Francesca Linossi claims Italian GT class podium despite late penalty
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Amidst a penalty fest throughout the field, Antonelli Motorsport racer Francesca Linossi claimed a fourth place finish and ProAm podium in the Italian GT Endurance round at Vallelunga.
2019 W-Series qualifier and Italian GT driver Francesca Linossi was among the protagonists of the penultimate round of the Italian GT Endurance Championship in Vallelunga, outskirts of Rome.
Francesca and her teammates Stefano Colombo and Ling Kang were able to bring the Antonelli Motorsport #21 Mercedes to the end of the 3 hours race in 4th overall position, conquering the 2th place in the ProAm class.
The #21 crew started from the eighth grid slot: "Not the qualy we expected" - said Linossi after the Saturday's qualifying session.
Francesca completed her stint by driving the first hour of the race: she had a good start, held her position and went through the opening stages closing in on Salikhov's Rinaldi Racing Ferrari and Zonzini's Imperiale Racing Lamborghini. After only 10 laps, the top GT3 class crews started to lap the GT4 cars, with Postiglione's Lamborghini leading on track. However, he received a ten seconds penalty to be served during his first pit-stop for an infringement in regard to the previous championship round. At lap 12 Johansson's BMW and Di Amato's Ferrari swapped positions, with the Italian driver moving up to second place.
Linossi continued her solid race and decreased her gap to Zonzini and Salikhov to under 2 seconds. The Imperiale Racing driver tried the aggressive approach on Salikhov, who made a mistake under pressure and allowed Zonzini and Linossi to take advantage from it and both made up one position on lap 19.
The gap between Linossi and Zonzini remained minimal until a small mistake by the Mercedes driver costed her a couple of seconds.
Francesca completed the last part of her impressive stint by gaining almost ten seconds over Salikhov's Ferrari behind her.
When the pit-lane opened, some of the frontrunners immediately carried out the driver change, while Linossi, on a competitive pace, continued her run for a few more laps before leaving the #21 Mercedes in the hands of her teammate Stefano Colombo in P3 after 1 hour and 3 minutes of racing.
It was another strong performace for the 27-year old Italian lady, who proved to be a very reliable driver in the always critical first stages of an endurance event.
The Antonelli Motorsport #21 crew rejoined the track in seventh place as Stefano Colombo kept lapping on a competitive pace and came closer and closer to the Lamborghini driven by Zonzini's teammate, Pietro Perolini. At lap 49, approximately one hour and a half into the race, the battle lit up as the two racers had a minor contact that didn't cause major damages. Then both drivers went into some amazing side-by-side action for the sixth place, until Colombo's winning move came on lap 53 and the #21 Mercedes gained the position.
Lap 58 saw a big turn of events when the Lamborghini of the undisputed race leader Alex Frassinetti retired for a sudden mechanical failure. RS Racing Ferrari driver Vezzoni inherited the leadership and Stefano Colombo moved up into fifth with 20 seconds to recover on P4 ahead, with 1 hour and 25 minutes left on the clock. Vezzoni was then handed a 9 seconds penalty and his Ferrari kept running in first position on track but was indeed fourth in the virtual standings. A few laps later, the Easy Race Ferrari driver Alessandro Balzan passed Vezzoni on track for the lead.
Stefano Colombo in the #21 Mercedes was consistently faster than Vezzoni's Ferrari and advanced to the virtual P4 with a closing gap of only six seconds to third place. With a few minutes left before the closing hour, the Safety Car was deployed. At the same time, the pit window opened for the last driver change and all the teams made their return to the pitlane.
Ling Kang took control of the #21 Mercedes in fifth position: this was the first experience at the wheel of the Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes for the young Chinese driver. When the crews rejoined the track and the Safety Car was called back in, the restart turned out to be an hectic one for Marco Cioci and Giancarlo Fisichella, with the Easy Race driver picking up a tyre cut after a contact. Ling Kang picked up the pieces and moved up to P4.
Di Amato, back behind the wheel of the RS Racing Ferrari, received another penalty that further advanced Ling Kang to P3.
With 39 minutes to go, Antonelli Motorsport had a realistic chance to finish the race on the overall podium, but more drive through penalties were imposed by the race direction: both Kang and Fisichella were caught not respecting the pit-lane red light under Safety Car.
After 111 laps, the BMW Team of the Comandini-Johansson-Sims trio crossed the finish line to take victory, while the #21 Mercedes crew of Linossi-Colombo-Kang finished sixth. The finish order, though, was again overturned after the race, as the stewards inflicted more penalties to the second-placed #25 RS Racing team and to the #19 Imperiale Racing team, which had finished in fourth, both for the same pit light infringement.
The final official standing thus sees Linossi and her teammates claiming 2nd place in the ProAm class and 4th overall.
"Me, my mates and all the Antonelli Motorsport team have done a fantastic job all the weekend, after a penalty we finish 2nd ProAm and 4th overall!" - wrote Francesca on her social feeds after the race.
Francesca Linossi will be back on track during the first weekend of October, for the last round of the Italian GT Endurance Championship in Mugello.
In Francesca's words:
"Me, my mates and all the Antonelli Motorsport team have done a fantastic job all the weekend, after a penalty we finish 2nd ProAm and 4th overall!"
Ph credits: ACI Sport