Francesca Linossi crowned Italian GT class champion
Francesca Linossi became a two-time Italian GT champion with a second place in Mugello Race 2, concluding a remarkable season in GT Cup class. After a start from the back of the 42-car field, Carrie Schreiner recovered to 11th overall, in another good performance by the German lady.
It was a sunnier day at Mugello circuit for the final showdown of the Italian GT Sprint championship: after Saturday's race 1, things were looking good for Francesca Linossi and Daniel Vebster, championship leaders in the GT Cup class. Having entered the fourth and final round tied in the lead and just one point clear of third placed crew, Linossi – already Italian GT champion in 2019 in the Endurance series – took a storming victory in the first race of the weekend, after a perfect race from sixth on the grid. Daniel Vebster – Linossi's teammate and co-driver at the wheel of the #355 Easy Race Ferrari 488 GT3 Challenge – managed to avoid the lap 1 accidents to move into third place in class before the red flag, and was quickly in the lead once the race got back underway. The Swede handed over to Francesca at the mid-way point and the Italian lady brought it home in P1 after a commanding performance. “Our race was way better than expected, since we started from sixth on the grid” – said Francesca Linossi. “After all the mess amidst Safety Cars and red flags we still claimed an important victory for the championship.” “Now we have to wait and see today. We have a good margin now but with the dropped results rule we have something like 14 points of advantage”, she explained, as teams can drop one result from the points table. “We just have to do our best and manage today.” The 2021 Italian GT season has also seen the debut of German GT3 star Carrie Schreiner at the wheel of the AF Corse Ferrari GT3 car. Carrie, who races both in the Endurance and Sprint series, was sixth in the championship standings after securing GT3 ProAm podium finishes at Monza and Imola.
Unfortunately, Schreiner had a difficult qualifying in Mugello, as she finished 17th and eighth in class in Q1, before handing over to her co-driver Sean Hudspeth – a former champion in Italian GT. Hudspeth, making his racing return after an ankle fracture, crashed in Q2 – leaving the #8 AF Corse Ferrari at the tail-end of the field in P42, in a record-breaking grid for the series. Schreiner and Hudspeth had some redemption in Race 1: Carrie was hit during the first lap crash but managed to return to the pit lane during the red flag and was sent out again in P37. She started a great recovery, with her Singaporean teammate ultimately crossing the finish line in P9 overall and fourth in GT3 ProAm class. “The race turned out to be quite good.” – said Schreiner. “We went from 17th to ninth – of course we were also a bit lucky, but it was okay in the end!” On Sunday, Linossi took the start from second in GT Cup, aware of the 14 points gap separating her from the closest title rival. After the start, the Safety Car was quickly deployed when the Cup Ferrari car of Hugo Delacour spun and ended his race hitting the barriers at high speed. Luca Ghiotto (#63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini) led overall the initial stages, while Sean Hudspeth was again on a mission and recovered up to P14, seventh in class. Francesca Linossi had a cautious start and knew she had to bring the car home; the Italian driver avoided unnecessary risks and dropped to fourth in GT Cup, where she would remain throughout her stint. The race went back to green with 37 minutes to go, slightly extending the first stints once the pit window opened. Hudspeth pitted from P7 in GT3 ProAm and handed over to Carrie Schreiner. Daniel Vebster got behind the wheel of the #355 Easy Race Ferrari and quickly moved into third place in class after overtaking Sartingen, advancing into P18 overall. Once the dust settled after the pit stops, De Luca (NovaRace Honda) led from Mancinelli and Comandini. A contact between Mancinelli, Frassineti and Comandini shuffled the order at the top, with the BMW ultimately having to retire and the Lamborghini of Frassineti – having taken over from Ghiotto – having to complete an unscheduled pit stop for a tyre puncture. The final stages were exciting and full of dramatic turn of events for both the overall and GT Cup standings: the Audi R8 of Daniel Mancinelli made the pass for the lead on De Luca, but had to serve a 1 minute penalty for a pit stop infringement. From the chaos, the Antonelli Motorsport's Mercedes AMG of Baruch-Segù emerged in the lead, preceding the LP Motorsport Lamborghini of Cecotto-Perolini by 3 tenths of a second. Third-placed was the AF Corse Ferrari of Simon Mann and Matteo Cressoni. Ferrari-Agostini (Audi Sport Italia) sealed the overall Italian GT Sprint title. Carrie Schreiner had a solid stint and crossed the finish line in P11, 7th among the ProAm entries. “In the second race we had to start from P39 because of Sean’s little accident yesterday in qualifying" – explained Carrie. "First he had to overtake all the GT4 and Cup cars and when I got in the car we were in P17." "I finished in P11, which was a good result in the end.” Daniel Vebster continued the impressive recovery and moved ahead of Luca Demarchi (SR&R Ferrari), clinching second place in class. He would close in on GT Cup leader Giammarco Levorato, but avoided risks and brought home the #355 Ferrari in second place – thus securing the class championship. It is Francesca Linossi's second title in Italian GT, after her 2019 victory in the Endurance class. “Well, I would say that the race went perfectly – given that we also had a 10 second penalty it was also better than expected to finish in second and very close to the first placed car." – said Francesca after her historic result. "We didn’t want to take risks because it was a crucial position to win the championship." “It was a great season, except for a few races that you always encounter over a championship. Everything was perfect and I really got along well with Daniel [Vebster] and with the team.” – she added. The pair took class victories at Monza, Imola and Mugello. Linossi, who was also part of the inaugural 2019 W Series selection, was selected as a reserve driver for the all-female championship, but opted to focus her efforts on GT racing. The choice has paid off, and the Italian continues to impress in the driving seat of GT3 machinery. While Francesca Linossi will hopefully return to the series next year, Carrie Schreiner will end the Italian GT Endurance series championship in two weeks' time at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, where she is currently sitting fifth place after the class win at Vallelunga.