The Italian driving duo of Daniel Mancinelli and Niccolò Schirò, driving the #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari F488 GT3, won an incident-filled Round 15 of the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge SprintX championship at the Circuit of the Americas, Texas. The result gave Mancinelli his third win of the season and Schirò his second.
Second at the chequered flag, and 2.158 seconds back from the #31 car, was the #3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R driven by Ricky Taylor and, taking the final stint, Johnny O’Connell.
The final overall podium position was taken by the #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, piloted by Jon Fogarty and Wolf Henzler.
In SprintX – GT Pro/Am, the class victory went to James Sofronas and Mathieu Jaminet in the #14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, a result that sees Sofronas move into the lead of the Am drivers’ points standings. Second in the Pro/Am category was the #54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 piloted by Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Finishing third in the Pro/Am class was the #82 McCann Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 driven by Michael McCann and Mike Skeen.
Starting alongside Ricky Taylor in the #3 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R, Mancinelli in the #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 pushed hard throughout the first 30 minutes but was lacking sufficient pace in a straight line to be able to challenge for the lead.
Niccolò Schirò got behind the wheel of the #31 car at the driver change and started to put pressure on Johnny O’Connell, now piloting the #3 Cadillac. The Italian saw an opportunity at Turn 12 to pass O’Connell for the lead which he then held to the chequered flag.
The 23-year old driver from Milan was pleased with the win but determined to make it two when the grid reforms for Race Two on Sunday September 3.
“The team gave us a really consistent car and I knew I had to hope for O’Connell in the Cadillac to make a mistake because they had much more top speed,” said Schirò. “On the straight, I could be closer to him and then under braking we were a bit stronger so I made a move.”
“I got a good exit before the long straight and on the brakes we were stronger and I did it,” continued Schirò. “I’m very happy for the team. Let’s try and repeat it tomorrow.”
For Mancinelli, lack of top-end speed was frustrating but he knew that the balance of the Ferrari F488 GT3 and speed through the corners could give the #31 car an advantage if their competitors made a mistake.
“It was a great start but unfortunately on the straight we missed a lot of speed,” said Mancinelli. “It was difficult to attack the Cadillac. I tried to pass at Turn 15 but he had a better exit. It was a good race and Niccolò did a great job when he passed O’Connell and went on to win the race. Thank you to the TR3 Racing team who did a wonderful job.”
In Pro/Am, starting from second on the class grid behind Frank Montecalvo in the #75 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, James Sofronas in the #14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R fell back after he moved to avoid a spinning #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with Patrick Long at the wheel. Sofronas got to the driver change still in touch with the class leaders but leaving Mathieu Jaminet with a lot to do.
“Hats off to Mathieu, he was amazing,” said Sofranas. “I had a bad start. Pat Long spun in front of me and I had to go right and everybody went left but I brought it in in one piece close to the leaders in class. That was the plan but Mathieu drove great. I want to give Mathieu and the team immense credit. This guy drove to the front and I think he’s on pole tomorrow with the fastest lap so hats off to the crew and Mathieu. (It was a) great job by this guy.”
Mathieu Jaminet realised he would need to push hard when he took over the #14 car.
“It was just incredible,” said the French driver. “I was a bit far away at the pit-stop by six or seven seconds. I could get to Bleekemolen quite quickly but it was getting harder and harder to catch Heylen. I just gave everything. When I got the lead I got quicker and could pull away and take the car to the end.”
In other classes, SprintX-GT Am/Am was won by Jason Bell and James Dayson in the #23 M1GT Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra ahead of Jorge De La Torre and Ate De Jong in the #04 De La Torre Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3. The GT Cup Pro / Am category was won by the #55 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo, GT Cup Am / Am by the #18 R3 Motorsports Ferrari Challenge piloted by Conrad Grunewald and James Weiland and GTS Am/Am by Derek DeBoer and Sean Gibbons in the #09 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
The 60-minute race was interrupted by two Full Course Yellows, the first as a result of contact between the #77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Preston Calvert and the #017 Case-It Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR piloted by Adam Merzon. The resulting caution neutralised the race for 17 minutes. The second incident occurred when the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R stopped on the start-finish straight with Jan Heylen at the wheel.
The second race of the weekend, Round 10 of the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX championship will take place at 12:30 local time on Sunday September 3.
Photo courtesy of PWC