Historic female 1-2 in BMW M2 Cup Italy
In a historic result for BMW M2 Cup Italy, 18 year old Emma Segattini claimed her first win in the series ahead of Vicky Piria - at her first start in the series as well as in touring cars - in a female 1-2 at Imola.
A historic result saw Emma Segattini and Vicky Piria claiming a female 1-2 in the final round of the 2023 BMW M2 CS Racing Cup Italy at Imola, as the two female drivers – following a brilliant qualifying session – climbed the order and battled for the win in race 1, eventually claiming a breakthrough achievement for the history of the series – and of the Bavarian brand.
At its third year of competitions, the BMW M2 Cup Italy is in fact one of the three regional one make series for the new M2 CS Racing Cup car, alongside the German and the Benelux series – designed to build a platform for young talents to explore opportunities in touring cars.
Emma Segattini – who turned 18 earlier this year – came out on top after a stellar duel with Italian GT and experienced single seater racer Vicky Piria, who joined the grid for the first time in a one-off round as guest entry for BMW Italy.
Segattini is in her second season of car racing, having started karting aged 12. After collecting several successes in karting – including in the Italian Rotax Junior championship – she graduated to race cars in 2022, when she joined the Italian BMW M2 Cup from the Misano round. She would return to the series for a full campaign in 2023, where she became a consistent contender for the top five.
Coming into Imola, Segattini was sixth in the drivers' championship, coming off a fifth place in Mugello at the fourth round. The young talent was joined on the grid by Vicky Piria – who returned behind the wheel after a dominant win in Italian GT Endurance championship at Vallelunga only two weeks ago, when she rounded out her second season in GT racing with second place in the GT Cup ProAm championship aboard the Enrico Fulgenzi Racing's Porsche 992 GT3 Cup.
Piria, who has remarkable experience in single seaters – from the GP3 Series to Euroformula and then the Formula Regional car in both Formula Renault and W Series – has adapted quickly to the new challenges of closed-wheel racing and would have to quickly learn a new car from scratch straight into a racing weekend.
Despite a car significantly different from what she had driven before, Piria was soon at ease with the #8 machine and set the eighth fastest time in FP1; she then improved by 1.3 seconds in the second practice, when she also reduced the gap to the front by over a second. Piria's progression in such a short time meant that she closed in on the top five – in the midst of a fierce battle for the title.
It was soon clear that the two female drivers on the grid would have the chance to contest for a strong result, as Emma Segattini – at the wheel of the #25 BMW M2 operated by S.C. Angelo Caffi by Autotorino – was running on very similar lap times: the young racer was sixth fastest in the first practice, then finished Friday practice in fifth, having clocked a 1:56.643, a tenth of a second ahead of Piria.
Qualifying was just as tightly-contested on Saturday morning: at the end of a sterling first session, Segattini and Piria locked out the second row, respectively third and fourth, separated by 24 thousandths of a second. Championship contenders Steven Giacon and Luigi Ferrara shared the front row for the grid of race 1.
The second 15-minute session turned out to be more challenging; Piria had improved by a further second from her fastest reference on Friday, but a disrupted Q2 left her with only two timed laps and effectively one push lap: having set a 1:55.436, she slotted in eighth place for race 2. While trying to find the edge, Segattini made a mistake and went off; she would have to settle for ninth on the grid after one single timed lap.
"Since free practice we had a good pace to compete with the leading group", Emma told us. "In Q1 we managed to claim P3, in Q2 unfortunately, while trying to find the limit, I crashed and because of this we only managed to do one lap, placing ourselves in P9."
The two final races of the season, though, were some of the most unpredictable and action-packed of the year – with plenty of opportunities for the two women of the series to climb the order. At the start of race 1 on Saturday afternoon, Giacon and Ferrara battled for the lead, with Segattini not far behind after a strong start from third. Vicky Piria held fourth place and defended well over Jody Vullo – who had a blistering start from seventh - at Variante Alta.
