adam Merzon and Trent Hindman in the #017 Case-It Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR in the GTS Pro-Am; and Aristotle Balogh and Greg Leifooghe in the #019 Stephen Cameron Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the GTS Am-Am.
SprintX Rounds 3 and 4 are scheduled for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) on May 19-21.