Francesca Linossi completes Italian GT Endurance series in 4th place
While it was an unfortunate end to her 2022 Italian GT campaign, Francesca Linossi managed to finish fourth in the drivers' standings in the GT3 ProAm class, having joined the endurance series mid-way through the season.
Two-time Italian GT champion Francesca Linossi started the 2022 season in the Sprint series - which features two 50-minute races per meeting - in the GT Cup class, as she attempted to defend her 2021 title in the same category. After two rounds at Monza and Misano, Linossi made her return to the top class in the Endurance series, in a ProAm entry with Antonelli Motorsport. Linossi - who had also won the GT3 ProAm title in 2019 with the same team - shared the #44 Mercedes AMG GT3 car with Dutchman Jop Rappange and former FRECA racer Emidio Pesce; the trio took two class podium out of the two participations at Mugello and Vallelunga. At the final round of the 2022 Italian GT Endurance series, Linossi was ready to keep momentum in GT3 ProAm - but a series of unfortunate events led to a disappointing end of the season at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. Rappange, Linossi and Pesce qualified the #44 Mercedes in tenth place in Saturday's afternoon three-session combined times, but hopes were high as all three drivers recorded times within a few tenths of each other, with consistency in the 2-hour race likely to play in their favor. On Sunday, though, weather conditions changed dramatically: a huge downpour in the morning left the track slippery and in mixed conditions at the start of the Italian GT race in the early afternoon: while cars lined up on the grid, it was clear that the first part of the race would have been a tyre gamble for the 22 crews.
The two VSR Lamborghinis of Edoardo Liberati and Benjamin Hites, sharing the front row, bolted on slicks in the minutes leading to the start - as well as the NovaRace Honda NSX of Guidetti and the Herberth Motorsport Porsche of Renauer. On the other hand the two Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3, driven by Kikko Galbiati in fifth position and Job Rappange in tenth, opted to stay on the wet-weather tyre. This choice would prove beneficial in the first minutes of the race, as both Galbiati and Rappange moved up the order dramatically: after a clean start, Liberati held the lead in the #19 VSR Lambo, followed by Galbiati (#17 Antonelli Mercedes), Hites, Guidetti and Guzman. Jop Rappange could move up to fourth place soon after, as drivers on slicks struggled for grip. But that competitive advantage was short lived: the track quickly dried up and Galbiati - who had taken over the lead after a great battle - first struggled with his tyres, then had to eventually retire with a wheel hub issue. Up to third place, Jop Rappange also lost performance in the #44 sister car once the track conditions changed and was overtaken by Renauer in the #69 Herberth Motorsport Porsche before pitting for slicks and handing over to Francesca Linossi.
Down to 12th place, Linossi had a strong stint and made up positions to claim back ninth overall and fifth in ProAm. She defended from the fast charging BMW M4 GT3 of Stefano Comandini, before ultimately giving up the place. In the overall lead, Guidetti had a perfect first stint and handed over to Cabezas for the second part of the race in the leading #55 NovaRace Honda NSX. The race was then neutralized for the heavy crash of Sandro Mur (Bonaldi Motorsport Lamborghini), who went hard into the barriers at La Roggia chicane after making impact with the inside guard-rail. At the restart, Jorge Cabezas defended from the attacks of the chasing Lamborghini, while the second NovaRace Honda was pushed wide at the first chicane and #63 VSR Lamborghini driven by Michelotto had to cut the corner. Linossi had a great restart and moved into fifth place overall, third in class – but the #44 crew was hit by a stop and go penalty for a pit stop infringement. With 40 minutes to go and after a very strong stint, Linossi pitted and handed over to Emidio Pesce from fifth place. Pesce, though, would have to serve the penalty that dropped him to P12. After a great recovery, the Ceccato Racing BMW of Stefano Comandini also hit trouble and had to pit with a tyre puncture. The third NovaRace went around at Ascari, with Chinese driver Lee eventually rejoining before the deployment of the safety car. After the final stops, the #19 VSR Lamborghini of Yuki Nemoto took the lead, ahead of the sister car of Karol Basz and the Honda driven by Moncini. The very fast Basz, though, saw his chances shattering soon after, when his Huracan came to a halt at Serraglio, requiring the second neutralization. At the final restart with 7 minutes to go, all class titles were still open: Nemoto led Moncini, Pijl and Renauer; unfortunately, Emidio Pesce had contact with the #77 Honda NSX of Magnoni while holding P8. Nemoto/Liberati took victory – and the overall championship title – as the VSR Lamborghini preceded the #55 NovaRace Honda of Guidetti/Moncini/Cabezas and Llarena/Pijl/Guzman for Imperiale Racing – as Pijl endured pressure to finish third in the final laps. Bohn/Renauer/Renauer won in GT3 ProAm for Herbert Motorsport, having taken the class lead from the VSR Lamborghini of Cola/Moulin in the closing stages, as the Belgian driver did not fight the faster Porsche, thinking about the bigger picture. Cola/Moulin, in fact, were crowned GT3 ProAm champions, 10 points ahead of Rappange/Pesce. Having missed the opening round at Pergusa, Francesca Linossi 32 points and completed the season in fourth place in the drivers' standings. Despite the unlucky final race, Linossi displayed once again fast pace and racecraft, as well as experience in the competitive environment of Italian GT.