R. Ferri Motorsport’s Ferrari 488 GT3 of Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina won the first race of the World Challenge America weekend at CTMP. The win, racing as part of a depleted field of just 13 cars, saw them take the championship points lead in the process.
At the drop of the green flag, pole-sitting American Patrick Long, in the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R took the pro division lead ahead of Toronto’s Daniel Morad, in the #22 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Molina, in #61 Ferrari 488 GT3 slotted into third. In the Pro/Am division, American Anthony Imperato, in the #91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R led over American Bret Curtis in the RealTime Racing #43 Acura NSX.
Long quickly built up a .799-second lead over Morad and by lap 5 the lead was up to 2.7 seconds.
The leaders in the Pro division held their positions through the first 11 laps of the race, while in Pro/Am Imperato led over Bechtolsheimer who moved past Curtis into second.
By lap 13, Long continued to lead by 1.7 seconds over Morad with Molina still in third. Imperato led Bechtolsheimer by four seconds.
Drama ensued on lap 22 as Long came into the pits and his team changed a damaged left rear tyre. Morad assumed a .337-second lead over Molina.
A lap later, Pro/Am leader Imperato came into the pit as well, and his team fixed a flat left rear tire moving Bechtolsheimer into the lead.
Through 25 laps, Morad led Molina by .321 seconds, while championship points co-leader Rodrigo Baptista in the K-PAX Racing #3 Bentley Continental GT3 slotted into third. Wolf Henzler in the #24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R pursued in fourth. In Pro/Am Bechtolsheimer led Canadian Martin Barkey in the #80 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX.
At Lap 30, the 10-minute pit window opened for driver/tire changes and refuelling and leader Morad came in immediately with teammate American Michael De Quesada taking over. With Morad coming into pit, Molina assumed the lead. In Pro/Am Bechtolsheimer came in to change over to Miller.
Near the end of the pit window, the R. Ferri Motorsport team executed a strategy that allowed Vilander to assume driving duties and keep the #61 Ferrari in the lead.
After the driver change, Vilander led Baptista’s teammate Maxime Soulet in the #3 Bentley, and De Quesada.
Over the next number of laps, Vilander grew his lead from .888 seconds to over 3.2 seconds lead on De Quesada and Alvaro Parente in K-PAX Racing’s #9 Bentley Continental GT3 who had moved past Soulet.
With under 22 minutes remaining, the Pro/Am battle started to heat up as Barkey’s teammate Canadian Kyle Marcelli closed on Miller.
By lap 63 with under six minutes in the race, Marcelli had closed to within two car lengths of Miller. A lap later, Parente and De Quesada came together through Moss Corner and Parente moved into second with Soulet into third. De Quesada came into the pit to replace a right rear tire.
At the checkered, Vilander crossed the line 3.5 seconds ahead Parente with Soulet in third. In Pro/Am, Miller held off Marcelli to take the victory.
“This was the home race for our team so it was a great day for R. Ferri Motorsport,” Vilander remarked. “We have a lot of guests here that were all watching from our hospitality in turn one. In the opening stint, Miguel had to manage some close racing.
Some of our rivals had some tyre issues so we just wanted to play it safe. In the last part of the race, I had some funky noises but that’s probably just normal so we are really happy with the start to our weekend and tomorrow we have Race 2.”