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Molina & Vilander Edge Closer To Title With Race 1 Win

Tough outing for K-PAX after strong qualifying

Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina steered the #61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 to victory on Saturday, in the first PWC SprintX Race of the weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus.

With the win, they head into the final race of the 10-event SprintX, on the verge of clinching the GT SprintX driver and team championships. They now lead the title race by 20 points over Scott Hargrove and Wolf Henzler (Pfaff Motorsports Porsche), and 22 points over Michael Christensen and Spencer Pumpelly (Alegra Motorsports) with just one more race to run.

“I could see the leading car was all over the place so I backed off and just waited for some laps,” said Vilander after the race, when asked about the winning move on the #3 K-PAX Bentley to take the lead.

“The handling of the (#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 sprints and the overall championships, so we have fun but we still need to push.”

Taking second in the GT SprintX Pro-Pro class Saturday was eventually the Alegra Porsche of Christensen and Pumpelly followed by the #80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Scott Heckert and Mike Skeen which completed the podium.

Neither K-PAX Bentley made it onto the podium, despite locking out the front row in Qualifying, in what was a tough outing for the Californian team. The #9 pole-sitting Continental GT3 suffered an ABS problem early in the race after Alvaro Parente led the opening laps, while the aforementioned #3 Bentley stalled in its pit box during the pit cycle, costing it valuable time, and dropping it to seventh.

However, it’s not all bad news for K-PAX, as Parente set the fastest race lap, a 1:49.409, scoring pole position for Race 2 for himself and Andy Soucek.

The championship-contending Pfaff Porsche ended up fourth, ahead of the Pro-Am winning duo, Wei Lu and Jeff Segal in the #31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3. It was a close battle for the win in Pro-Am, as Segal in the TR3 Ferrari beat the TruSpeed Audi Parker Chase and Ryan Dalziel to the line by just two tenths, the latter duo finishing sixth overall and second in Pro-Am.

“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,” added Segal.

“The car was really good throughout. And we just had an issue with a punctured tyre 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 tyre. Had the race not stopped, we probably still would have kept going.”

Further down the order local driver David Askew of Salt Lake City, drove his DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the win in the GT SprintX Am division, and was delighted to earn the result in front of his family and friends.

“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.”

Race 2 of the weekend, the final SprintX race of the season, is set at 15:00 local.

Photo courtesy of PWC