Piria managed to open a safe gap on Vullo, who then came under pressure from Frizza on the second lap as Piria again closed in on Segattini. Vullo, though, fought back and passed Piria on lap 3, although Vicky remained close to the two cars ahead, in contention for the final spot of the podium. Frizza and Simonini also joined this group of battling cars.
Vullo was up to third one lap later – as Ferrara and Giacon banged wheels ahead. The scrap between the leading duo eventually ended up allowing Vullo to close in: with 11 minutes to go, Giacon and Ferrara made contact at the second Rivazza corner and, having been spun around, Giacon was collected by Vullo.
Emma Segattini and Vicky Piria were therefore up to second and third place following the incident. Piria ran on competitive times and was back within a second to Segattini – for what effectively became the battle for the win, after Ferrara received a 25 second penalty for the accident that eliminated Giacon and Vullo from the race.
With one lap to go, Vicky was closer than ever and attempted a pass at Variante Alta, but Emma Segattini masterfully handled the pressure and crossed the finish line to claim a historic female 1-2 in BMW M2 CS Racing Cup Italy. It was also the first female victory in the three year history of the series, as well as Emma's first podium finish, topping a fourth place previously collected at the same track last year.
"With a lot of consistency, a bit of luck and after defending ourselves from the attacks, we managed to take home the victory", Emma coomented.
At her debut in the championship and indeed in touring cars, Piria's second place was just as remarkable, as she continues to carry momentum in a widely positive season in motor racing.
After the historic result, Vicky Piria and Emma Segattini lined up in eighth and ninth place respectively for the second race on Sunday morning – contested again in dry conditions.
Steven Giacon retained the top spot from Simonini and Ferrara for the title decider; from ninth, Segattini managed to get ahead of Piria at lights out, as the whole field followed each other closely in the first laps.
Making the most out of a battle between Frizza and Tagliapietra, both Emma Segattini and Vicky Piria demoted Tagliapietra on lap 2 – and the skirmishes continued to involve Frizza – this time with Stefanelli for fifth place. Close behind, Segattini and Piria were eager to seize any opportunities to climb the order. By lap 5, Piria was a couple of tenths faster than the cars ahead, and Segattini tried to find a way past Frizza.
The 18 year old couldn't make a move stick on lap 7 at Tamburello and this opened a gap for Piria, who was quick to snatch seventh at Tosa after a bold pass. Segattini, though, fought back one lap later. Meanwhile, there was drama for the title, as race leader Steven Giacon was handed a 10 second penalty for a jump start.
A trip to the gravel trap at Rivazza for Stefanelli dropped the #24 BMW M2 machine at striking distance for Frizza, Segattini and Piria. A light contact between Emma and Vicky at the exit of Tamburello ignited a spectacular duel between the two female racers; Vicky eventually reclaimed seventh, as Segattini and Tagliapietra also traded places.
In one of the most incredible finishes, the 2023 season was decided right at the final corner: Ferrara and Giacon collided and hit the barriers. Giacon – who had a penalty to serve – was out, while Ferrara managed to cross the finish line in second place, but was later disqualified for causing the accident. It would be Jody Vullo to take the win and the title.
The highly positive debut in the series for Vicky Piria ended with yet another top five in race 2, just two tenths ahead of Emma Segattini who completed her season with a P6 – as well as sixth place in the drivers' standings. Having finished all the races in the top ten, Emma was also third among the Under-26 classification.
"We went out on track with the awareness that I would have to give everything to bring home a good result", Segattini explained. "It was a very close race, but we finished in P6."
"It was a wonderful weekend, the best of this season", she continued. "Race after race, I gained more and more knowledge and confidence with the car. It was a season of growth and we can finally end it with a victory."
Piria, who was the first to congratulate Segattini after her win, continues to be a big inspiration for female drivers – even more so on home soil, where young female drivers have struggled to emerge in recent years. While in a guest entry, Piria raced hard but fairly, ultimately contributing to an even more valuable success for her fellow competitor.
The race 1 podium is in fact a moment that goes beyond the sporting accomplishment and that wrote a small but significant chapter in the history of a brand.